If there is anything we always hear parents complain about when it comes to their kids is how they refuse to eat or refuse to eat certain foods. Before even becoming a parent myself I can’t recall a time when I didn’t hear a parent complain about how difficult it was to get their child to eat or try new foods. I don’t think I have ever come across any one who’s kid has never given them any trouble when it comes to food. Now that I am a mom and my baby is almost two, my time to deal with this complicated phase has come.
I knew this would be something that Emma would eventually go through. I just didn’t think that it would be this soon. I know that usually this picky eating phase happens between 2-5 years old. She started going through this stage at about 17-18 months. I actually really don’t like to use the term picky eater for her if I’m being honest. I feel like she’s more of a selective eater. It may sound like it’s the same thing but to me it’s not.
A picky eater is defined as a child who refuses to try new foods or only eats certain foods. Emma is still willing to try new foods and eats pretty much everything. She just seems to just want to eat what she’s in the mood for. Much like a picky eater, this can be very frustrating. Specially when you spend so much time cooking a delicious and nutritious meal for your family for her to just refuse to eat it just because. When just a few days ago she ate the same thing. I’ll make a well balanced breakfast for her consisting of a hard boiled egg, fruits, and toast. She’ll eat everything with no problem. Two days later I’ll serve the same thing and all of a sudden she only wants toast and nothing to do with egg or fruit. Then the next day I’ll give her toast and she won’t want that just kiwi and egg. It’s like there’s no winning with her.
Going through this phase has been very exhausting. I have researched many ways to deal with this stage of her development and while it is very normal it is still very frustrating. I have learned many tips ad tricks along the way but the main thing I have learned has to be to just have PATIENCE. There’s no way around it other than doing my job as a mom and taking a deep breath, being patient and working with my baby through this process. I have learned to listen to her, to get to know her cues and know when she’s being picky, really doesn’t like something, or is just not hungry and full. The big Do’s and Don’ts I have learned so far are the following:
Serve her what I made, even if I know she’s not going to eat it.
I cook on a regular basis and obviously love it. However, like everyone else I have my days when I don’t particularly feel like cooking. I do it anyway and the last thing I want to do is to make more than one thing because my baby doesn’t want to eat that. Plus, getting her used to making a specific meal for her is not doing her any good. It’s better for her to see on her plate the same foods that mommy and daddy have on theirs as well. Even if I feel like she’s not going to eat something that I’m serving I do anyways.
She actually has surprised me many times and has eaten after refusing it a few times. Just the other day I served her a hard boiled egg and mixed fruit for breakfast. She didn’t want to touch any of the food and kept asking for “bread”. I told her there wasn’t any so she would have to eat her eggs and fruit. She whined and kept asking for bread. I sat on the table with my breakfast and she instantly looked right at it. She realized that I had the same exact thing as her and no bread. So she immediately started eating her breakfast with no problem. Because she saw I didn’t have any bread either she understood that there really wasn’t any and she went on to eat what was on her plate.
Make meal times short.
Breakfast and dinner times are not much of a problem for us. Emma eats everything I give her for breakfast most of the time. I feel like she gives me an issue when I have been giving her the same food for breakfast for a few days in a row. Dinner she does get selective and there’s always something she doesn’t want to eat. But she does eat most of the foods I give her for dinner.
Lunch is where I see most of her fussiness when it comes to eating. I have come to the conclusion that it is because she doesn’t want to stay still for a long time. For the most part Emma’s lunchtime is after she wakes up from her nap which is three hours long. She wakes up with a lot of energy and wanting to move around after being in her crib for what to a baby probably seems like eternity. So the last thing she wants is to sit in a high chair for another 20-30 minutes being able to barely move and no toys.
A couple of days a week her nap time gets pushed to after lunch. We get home after 11:30 am so I serve her lunch and she goes to nap by 12:30. When this happens she eats her lunch with out a fuss. This is how I determined that her issue with lunchtime is not wanting to stay still for much longer. To solve this I decided to make her lunchtime about 10-15 minutes long. I serve her something that she can eat relatively quickly and that I know she really likes. About 40 minutes to an hour later I give her a snack that consists of something that would be very nutritious as well. Then a couple hours later she has dinner.
No distractions for her but not turning off the TV.
No TV at meal times seems to be a hot topic in the parenting world. Many parents feel very strongly about not allowing their kids to watch TV during their meals. They turn the TV off and it is family time. Others seem to be ok with the idea of leaving the TV on for their kids to watch while they eat. They may even allow their kids to eat on the couch instead of on the table. Either way I feel like it’s fine as long as it’s what works for your family.
When it comes to TV and meal times in my household I find myself somewhere in the middle. I’m not as strict as turning off the television while we eat but I do require us to eat at the table. Especially at dinner time. I also have Emma’s high chair position in a way that her back is towards the TV. Essentially I don’t allow her to watch TV while she eats, but I also don’t turn it off. The reason for this is because I want her to learn that time to eat is time eat. It’s time to fuel your body and enjoy your food. I don’t want her to see feeding time as a punishment and for her to get used to rushing through her meals so that she can go back to watching TV. This seems to be working for us and when I call her over to eat she comes and knows it’s time for her to sit in her chair and enjoy her food.
Don’t force feed.
If you look into any source for guidance as to how to deal with a picky eater you will mostly likely find that one of the biggest don’ts is to force feed. And they’re all right. Force feeding really is very counterproductive. Take it from me, I’ve done it. I’ve lost my patience and tried to force one last spoonful of food to my daughter. It does nothing. All it does is get both parent and baby upset and baby still doesn’t eat. You most likely will just end up with a plate of food thrown on the floor.
The first thing to do is to take a deep breath and be patient. When my daughter refuses food I try to remember that there are many reasons why she may be rejecting it. Is she still hungry? Maybe she already ate enough. Babies are like us and they only need a serving as big as their fist. I have made this mistake plenty if times and is something I am currently working on. I need to remember that she knows when she’s had enough to eat.
If I feel like she really didn’t eat enough then I try to give her something I know she will like. I replace something on her plate with another food. That will at the same time be nutritious. (On the second part of this post I will go over examples of how I go about this). Again, be patient and trust yourself and your baby. Even if you think they may not be getting enough food, most likely they are.
Keep all foods healthy and mostly homemade.
This has always been a must for me. Not just for my baby but overall in my household. I don’t buy junk food or snacks that don’t have any nutritional value. Now that I’m a mom I do this even more. I always have plenty of fresh fruit in the house. I like to keep cheese, hummus, raw veggies, plain Greek yogurt, nuts, etc. All fresh and nutritious foods that fuel our bodies when we need a little boost.
If Emma doesn’t eat a full meal I know that when snack time comes around she will still be eating nutritious foods that are beneficial to her growth and development. I like to make healthy snacks as well as clean treats. I make these free of refined sugars and flour, gluten, and most dairy. If she doesn’t finish her breakfast, I make us a green smoothie as a mid-morning snack. If she doesn’t finish her lunch, I put together some Plain Greek yogurt with some fruit and some nuts. I find it that providing my daughter with these healthy options also helps eliminate the stress and worry that she may not be getting enough nutrition from her foods. (On the second part of this post I will be giving more examples of healthy snacks and treats).
Overall, dealing with a selective or picky eater can be very overwhelming and intimidating. At least for me it has been. It is still a work in progress for both my daughter and myself. I know that she is doing her job and growing at the right pace. I have to do my job as a mom and make sure that I help her in the right direction. But I also must trust that sometimes she just may know what she needs better than I do. She is growing into a smart, strong and beautiful little girl so we must be doing something right!