Why is my toddler not eating? You may find yourself wondering that on a daily basis past your baby's first year of life.
Has my child turned into one of those 'dreaded' fussy eaters? But why? And, what's more, what can I do about it? Many parents get caught up in a vicious cycle of frustration and stress during mealtimes, often due to the lack of understanding about the situation. And that's what we'll try to explain in the following lines.
It's time to eat, so, please, why don't you join us at the table?
Why is my toddler not eating?
Cooking for your toddler is very exciting, and it's something that you may do with love, but not all mums are ready for their food to be rejected, no matter how little their children are. What could be going wrong? Maybe, nothing. Let's find out by having a look at the possible causes of your toddler not eating:
- Variations in the growing rhythm: babies experience many growth spurts, some of which may be even noticeable in just a few days, but such a rhythm slows down significantly when children become toddlers. As they don't grow up as fast as babies, they don't need to eat so much.
- Big portions for small stomachs: keep this in mind, because toddlers have stomachs that are as big as a fist, so trying to daily follow the three-big-meal rule with them may not work out.
- Trouble focusing: toddlers are constantly marvelled at the world around them, which they find fascinating. That's why it's hard for them to focus just on what they have on their plates, as there's so much more to pay attention to!
- Trying to draw your attention: there are times when a toddler not eating can be a sign of something else. For example, if he's been experiencing changes in his life, like starting pre-school, moving to another house or having a little brother or sister, he may want to draw attention to himself. And rejecting food is a way to do so.
- Being tired of the same food: if, somehow, your toddler refuses to eat what he used to love, don't be surprised. Some paediatricians agree on the concept of 'child's food fatigue', which happens when children get tired of the same foods and they need a wider diet, with new flavours that stimulate them.
- Wanting to feed himself: when toddlers become aware of other people eating by themselves, they will want to do it as well at some point. But, of course, they may not be as skilled as us at handling utensils, so it can take longer for them to eat. That may lead to frustration and the desire to go off to play.
How to handle your toddler's lack of appetite
As a new mum, dealing with the fact of your toddler not eating can be very challenging. Fortunately, there are many ways to handle this situation, though you may have to change your perspective towards it. For example, try giving him a few small servings every day, instead of stuffing his plate, or invest in healthy snacks, such as fruits or veggies throughout the day. In addition, avoid setting a tense atmosphere during mealtimes, as that's going to intimidate your child and it may end up in a tug of war (if a baby doesn't want to eat, he won't!).
The best thing you can do is praise your toddler when he's doing his best at the table. Make him feel like a champion and don't try to analyse his eating behaviour day by day, since he may go through many ups and downs.
Toddler not eating: Making mealtimes an enjoyable time
Is your toddler not eating as much as he is expected to? Then, it's time to take action, either by being creative in the kitchen or by creating an enjoyable eating environment. Check out the following tips to achieve such goals:
- Introduce him to new foods: try giving your child the same food you and Dad are eating. Not only will this help him become familiar with new flavours, but he may turn out to love one of the new choices.
- Camouflage the least appealing choices: regardless of being such a picky eater, your little one still needs a well-balanced diet that provides him with essential nutrients to grow up healthily. Taking this into consideration, be creative and mix his favourite foods with others that he's reluctant to or find new ways to present them.
- Don't insist... for now: a toddler's interest in different dishes can change very quickly. It may be boring today what yesterday was yummy. Thus, if he refuses the food you are offering him, don't push him at the moment. Wait for a week and let's see how he reacts.
- Let your child be playful: if your toddler decides to play with his food, don't get upset. Experiencing and having fun with food is part of the process, so let his curiosity run free.
- Good family time: turn mealtimes into a family occasion through which you gather and enjoy one another's company. In order to ensure it, turn off the TV and other devices that could interfere and be an element of distraction.
There are times when your child's lack of appetite could be related to an underlying health problem. If his particular battle against food gets too extreme, affecting even his weight and general growth, you should take him to the doctor to have him medically evaluated.