Since the start of the year Archie has gone from eating large portions and pretty much anything to being ridiculously picky and changing his tastes on an almost daily basis! I’ve read up a lot about it and it’s very common for toddlers to go through a fussy stage at some point and although mostly it happens nearer the age of 2, it can happen before this. We’re 6 months in and Arch is still a fussy little monkey but I’ve found a few things which have helped so I thought I’d share. If you have any other words of wisdom, I’d love to hear them in the comments 🙂
At 11 months old, coinciding with him walking, Archie became really fussy with his food. The biggest change was him refusing anything off a spoon from us and because he hadn’t quite mastered feeding himself with a spoon we went down a new route of serving only finger foods (aside from yoghurt/ custard which he could feed himself). Before this I was making batches of pureed/ mashed foods as his main meal and serving it alongside a few finger foods.
I found the transition pretty stressful if I’m honest because unhelpfully his tastes seemed to change all the time so I never knew whether he would eat what was put in front of him. The few things he would always eat were fruit (most types) and yoghurt/ custard so it’s quite clear he has quite a sweet tooth like his mummy! It was the ‘main course’ which always seemed to be hit and miss.
I soon realised that he prefers it when food is not mixed in together but each element is served separately. For example, when giving him beans on toast I always separate the beans and the toast fingers. It makes serving normal table foods a bit tricky (e.g. lasagne, chilli, Bolognese etc.) but I do try them deconstructed….with varying results! His go-to favourite dinners are: fish fingers, homemade chips and peas/ beans; sweet potato fingers with falafel/ chicken; pesto pasta. Everything else seems to be dependent on his mood that day!
I’ve learnt to try and say as relaxed as I can about it and there are days when he surprises us completely out of the blue and tries something he hasn’t for months! Here are a few things I’ve found useful when reading up about fussy eating:
- It’s normal for toddlers to eat less – As a baby Archie always had a huge appetite so when he first started being fussy I was really stressed about whether he was eating enough and probably overcompensated with fruit and yoghurt! But I’ve since learnt that it’s quite normal for their appetites to decrease as toddlers because their growth rate declines and they simply don’t need as much food. And particularly as they start walking, they become too interested in exploring the world around them that sometimes food can become a bit of a chore!
- Appetites will be affected by illnesses/ teething – Archie’s fussy spell has definitely coincided with an almost constant cycle of being poorly/ teething. And again it’s very normal that once they hit a year old, they contend with one cold/ illness after another as their immune system builds. So naturally their appetites are affected by this, as we know only too well ourselves when we’re ill or have toothache.
- Serving smaller portions can help – I used to pretty much fill Archie’s plate with food but now I just offer a small portion of each ‘element’ and then he can have second/ third helpings as and when he finishes them – that way he’s not too overwhelmed, particularly if it’s not one of his favourites!
- It’s best to offer their favourite foods alongside new/ unpopular foods – I find this one a bit challenging when I’m offering a whole meal he’s not keen on but I do find if I put it with his favourite vegetables or some homemade chips then it helps avoid a straight refusal!
- Follow their lead – At first I really tried to encourage him to eat the foods he would ignore on his plate but the more I made a fuss, the more he seemed to refuse! So now, I don’t make a big thing of it and just clear his plate away once he’s finished, ignoring the fact he might have touched very little! I’d also say it’s best not to try too much at once – perhaps add in just one new/ unfamiliar food each day so it’s not too overwhelming.
- Eat with them as often as you can – When we’re eating in a group with family/ friends I definitely notice a difference here in terms of Archie being more interested in eating what everyone else is. Frustratingly it doesn’t seem to work when it’s just the 2 of us – which it is most of the time – but if I sing songs or distract him in some other way than just focussing on the fact he’s eating that does seem to help so I’d definitely say engaging with them and making it more of a social activity makes a difference.
- Create a relaxed environment – This is similar to the above but essentially anything you can do to make them as relaxed as possible will help them to be a bit more open-minded. As soon as they feel pressured to eat, in my experience, it seems to have the opposite effect! Sometimes, we have a little picnic on the play mat on the floor and I find Arch eats so much more than when he’s in his highchair where the focus is solely on eating.
- Try not to stress – Ah sorry I left it until last because I know it is by far the hardest one to put into practice but I’ve genuinely noticed the difference with Arch when I’m relaxed and don’t let it bother me versus the days where I feel I’m tearing my hair out and throwing anything at him just to try and make him eat! Just acknowledge it’s a phase, consider giving them some multivitamins and try a mixture of new/ unpopular foods alongside their favourites (accounting for the fact these might change on a daily basis!!).
I’d love to know about your experience of fussy eating – was it just a quick phase or has it gone on for what feels like forever? Have you changed up what you’re giving to them or just persevered with one approach? I think, like with most things, there’s not a magic fix and each child is different so I’d love to know what you’ve found has worked for you.