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My Child, a Picky Eater? No!

It was bound to happen.  I was just starting to feel smug about having a baby who would eat anything. I was casually feeding her everything off of my plate, introducing her to new flavors every day, and watching with pride as she tossed everything in her mouth without a second thought. Curry? No problem. Cauliflower? Love it!

OK, not the most exciting foods on her plate here - you'll just have to believe me on the curry and cauliflower.

But you know what happens to people who feel smug about their parenting.

This week, BabyC started taking one look at the curry and cauliflower and immediately chucking it to the floor. This is when experienced parents get to have a little laugh over the fact that I had already congratulated myself on evading the picky eater problem. What was I thinking?

I’m trying not to make a big deal about it. I’m trying not to say to BabyC, “When did you become such a picky eater?!” I’m pretending not to care – just trying to teach her not to throw her food and push it to the side instead. And I’m not going to rush out to buy chicken nuggets and boxed macaroni and cheese, which I hear all toddlers will eat. I’m going to keep offering her what we’re eating and hope for the best.

There was a bright spot yesterday. Husband was giving BabyC some chunks of baked sweet potato for dinner and left one chunk on a spoon by her tray while he went to refill the bowl. When he turned around, she was casually eating her sweet potato with a spoon. He scooped up another bite for her and layed the spoon back down on the tray, and she picked it up and neatly stuck it in her mouth. This went on for twenty minutes, and BabyC ate a lot of sweet potato during that time. This is the girl who has never been interested in being fed with a spoon and who hardly touched her sweet potatoes at lunch.

So, what have I learned these last few days? I’ve learned to never assume you’ve figured something out with a baby, because chances are, she’ll change things up on you tomorrow (I think I knew that already but somehow managed to forget). I’ve learned that practicing something new is all-consuming to a baby, whether that new thing is throwing food on the floor or eating food with a spoon. I’ve learned not to rush a baby to try something new but to give her the opportunity and enjoy the surprise when she picks up the spoon and starts using it.

I ran across a few blog posts about picky eaters this morning.  They made me feel a little better, bu I hope that this is really just a brief phase.  Please?

I Want My Kid to Eat More French Fries by Melanie Reh

Two Foodie Parents, One Picky Eater by Candy Schulman

Any words of advice from those of you who have been there?  Are some kiddos picky eaters despite the best examples set by foodie parents?

 

18 Comments
  1. Alicia #

    My son was an excellent eater before the age of one year (I made all his baby food) and things were great. At about a year, he started rejecting some of his favorite foods and we noticed he refused to begin feeding himself anything but Cheerios. To make a long story short, he ended up in food therapy and was eventually diagnosed with a tactile dysfunction. Fast forward through the nutritionist, the occupational therapist, and the gastroenterologist – we now have a five-year-old who doesn’t eat a single thing he didn’t already eat at the age of two (and a few things less, actually). Mostly, his diet consists Cheerios, cereal bars (certain kinds), and the occasional macaroni and cheese (only one kind) or grilled cheese sandwich. I worried about this a lot, but all of his doctors assured me that it was best not to make mealtime a battle. Because he gets a multivitamin in his juice and Carnation Instant Breakfast in the morning, he is growing on target and is healthy. Beyond that, all the experts have said to just let him be picky. As one therapist said, one of two things will happen as he gets older – either he’ll start to try things of his own volition, or he will “advocate for himself,” and explain to other people why he only eats a couple of things. Either way, they tell me he’ll be just fine.

    While, of course, your child is probably wayyyyy less “picky,” I think the takeaway here is that I’ve learned to just let it be. If I tried to force him to eat all the things I wanted to, mealtimes would be a stressful battlefield. Instead, we just give him his cheerios and he sits with us and enjoys our company. I think it’s the way to go.

    In other news, his younger brother is a foodie kamikaze. Salsa? Yes please! Kalamata olives? Absolutely! And no parent could appreciate this delightful development more than I do!

    Like

    November 3, 2011
  2. Rachael #

    Well…coming from what appears to be a family of picky-eating toddlers…it can be a LONG phase. One of my nieces made mealtimes a battle no matter what the meal of the night was for about four years. The other is easier, but still – she started to refuse things that she’d liked perfectly well the week before, right around the age of three, and, at six, is still making her mom’s life miserable about food.

