We were talking yesterday on the Mum’s Days page about a Mother’s Intuition and how we should trust it…well today my Mother’s Intuition is having a fight with my Lazy Bone and it’s all over fussy eaters. In particular MY fussy eater. I talked last week about how Reuben was displaying fussy eating habits and while it’s a million times better now we’re at home, I thought, for the purposes of research and this blog, I would do some digging to find out why he won’t try new things or in lots of case, not even eat the food he used eat and love…

I got a book out of the library called Teach Yourself Feeding Your Toddler written by Judy More of Child Nutrition. Books about weaning and food are generally a recipe for disaster (haha). They normally lead to misery for me. I read them and then start to worry! This book has been no different but I’m trying to keep a lid on it because actually I’m learning some good stuff! Fussy eaters, or them not wanting to eat, can be caused by everything from being bored or over hungry to not feeling well or even anaemia!

Fussy Eaters and Walking

The first thing I have learnt, which was quite literally fascinating, is that once a baby/toddler can walk, a survival mechanism goes off, called food neophobia, meaning fear of new food. It is specifically designed to stop them harming themselves (by eating a poisonous berry, for example) as they start to wander further from the nest.

The result? Fussy eaters! Getting your little one to try and eat new things will be much harder than it used to be. And what did Reuben learn to do on holiday when his eating was at an all time low? You got it.

Some people won’t even notice this phase, especially if your child was already eating a wide variety of food. This is the part where I feel bad…Reuben had started to go off his favourite food from about 10 or 11 months (which I’m putting down to teething), so I’m guessing that his diet wasn’t varied enough.

Apparently this phase will pass though.

Fussy Eaters and Milk

The other thing that seems particularly pertinent to our situation is Milk.

And, this is the bit that’s got me all of a quandary. I’ve asked the mums and dads on the Facebook wall before (many times!) about this and for the most part, parents either ditched the bottle around the age of 1 (I hear that is the BEST TIME to do it as the baby is more interested in everything else and pleasing their parents) or they let them have their bottle until they don’t want it any more.

The book says he shouldn’t be drinking too much milk – no large bottles – as this will fill him up leaving him with no room for food. These fussy eaters just might not be hungry!

It also says, and this is the bit I find more worrying, that drinking milk from a bottle increases the amount of time the fluid is in contact with the teeth and because milk has lactose (a form of sugar) this can cause tooth decay. In addition, toddlers who drink large bottles of milk before bed are the ones most at risk from anaemia (which incidentally reduces their appetite). Judy urges that for the sake of his balanced diet, I’ve got to kick the bottle. Damn.

Reuben currently drinks a 7oz bottle before his daytime nap and another before bed. (On holiday he was drinking another bottle during the night but then he was eating pitiful amounts of food and has stopped since we’ve been back.) This amount, according to Parents.com, is OK. So, I’m torn. My instinct tells me to get rid of his bottles for the reasons above but…

My problem is that Reuben is having 2 hour naps during the day. He clearly needs this and it is massively important to his brain development that he gets it. But it takes him a long time to settle and a big element of this process is his bottle of milk. It’s his only comforter. I could sit and cuddle him and read stories with him all day in the dark and he wouldn’t feel sleepy. Give him his bottle and he just knows what to do.

I actually think that nighttime might be easier to tackle because he knows it’s bedtime. But he sure does still call out for his “MUCK, MUCK” when he’s ready for it so I just don’t know. To be continued.

How to help Fussy Eaters, er, eat

In the meantime the tips for fussy eaters are:

1) Eat with your toddler at every opportunity and eat what they eat.

We nearly always have breakfast together as a family and in fact, breakfast is Reuben’s favourite and most varied meal time.

He tends to sleep over lunch times, so he’ll have a snack before bed and then normally a sandwich when he wakes, quite often on the way to some social engagement he has organised, like swimming.

Evening meals, however, are more of a problem. Mike comes home after Reuben’s dinner time and I tend to wait to eat with him. I am nearly always watching what I eat so generally I don’t want to eat what Reuben is having and, because he’s fussy, I don’t offer him what I have because I think he won’t like it. BUT, he will only learn that the food I’m giving him is safe by seeing me eat it, so this is about to change! If I’m having salmon and veg, so is he but with something on the side that I know he will eat, like toast or some of his precious pasta shells. And, Mike’s will be in the microwave ready for when he gets in!

 2) Praise the good and ignore the bad

I already feel like a total fool with this. I literally never shut up telling Reuben how good he’s being and encouraging him to ‘dip dip dip’ in the sauce or in my pouched egg.

“You’re sooooooo clever” *claps like a seal*

But I recon those boffins might have a point. And if he throws something, or looks like he’s about to throw it? I ignore the behaviour or take it off him without making any fuss. MUCH harder than it sounds.

3) Always offer desert – BUT DON’T USE IT AS REWARD

I hardly ever offer desert because we don’t really eat it or I don’t have anything in the house. But the book says you must as it is a valuable part of the meal.

Firstly, our fussy eaters might not like the taste of the first course or are bored with it. They’ve only got a little attention span after all. Secondly, it gives 2 opportunities for calorie and nutrient consumption and increases the variety of food they are eating.

The books says to limit this to milk/flour/egg based things (such as custard and fruit or cake-style pudding with fruit, etc. There are literally hundreds of recipes that adapt the usual sugar loaded puddings for toddlers)

I don’t think there is a person in Britain that hasn’t been offered pudding as a reward but apparently it’s not the done thing…!

4) Be consistent

Offer meals and snacks at regular times – i.e. keep your routine as consistent as you can each day, this should avoid babe becoming over-hungry.

Eat in a calm, relaxed environment away from distractions such as the TV…(whoops! Reuben loves a little snack in front of the telly after a hard mornings play but a) our sofas don’t like it and b) it’s not a great habit to get into!)

Make only positive comments about the food and take away uneaten food without comment (“look at all that food you’ve wasted!” “There are starving children in Africa, you know” again, not the done thing anymore).

Finish the meal after about 20-30mins – it’s a boring activity for them really so don’t string it out!

Keep offering previously refused foods, once they start walking it will take longer for them to try and accept new foods. Plus some days you’re in the mood, other days you’re not.

Don’t offer a completely alternative meal if they don’t want the first and don’t use pudding as a bribe or reward!

What do you think? Good tips? Bad tips? I’d love to hear what you think!