Your sweet baby who used to eat everything is gone. Now, you’re left with a mini food critique. Morphed from the kid who happily gobbled up every food in sight, to the kid who’s food preferences change with each passing day. It makes you wonder, where on earth did I go wrong? Before you go all doomsday thinking my kid will never eat a vegetable or a piece of meat again, let’s take a minute and look at the facts WHY this may have happened in the first place.
Top 4 Reasons Why Your Toddler Is Turning Up Their Nose to Food:
#1. Slowed growth = slowed appetite
At first the steamed asparagus, broccoli, and baked chicken breast went down with ease, along with seconds and even thirds. Before their first birthday you were likely jumping up and down about “how well” your little one eats. Even going so far as bragging to other moms about how your little one eats sprigs of plain asparagus. And now…. well now it feels like you’ve hit a brick wall. Even foods that were a regular hit now just HIT the floor! What gives?
Your little one gobbled up all the food not because they loved asparagus, but because they really were just that hungry!
Think of it this way, before your babies first birthday they likely tripled their weight and almost doubled their height. (Approximately 14+ pounds and 18+ inches in a year)
Now, until puberty, it’s only expected they will gain roughly 4-5 pounds and 4-5 inches each YEAR.
That’s a HUGE difference!!
This massive leveling off of growth is the most likely reason your little one is more choosy about what they eat. They don’t need to eat as much to grow, so why eat food they don’t like? This my friend, is what we call innate intuitive eating.
#2. Food isn’t fun any more
At 6 months old you expected the mess. The squishing, smashing, and complete annihilation of food before it ever hit your little one’s mouth (if it ever made it there at all). For some reason at the ripe age of 12 months all that has changed. You’re sick of the mess. Tired of cleaning up and your newly minted “toddler” should know better!
WRONG…. well not wrong but this assumption just makes you more angry and annoyed when the mess happens anyways.
Just because your little one has most of the skills to eat better, doesn’t mean they stopped wanting to explore their food. In fact the more you allow and encourage them to explore food, the more likely some of it may even get past their lips.
Don’t worry momma you still have lots of time to instill table manners, 18 years to be exact. Instead of fighting the mess, create meal time rules you can live with and anticipate that learning to like food may get a little messy.
#3. With age comes independence
Why walk when you can run? Why sit when you can stand? If you’ve given in to your little one’s wishes of eating on the run, you may be regretting that decision right about now. Nothing makes meal times more challenging than trying to get food into a little one who won’t sit still. Your once crawling baby, is now a mini Usain Bolt dodging every spoonful of food you come after them with. Not to mention the kinds of foods you were feeding them on the go. I doubt you were chasing your little one around with a chunk of chicken breast, or a piece of steamed broccoli.
And that food you used to leave on the table for them to peck away at stays mostly untouched. Why? Because who wants to take time away from playing to do something silly like eating!
This kind of “free-range” feeding may have felt right at the time, but once the toddler years hit it can really back fire (not to mention is a huge risk for choking). Wrangling your little one back to being seated at the table may be an up hill battle, but it’s well worth it in the end. Even if you start with 5 minutes of sitting and work your way up 5 minutes at a time, you’ll be working your way closer back to having a toddler who joins the family at meal times.
Establishing a clear, yet slightly flexible schedule for meal and snack times also helps your “free-range” eater to settle into more of a routine for eating. Remember, old habits die hard. It’s going to take persistent, consistent effort on your part to help your toddler adjust to the new meal time arrangement.
#4. When it’s something else
Ever get that feeling your little one is experiencing something more than just picky eating? Their reactions are so extreme. Their previous list of foods they love has now dwindled down to only a few foods, or perhaps their list was never that vast or diverse to begin with. More often than not these toddlers may have experienced, or are currently dealing with, one or more of the following:
- Preterm baby or low birth weight baby
- Needed medical intervention (tubefed)
- Had issues with breast/bottle feeding and solid food when introduced
- Feeding “trauma”
- Choking on a piece of food or issues with reflux.
- Sensory issues, oral motor problems, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
In these cases, if you haven’t already, seeking the advice of a Pediatrician is a must. This will be a step in the right direction to figuring out where to go next, an Occupational Therapist, a Speech and Language Pathologist, a Registered Dietitian, or a feeding team that consists of all three and sometimes more.
Now that you know why, what’s next?
There you have it! The four most common reasons your sweet, food loving baby has become a more picky eater. For most families this stage may last up to your child’s fifth birthday, and sometimes beyond. But it’s not something you just need to accept as your new normal. Feeding toddlers doesn’t mean you have to live with the constant food fights, the bribes, the coersion. Creating whole new meals just so your toddler will eat something!
There is another way to not only survive the picky eating years, but thrive. If you’re really not sure who to turn to or what steps to take next to turn meal times around, send me a message and I’ll point you in the right direction.
Picky eating may be a phase, but the way you deal with it now has lasting affects for decades to come.
Now my question to you is out of the top 4 reasons I outlined about why you may have a more picky eater now, which resonated with you the most?