Why Isn’t Your Baby Eating?
Baby feeding issues, as surprising as it might sound, start right from the newborn phase, when they are breastfeeding or formula feeding, and continue up to three years or more. It can be anything, from refusing to eat to getting distracted while feeding to spitting up, and a lot more.
Of course, as a parent, you would want your baby or toddler to consume the right amount of food, at the right intervals, every single day, and gain all the nutrients they need and just the right amount of weight.
Now, if that sentence sounded absurd to you, then you understand that we are not in a perfect world. Such perfect feeding patterns are not even realistic for us adults; in that case, you cannot expect the same from your little one, can you?
One important fact every parent should understand is that, your tiny tot’s appetite keeps changing, not just on a weekly or monthly basis, but on a daily basis. And when it comes to baby feeding problems, there are some that are quite common:
“No” to New Foods
This is something that happens with most children. Avoiding new types of food is highly common among kids, especially when they are being transitioned to solids and when trying different foods to find if they are allergic to any and to know what they like.
The key to making your baby accept new foods is to start with tiny portions, twice or thrice during a meal. Another trick is to make it look similar to something your baby likes to eat. However, if your little one refuses to take in the new food, just give him/her something they like for now, and try the new food after a few days. This is nothing to be concerned about, because most babies grow out of this phase with time.
Refusing to Eat
There could be different reasons for when a baby refuses to eat: they may be sick, full, distracted, fatigued, or just not interested at the time. Parents often tend to forget the fact that babies, just like us, will eat if they are hungry; therefore, if your baby turns away from the spoon, spits the food out, or keeps their mouth shut when you try to feed, it is probably a signal that they are done for now. Remember, NEVER force your baby when it comes to eating.
It is highly recommended that babies are breastfed until six months of age, at which stage most babies become ready to move on to solid foods. However, like we always say, not all babies are the same, and some can find the transition difficult, which can be displayed by gagging. Of course, for some, gagging could be just because of the amount of food on the spoon, and this can be prevented by reducing the amount you feed them in each spoon. If not, understand that your little one is not ready for solids just yet and give them some more time.
Vomiting is another common baby feeding problem you might come across. The reasons are often on of these: motion sickness, infection, or underdeveloped digestive system. Vomiting in babies usually disappears on its own. However, if you find something unusual, like forceful or continuous vomiting, baby looking dehydrated, etc., you need to see your paediatrician.
Reasons Your Baby Isn’t Eating
Based on their growth spurts, your baby or toddler may not eat enough food. However, there definitely could be other reasons for your baby’s poor appetite:
You Have a Picky Eater
If you are dealing with a toddler, chances are high that you have a picky eater, because this is just the age. As a matter of fact, picky eating is considered to be one of the normal developmental stages that all kids go through. Obviously, vegetables are the first thing picky eaters refuse to eat. In addition, these kids can also be sensitive to how new foods look, smell, or taste, thereby becoming hesitant to try new foods.
When your child reaches the age two to three, he/she will experience a slack in their growth, which in turn affects their appetite. As a result, you might find them not eating properly. Your baby could be refusing to eat just because he/she had a full previous meal, or has been eating bits and pieces throughout the day.
Too Much Pressure
Research reveals that kids who are pressured to finish their food, take one more bite, or try new foods do not eat properly and healthily, in addition to being less interested in trying new foods. In other cases, pressuring your child to eat can also result in them consuming more food than they actually need. If your child is refusing to eat, take some time to find the reason behind the same, and it is best to avoid pressuring him/her to take more bites, finish their bowl, or try new food, as it can even shut down their appetite completely.
In some cases, your baby might be refusing to eat because of his/her aversion to certain food types or textures. For instance, if you have been feeding your baby all white foods for quite some time now, he/she may have grown aversion for the same and could be sensitive to the smell and/or color of such foods. Some babies also show sensitivity towards food textures, say wet or mushy foods, and therefore avoid them.
Another important thing for a parent to do when your child refuses to eat is look at what he/she eats throughout the day. This is important because many kids tend to fill up their belly eating snacks all day long, which leads to poor intake of proper meals. And snacks could be anything, from juices to milk to food-based ones. Regardless of what it is, it can highly impact your baby’s appetite; therefore, keep an eye on your kid’s snack intake.
Any parent, when their child doesn’t eat, tend to use different distraction techniques, like toys, TV, iPad, etc. to get them eating. But, what many don’t understand is the fact that these techniques can actually work against you. Having too many distractions while eating can adversely impact their eating. Therefore, when at the table (or their high chair), the focus should only be on eating.
Tips to Encourage Your Baby to Eat
Each parent has their own techniques when it comes to making their baby eat. However, for those of you struggling with the same, here are some general tips to get you and your little one going:
One of the first things you should do to encourage your baby to eat is offer them variety. Make healthy food choices and try to be creative in your cooking and serving styles. Even with fruits and vegetables, choose those in different colors and flavors, because babies love new and vibrant colors. Also, remember to include variety in textures as well.
Avoid Force Feeding
NEVER force feed your baby. In fact, encourage or allow him/her to feed themselves. And one mistake that parents do is give babies food just because they are healthy or that they like. Give them different types of food and let them choose what they want to eat. Remember that your kid’s taste is most likely to change as they grow up, and therefore, you don’t really have to force them to eat certain types of food right now. Always take it slow.
A common sentence you hear across all homes with children, “finish your meal and you can have a treat”. This is what we call bribing, which is perhaps the first step towards introducing unhealthy eating habits in your children. Therefore, it is best to avoid bribing.
Give Them Time to Adjust
If your little one doesn’t seem to like a specific food or taste when you introduce it to him/her, do not stop giving it. Try feeding them the same after a few days and repeat the approach until they realize that it is something they should eat. All they need is some time to adjust.
Eat as a Family
This technique works for toddlers. Include your toddler at your dining table during meal times, and let him/her notice everyone eating the same food that he/she is offered. This will give them the push they need to eat healthy foods. This technique works well by making your kid eat with their older siblings as well.
Let Them Get Messy
Most parents don’t allow their babies to get messy when it comes to food. But, it is important to understand that this is one way of making babies get accustomed to new foods. Since your baby is discovering something new, allowing him/her to explore their food the way they like is a strong stepping stone to getting them to eat. You will see them putting the food in their mouth during this process, which is exactly what you need; just let them do it in their own way.
Talk to an Expert
When you have tried everything to make your baby eat and nothing works, especially if you are dealing with a toddler, it could be time to talk to an expert. You will be able to learn the right techniques relevant for your child’s needs and personality and also get some valuable advice on the topic.
To conclude, some vital points for you to remember are:
- As a parent, you get to decide:
- what foods to give your child
- when to serve your kid’s meals
- when to give them snacks, and
- where to give them their food
- And as the receiver, your kid gets to decide:
- how much he/she wants to eat, and
- which ones to eat from what is offered to them