Very often, we hear a mother being overly concerned about her fussy toddler. As a baby grows and starts exploring things around, he/she becomes less interested in food, and mealtimes turn into a tedious exercise. Keeping in mind that a toddler has a very short attention span and a tiny tummy, here are some steps mothers can adopt for weaned babies or teething toddlers.
1. Take Time
A baby’s refusal of new food does not necessarily mean one should instantly give up trying. It can take a while for the young taster to ‘warm up’ to new food. If the baby refuses to eat at first, try introducing the same food after a few days.
2. Concentrate On Feeding The Child
It is true that present-day parents try to entertain kids by letting them play on the smartphone/tablet during mealtimes. But as a healthy and traditional practice, anything that could divert the attention of the parent and the baby should be kept away during meals. Engaging each other in a conversation or a story is always better in terms of bonding, stimulating the senses and improving the flow of the digestive enzymes of the fussy baby.
3. Make Food Attractive
When introducing new food to a baby, try to make the food look attractive. One can set aside a special meal set (colourful plate, bowl, and cup) for the baby. Or one can have some inexpensive sets and alternate between them during a new meal. Parents/caretakers can prepare chapatti /dosa in different shapes (flower, star, bear etc.) or even plate the food in different colours by using fruits and vegetables (cooked carrots, sliced grapes).
A meal that looks colourful can work as an appetizer even for adults. Of course, this requires time and dedication. But what a joy it brings to see the little one enjoying his meal!
4. Take It Easy
Does your baby like to eat on her own? Then let her have her way. While it may prove messier, many parents have admitted to the fact that kids enjoy playing with their food while eating it. Sometimes they even like to eat food off the table and not from a plate. Relaxing table manners could help the young one. Let the baby take her/his time and don’t hurry up the feeding. Just ensure hygiene of the place is maintained.
If there is one thing everyone loves, it is to be rewarded. Generously shower praises for every time the child progresses. One could also reward the baby with a favourite activity (hugs, tickles, jokes) each time he completes his meal or finishes a couple of bites.
6. Make It A Fun Time
Probably the most familiar and proven practice is to interest the baby with expressive and imaginative stories. One can even try to make mealtime a happy activity, by playing a food game.
7. I Am Special
Set aside a VIP-eating area for the baby. It could be a corner on the kitchen counter or a high chair next to the dining table. During each mealtime, ensure you move him to ‘that special place’, away from his toys. Eventually, he will come to focus on the food set before him.
Since parents are always scrambling for time, they tend to regiment food time for the child. On the other hand, a child’s digestive system is not aligned with a clock. It is influenced by several other factors, including metabolism, growth spurts, emotional state and physical health. The surest way to a welcome meal is to wait for the child to have hunger pangs. When a child is hungry, he will easily eat a healthy meal put before him.
9. Some For Me Please
At times when the baby refuses to eat, just ignore it. Serve yourself food and start eating with him by your side. Chances are that he will ask to eat something from your plate!
10. How much is enough?
Do not be alarmed when the kid does not finish the food that you put in front of him. He may have become intrigued by something else or simply lost his appetite for the food. Give him other food options, but if he still indicates that he does not want to eat anymore, accept it and wait for the next meal to feed him.
11. Suggested foods for toddlers
- Daals, boiled and mashed peas or black-eyed peas (chouli)
- Vegetable purees/soups
- Cheese, whole milk paneer
- Roots – mashed boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, steamed beetroot and carrots
- Fruit or fruit purees
- Vegetarian / Non-vegetarian / combination soups
- Nut butters like almond butter
- Eggs, chicken and fish
- Boiled rice with paneer or cheese and butter/ghee
12. Foods to avoid
- Foods that may be swallowed before the child can chew on them like peas and grapes.
- Foods that are difficult to chew like raw carrots.
- Instant / packaged foods like noodles and biscuits.
As a young mother, you may be anxious about feeding the right food to your baby. If the child has enough energy to run and play and is not falling sick, there is no cause for worry. Hunger is the best indicator for when you need to feed your child. Make mealtimes special and enjoyable with your baby!