Thursday, November 13, 2008

"My Child is not eating...."

Update: see below.
This is the same old story one hears so often in different versions, but, which I think every mother goes through. How easy is it to say "Don't worry!", but how difficult once it is you yourself as a mother who has to deal with it. I remember how long I was worried about my son's eating habits. But, it is always good to inform oneself about such things to know "Is my child really eating very little.... Is it so little that I need to worry? A lot of times the doctors measure the weight of the child and check his growth curve and say "All is well!" And you "Huh!...that's it?!.... It can't be?!".
Since I'm not a nutritionist I can only tell you what I have learned through experience as a mother and what I read and hear around me from others and which makes sense to me.

But, before I begin, one thing should be clear that the focus should always be the child and his well being and his physical and mental health rather than the (amount of) food. As, a lot of times despite worrying so much, a simple reason is that children's taste buds and sense of smell are much more sensitive and there being so many new tastes which they encounter day in day out that they need time to get used to all of them. Keep offering your child these fruits even if it refuses to eat them. But let it remain to that, let your child decide on its own what it wants.

Some tips which might help you deal with the situation better:

  1. An important rule, which applies to major number of everyday situations with children: "Give them Time". Keep trying, again and again.... and again.... and again.................. That is what motherhood means.
  2. Don't force feed. Do not feed him something which he refuses to eat and shows complete dislike for.
  3. I do want him to try and taste the food, but if he refuses to eat then I have to respect it. I can pester a lot, but he is even more stronger willed, thankfully!
  4. Once, I had read that one has to offer a child the particular food at least 32 times (or more; corresponds to the number of teeth an "ideal" human mouth can have) over a longer period of time before you know if your child really dislikes it. I like the idea a lot.
  5. Here, there is an old saying which is difficult to translate (Ein kind holt sich, was er braucht) but means something like "a child will come and get for himself / eat when its body needs it" - this will apply given the condition that you offer them a balanced diet, offer enough choice and a healthy meal is served on the table, the rest can / should be left to them. I'll be honest - I find it hard to follow this rule. But, it is surely a good line of thought to follow. Trust them a bit more in taking the right decisions on their own.
  6. Involve your child while preparing food, like cutting fruits or vegetables. Let them also lay the table get the spoons for example for them to realise that it is time for lunch or dinner.
  7. Eat together with your child. It is mor fun for them. It applies to toddler age too, onmce they beginn to eat with their spoon, however much they can.
  8. Encourage them to eat on their own, don't refuse. Take time to let them eat, It may mean 20 minutes more. Plan this time whenever possible , if not always. You'll be rewarded wit an independent and enthusiastic eater one day.
  9. With children 3 or 4 years onwards, go shopping with them and ask them what they would like to buy. Try and see how long will the child want to eat the same vegetable every day. One day he might come and say "mom...let's buy something else today.."
  10. One thing which I learned after becoming a mother was that a lot of times children quite often instinctively know what is not good for them and avoid eating it, like in case of allergies or intolerance. Now this may not necessarily be always the case, as in such cases you would also see physical signs of these most of the times. But, one does need to pay heed to it and also respect it.
  11. Don't feed babies and toddlers too many things in one go. Offer just one fruit at a time. Less variety is a much better choice at that age. The lesser number of fruits a child is exposed to at an early age, the better. Only after they reach the age when they start going to school, should one worry about offering them a variety of things.
If you want to start your baby with solids then, two important things one should keep in mind (see also this post on food allergy and intolerance):
  1. Choose one vegetable which is considered hypoallergenic, trust your instincts too in this matter and as to what your child would like.
  2. Do not give anything else for at least a week. Depending upon the age of the baby, you could either stay with this one vegetable for as long as you feel like (1, 2 or 3 months or even longer) and if the baby rejects it even after a week or you feel that it does not suit the baby - watch his stool and any physical reactions like rashes and redness, then try something else. Even if your child is not allergy prone, it may react to the food, as the body's immune system is developing at that age and it needs time to get to know its environment and overexposure is not good.
Good sites to go to for good tips regarding baby food:
Starting babies on solids
Introducing solids to babies and charts at
Recipes for babyfoods at
I highly recommend you to go to for any questions regarding baby foods. It is good guide. Many questions to which your paediatrician cannot give good answers to may be given here, or to questions which pop up in your mind.

This is what my midwife, surely the age of my mother, once said and it impressed me a lot: "...Today's mothers always seem to be in too much of a hurry with their children.... want them to grow so fast ..... do everything and do everything fast...". It's true in different ways, isn't it? Maybe it has reasons, why we are like that, like external pressures, wanting our child to survive in today's speedy world where everybody is wanting to be better and faster than the other. But, for that very reason, we have to teach our children to stay healthy by having a healthy attitude towards food. To learn to enjoy food. And, honestly, do you like all the vegetables? An did this thought ever cross your mind that maybe had we had the chance to choose between eating this particular vegetable or leave it, that today we might actually react totally differently today than we do now, the moment we think of this vegetable. Vegetables are important, but we need to trust our children much more that they will choose to eat healthy if given enough options and time on the longer run. That they will still develop into healthy beings with an healthy mind.
We do need o tell them to keep trying a vegetable, find ways, force or motivation or tricks (fair ones - the child should not feel cheated, the are way smarter than we think, isn't it?),.......... but only to make them try it. Let it be a tiny piece only. Accept their "No, I didn't like it" and don't forget to tell them that you are proud of them that they at least tried it.
And this site was created by Swati just for the purpose of having ideas on offering different thing which your child might like to eat.To share your recipes which were successful with your child. I guess picturee are not even so important ass long as you give ideas and a rough guideline as to how to makeit. And if you can't do that at that moment and give the readers the option of asking you by email for example when they want to prepare the dish you posted about.
This (picture above) is what my sonny boy ate a couple of days back. If you want the recipies then ask me: Zucchini parantha with sauted / stirfried mushrooms and zucchini in some cumin and coriander powder and salt and 'rasa aloo' with ajwain seeds (the zucchini in the mushrooms was the other leftover half I used up for parantha dough).
Please do give me your feedback and suggestions on this topic. Or a link to any good site you know. Looking forward to your feedback as experienced mothers/parents.

Update: Good tips here:
What to Do with a Picky Eater


Madhuram said...

Nice post PG. Actually my son is 3 years and 3 months old and I'm going through this phase. Earlier I didn't have any problems at all, he would eat anything I offer and he himself made healthy choices, like eating a lot of veggies. But not anymore. Recently I came across a book called The Sneaky Chef. That has definitely made me think outside the box. I tried the blueberry, cherry, strawberry flavored milk and he drinks all the three. I have blogged about blueberry milk sometime last week.

Swati said...

Excellent post and I agree with all of it. And I follow too. But you know that there are times when Aryan gets into this phase of not eating and I get pissed off after 2-3 days. I know patience is the key :) For past few days he wants to skip dinner, as of now I don't fuss but I am slowly loosing patience.

Anonymous said...

I really need your help if possible. Right now, I'm very much confused on what to do with my only son. Just 2 days ago he's been suffering from a toothache that's why he can't eat much. Then that day also, he got an accident. He bumped his mouth on the handle of the slide and broke his upper front tooth. Half of it took off. and when I brought him to the dentist, he cried so loud and difficult to open the mouth. WE are already 5 adults trying to hold him but we can't make him stop or stay still. The dentist said she can't do anything if the child will not cooperate. So now, my son has not been eating for 2 days, just drinking water. He got also sores on his lip. And really coughing that i can feel his throat is also in pain. I am very much worried with my son. Please give me advise on what to do. Thanks.

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