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Picky Eaters

With all toddlers there are days when they show total disinterest in food. And like all adults they may have favorite foods. Baby's appetite can vary from meal to meal and from day to day. This is normal, and can be caused by a number of factors. It may last for 1-2 days, a week or two or even longer as your kid grows older.

Early eating habits may set a pattern for later life, so it is wise to offer a little of everything but without making a fuss when a young child refuses to eat something.

Fussiness manifests in a number of ways:

Dislike of lumpy foods. Some babies get accustomed to soft pureed food and find problems taking on to lumpier textures. When the chewing stage is missed your child may be reluctant to try the more exciting textures. On the other hand if lumpy foods are introduced too early it may result in gagging and choking and thereby becomes a put off for young babies.

Avoid ready-made foods. Ready-prepared foods given regularly means you are adding unwanted salt, sugar and flavor enhancers to your child's diet. Though easier to prepare and home made meals can take too much effort to make the latter is a whole deal better, especially in the long run.

Avoid repetitive feeding. It is important to add variety to meals as limiting your child's diet may eventually encourage food intolerance. For example wheat is a common food allergen and it also contains phytate which often interferes with the absorption of key minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc. Offer other forms of pasta, cereals and bread which are not wheat based. (Some homework is required to check on what can be offered as alternatives).

Avoid faddism. No baby or child will starve herself. Continue offering a variety of foods instead of falling into the trap of only serving food which your child will eat. By doing this you can prevent having to cook two meals each time and also the food fad will disappear as quickly as it came.

Too much milk. The child may not be hungry because he had too much to drink before mealtime. Milk is often the culprit in suppressing a baby's diet because milk in itself is a food (and not just a drink) and therefore filling. Once your child is over a year old, make plans to cut down on the milk to 600ml more so if there is an issue with eating food.

Too much to snack. Constant snacking causes a loss of appetite. If your child shows preference for snacks but refuses meals, something is not right here. Snacks should be fruit-based (e.g. an apple or banana, nut and fruit bar, or banana bread and not crisps, biscuits and cakes)

Spitting out food. Children may spit out for various reasons. Too big a spoonful was served. Food temperature may not be right: too hot or too cold. If you have just started weaning, your baby is perhaps not ready to be weaned, so wait a week or two and try again.

No appetite. If your child had no problem with the food before but shows resistance for several days, get your doctor to assess the situation. Fussy behavior can very well be due to an illness.

Too distracted. Your baby may refuse food because of sore gums due to teething, wet nappy causing a sore bum or just being in the mood to be uncooperative. In the case of the latter it is best to ignore and try not to get bugged.

Some babies resist solids and only want milk. This behavior if carried over to the 2nd year can cause resistance to solids. Milk is nourishing but if it replaces solids then a growing baby is deprived of key nutrients such as iron.

Other Pointers

If you are picky parents yourselves then you may have picky eaters for kids. A child more often does what you do and pays little heed to what you say. You can start by setting good examples during mealtimes by eating the right kind of foods. Meals should be had together because they are social occasions proper eating etiquette can be encouraged.

Be careful not to give too much juice as babies prefer juice to eating. Findings suggest that babies become hungrier once their juice intake is reduced. Too much liquid will fill them up leaving little room for food.

When your child refuses a meal, the best tactic to employ is to ignore the fussy behavior instead of getting all worked up. Inform your child that there will be no snacks in the meantime. Offering fruits in the meantime is good, until the next meal and you are bound to have a hungry child on your hands.

Enlist the help of books and toys to encourage eating. Though taxing it usually works as mealtimes become more interesting for them. Reward your child's good eating behavior with non-food rewards such as a trip to the supermarket or playground.

Try creative ways of serving foods. For the fussier kid, you may need to disguise foods within others by adding them to soups for instance. Cut simple foods into fun shapes, or have a home-made meal away from home (at the park).

Shop together, choose foods together and eat together. When you shop together it helps build your child's relationship with what she eats. Let her learn the names of foods you buy. Get your toddler to help you put things in the trolley, for instance.

Texture and your 6-12 months old baby

It is important to introduce variety in taste and texture to your baby at the right time to prevent your child from being a picky eater. (Chewing begins as early as 6 months).

• If you find your baby has taken on well to smooth purees it is time to move on to slightly thicker foods, and from there gradually introduce slightly lumpier foods. Next, bring in the coarser textures by mashing cooked vegetable instead of blending it. Offer cooked broccoli/cauliflower as a first finger food around 9 months.

• After 9 months you can safely expose your baby to more finger food options in the form of cooked vegetables (with dips) and raw fruits to pick up and eat. Continue by providing a variety of coarsely mashed or chopped foods to get your child accustomed to adult meals and to get on the road to joining in family meals later.

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Disclaimer: Information contained on this Web site is intended solely to make available general summarized information to the public. It should not be substituted for medical advice. It is your responsibility to consult with your pediatrician and/or health care provider before acting on any advice on this web site. While OEM endeavors to provide up-to-date and accurate information, it is not liable for any advice whatsoever rendered nor is it liable for the completeness or timeliness of any information on this site.
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