    And my own daughter, who until a year old would eat almost anything – while she still LIKES almost everything (if you catch her in the right mood) eats almost nothing many days. Doesn’t matter what she liked yesterday; odds are good she won’t eat it today. We’ve decided to give her the multivitamin and the Carnation Good Start (seems to be the choice of many non-eaters’ moms) and just let her eat what she wants. We decide when and what the choices are; she decides how much.

    She’s a skinny mini (just like her mom, grandma, aunt, and cousins), but she’s smart, energetic, and happy, so she can’t be starving. I say – just give Baby C what you’d like her to eat, and if she doesn’t eat it, then just have her sit with you all until you finish your meal, and let her go.

    Like

    November 3, 2011
  3. Sarah #

    My second child used to eat anything and everything… then he turned two. Now it’s very hit and miss: he will ALWAYS eat dairy (cheese, plain yoghurt, milk), fruit, avocado, hummus and anything that comes under the realm of ‘bread’ product (muffins, toast etc). They don’t have to be sweet – he’s quite taken with spinach, feta and buckwheat muffins! And ‘pink’ pancakes (which happen to have a whole heap of beetroot in them). Cucumbers he used to devour, but he will stare at those for half and hour before perhaps consuming them. Or perhaps not. But gone are the days when he would approach my homecooked meals with gusto. Meat is one area I find tricky. Sausages are always a hit, but I’m not the sort to bring them out every night.

    It’s been this way for about 3 months now. Dinners are always the trickiest (they involve the most daily variety). My approach is now: offer some food he would never reject (e.g. whole milk yoghurt/cheese, a serving of fruit, yet more avocado) PLUS whatever I’ve made for the rest of us (unlikely to hit the mark, but hey, he sometimes takes a few bites) PLUS some of the maybes that I always tend to have on hand (those cucumbers and corned beef). Then, let him take his time to figure out what he wants. Oh, and a multi-vitamin to cover all bases! And other than that, I try not to worry. I’m not the sort to short-order cook, so I don’t. But I don’t want to serve him only things that he is unlikely to eat a lot of either (he’s a tiny bloke and I’d rather he started to catch up not fall further off the scales).

    Good luck! Btw, I did have some luck with banana cauliflower muffins. My husband hated them (the cauliflower was a little too disturbing for him). But the kids loved them and I calculated each little muffin contained about a floret of cauli.

    Like

    November 4, 2011
  4. MH #

    I think every kid goes through “picky” stages – one reason is that their mouths are developing at a crazy rate, and they have all kinds of new things to deal with nearly every time they eat, new teeth, lost teeth, a new mouth shape, etc.

    I think, also, that some kids really are oversensitive to textures/flavors, and these kids need to be handled carefully. However, in all cases, giving up and moving to an exclusive diet of Mcfoods isn’t the answer.

    My son has always been a great eater – but every time he loses a tooth, he starts to refuse food. He’s suddenly becoming picky again, but we’ve found ways around it. Education of any kind is a process.

    Like

    November 4, 2011
  5. The most maddening thing is that the feedback loop is so indirect. You act in a certain way for days and weeks and months and years at end, and then something will happen when your child surprises you and you realize it was not all in vain. My infamous AHA moment came when my six years old son (sensitive to milk, picky eater, much lower percentile weight than height) took a bite of a cupcake, put it down and announced for everyone in earshot: Thank you, I do not like it. It is too sweet for my taste! On top of that you have to do the whole thing over again for each child because they are usually the direct opposite of each other and if you have more than two kids, they will come up with more ways to differ in eating preferences and personalities, the way they learn to eat and try new things. With the food environment around us as it is, it is almost a wonder if you at any point can declare that your child eats a variety of things, has a healthy attitude to food and on occasion enjoys the social aspects of eating… Hang in there for the longest haul.

    Like

    November 4, 2011
  6. Wow, thank you all for your thoughtful comments! I really appreciate hearing how you have learned to handle this. Several things have occurred to me over the last few days of reading your comments and watching BabyC. First, there really is nothing you can do to make a baby eat something she doesn’t want to, so it is pointless to stress about it. Second, it shouldn’t surprise me that she is starting to have preferences. I have preferences about food too, and there is no reason to think that she will have the same preferences as me. I’m going to keep cooking healthy meals that seem promising in terms of being baby-friendly and keep offering them to her. I have basically been following Sarah’s advice to start with something that she never rejects (but not a favorite, because then she won’t try anything else), then casually put a few new or less exciting things on her tray, and then finish with a favorite. Anyway, if she keep this up, I imagine I’ll be researching and posting more on the topic:)

    Like

    November 4, 2011
  7. What you describe sounds more like the normal phase most kids go through where they (1) limit what they eat and (2) push their parents’ boundaries than full on picky eating. In these cases, just waiting it out and not making a big deal out of it will probably work, and you’ll end up with a preschooler who eats fairly well. Actually, the “just wait it out and don’t make a big deal out of it” advice is pretty good if you have a true picky eater, too- but it might take longer before you see your kid eating the way you’d like. As in, it might not happen in childhood.

    I myself am a mostly recovered picky eater, and my first child is a very picky eater. I think there is a strong genetic component in this. You can trace the veggie-aversion down through the generations from my great-grandmother. (FWIW, I still prefer to hide the flavor of most veggies. They just taste bad to me.)

    My second child is showing signs of having a wider palette (like her father), but she’s only 2,so its hard to say.

    I wrote a post summarizing our approach back when my first was just a toddler: http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2008/11/confessions-of-picky-eater.html

    But… you may not like my approach, because I actually celebrated when my now 4 year old started eating chicken nuggets. It was (and is) the only meat she will eat. We are less likely to offer them in addition to our meal now that she is no longer on the extreme low end of the growth charts, but we’ll still do it sometimes.

    As I said- this was an approach for dealing with an extremely picky eater, which it doesn’t sound like you have. I recognize that my approach is a little more lenient than the approach many food experts recommend- but they’ve never met my kid. I have learned to just click away whenever I see someone holding forth on how to “conquer” picky eating. In most cases, the person really has no idea what its like to feed (or be!) a true picky eater, and are instead extrapolating from how they handled the normal toddler food constriction phase.

    I’ve written a lot more posts on food, mostly around my opinion that we worry too much about picky eating and we’ve gone a bit off the deep end about food in general. You can find them via the “food” label in my sidebar.

    I’ve also heard good things about the book “Hungry Monkey”, but I haven’t made the time to read it myself yet.

    Like

    November 4, 2011
    • Well, like I said, you know what happens to people who feel smug. My feeling about chicken nuggets may change. I know it is too soon to know if we have a picky eater on our hands, but we have seen a definite change in mealtimes this week. Either way, it is reassuring to know that it is totally normal, whatever it is. I’ll check out your food posts.

      Like

      November 4, 2011
      • Yes, parenthood teaches humility, doesn’t it? I’ve had many “eat my words” moments…

        Like

        November 5, 2011
        • If the bean eats lots of meat, you probably don’t need to worry much anyway. I worried more about BabyC in that 6-8 month window when she was just nibbling at a few finger foods and wouldn’t eat fortified cereal. I think that window – when iron stores are probably dwindling and many babies just aren’t eating huge amounts of food – is the high-risk time and the time when fortified cereals can be really helpful (if the baby will take em). There are good data showing that iron deficiency is a problem in older breastfed infants, so I think cereal fortification is a good strategy. And it does lower the risk of lead toxicity, too – very good point. Glad the bean enjoys his meat! BabyC devoured some beef stew herself tonight.

          Like

          November 6, 2011
  8. Emma #

    Check out http://www.itsnotaboutnutrition.com – I love Dina’s advice & read her blog religiously! (Just wish I had found it BEFORE I made the *mistakes* I did with #1 son. Hoping that #2 daughter will benefit from my new-found knowledge. In particular, try these posts:
    http://itsnotaboutnutrition.squarespace.com/home/2011/7/5/my-toddler-used-to-eat-vegetables.html
    http://itsnotaboutnutrition.squarespace.com/home/2012/1/3/kid-eats-qa-my-1-year-old-will-eat-anything-i-put-in-front-o.html

    Like

    January 5, 2012

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