Whether you have a fussy baby or are just trying to introduce new foods to your little ones diet, feeding time can be a trying process.
Fortunately, there are a whole range of tricks you can use to get your little one eating better. The advice listed below is suitable for weened baby’s right through to teething toddlers.
1. Take your time
Your baby’s immediate refusal of a new food does not instantly mean you should give up. It can take a while for a baby to “warm up” to new tastes and flavors.
Try introducing the same food each day for a week before throwing in the towel. Be sure to use some of the tricks outlined below to maximize your chances of success.
1 2. Focus on feeding
If your baby is solely focused on the food set before him then you will have a higher chance of success when feeding.
Before feeding be sure to clear the room of distractions. Turn off the television. Pack away toys. Move your pets to another room. Anything that could catch your baby’s attention that isn’t food should be dealt with.
Everyone loves unwrapping a present. You can trick your baby into believing the meal he is about to eat is more impressive than it is by presenting it as a super special gift.
When introducing new foods to my baby I would seal them in a resealable baby food bag. I would then help my baby “unwrap” his food. Choose a resealable baby food bag that your little one will be excited by each time he sees it.
4. Let go of control
Does your baby love to do everything his own way? You may have more success if you hand the reigns over to your little one.
While it may prove to be one of the messier decisions you will make, letting your baby feed himself can be the quickest way to get your baby to eat new foods. Many parents report that previously rejected foods were quickly devoured simply by letting their baby self feed and is definitely worth trying should all else fail.
5. Special Meal Set
Similar to the present trick, you can make new foods seem extra special by having a meal set that is only used when introducing new meals.
The idea is that your baby will be distracted by the “new” cutlery, plates and cups and eat whatever is presented on them.
6. How fast are you going?
Each baby is different. Some baby’s like to wait a minute or two between spoonfuls, others want a feeding rhythm that is the equivalent of a high pressure hose launching food at them.
Finding your baby’s comfortable feeding rhythm is a vital step towards introducing your baby to new foods.
7. Play with the food
“Don’t play with your food!”
I am sure just about everyone has heard their parents say that as they were growing up. Well, I am about to tell you not to follow your parents advice.
If your baby is playing with his food, he is at least somewhat interested in it and halfway to getting it into his mouth. You want your baby to be excited about eating and for some little ones, the thought of play is the only way to bring about this enthusiasm and should be encouraged.
By using the below utensils your baby can not only play with his food, but feed himself with the ‘toy’ as well.
Bribery or, as I like to call it, incentivized feeding is a great way to get your baby to eat when introducing new foods.
My baby absolutely loves avocado. When I was introducing new foods I would place a bowl of avocado in plain view of my little one. I would then feed her the new food. When she realized I wasn’t feeding her avocado I’d say “one more bite and you can have avocado”. This was all it would take for her to chow down on the new introduction like it was her favorite meal of all time.
If the food bribe isn’t working for you, replace the bribe with the promise of a favorite activity or toy. Just be sure to follow through on the promise.
9. The Switcheroonie
Similar to bribery but a little less honest. The switcheroonie works by making your baby associate the new foods flavor with a tried and tested favorite.
Prepare half a portion of your baby’s favorite meal and half a portion of the food you are trying to introduce. Feed your baby a spoonful of his favorite then make the next spoonful the new introduction. Repeat, alternating between both foods until your baby is full.
This method is most effective if introducing new foods that are a similar color to your baby’s favorite food. Also be sure to introduce similar dishes. Pair fruit dishes together. Likewise do the same with vegetable dishes.
10. Make it a game
If there is one thing your baby loves to do, it’s play. You may find success if you turn the whole feeding routine into a game.
One way to do this is to play a game and use food as a prize for ‘winning’ the game. One game you could play is ask your baby to point at an object on a placemat, like the one below. When he successfully picks the correct object, he receives his prize, a dollop of baby food you are trying to introduce.
11. The count down is on
I don’t have to tell you that feeding a cranky baby is nigh on impossible. You may find that you have a countdown timer set as to how long your baby will put up with meal time before turning into a grumpy monster.
Babies have an incredibly short attention span and get bored of activities such as feeding time very quickly. Try to keep mealtimes below 30 minutes if possible. You have little chance of your feeding when cranky baby reveals himself.
12. The Spray and Pray
If you prepare homemade baby food then chances are you will have a baby safe ice cube tray laying around. These are perfect for introducing new baby foods to a picky eater.
The spray and pray technique requires you to prepare at least 3 new foods your baby has never eaten. Place each of the foods into a tray like the one below or ice cube tray (or other BPA free container) and present the tray to your baby.
The success of this method relies on comparison. Your baby will prefer one dish more than any of the others and hopefully finish his meal.
13. Sing Praise
Like adults, babies love smiles and praise. If your baby tries a new food, arm yourself with a big grin and commend your baby for his efforts. If your little one associates your beaming face with trying a meal then introducing new foods will be much easier in the future.
14. Family Feeding Frenzy
When it comes to feeding time your baby may be wondering why he is eating and you are not. Baby’s love to imitate adults. Many parents report a more successful feeding if they eat at the same time as their baby.
Feeling full? You might have to pretend to eat. An empty container and a spoon should be enough to fool a baby.
15. VIP eating area
When feeding your baby, move him to an area that is not normally associated with play, such as your kitchen. Be consistent, every time it is meal time move your baby to the same location.
Eventually your baby will come to realize that there is not much to do in this new area besides eat. If your baby can associate this area with eating then any new introductions will be much better received.
16. Don’t stress the mess
Don’t stress out about the mess your baby is making, or anything else for that matter. Your baby can sense the mood you are in and respond accordingly.
A baby in a happy, relaxed environment is going to be much easier for you to feed. Stressing is only going to upset you and your baby.
17. What about me?
If you are struggling to feed your baby then try this method.
Sit down as a family and start digging into your food while leaving your baby in his high chair without any food.
After a while your baby will give you a clue that he wants to eat too, usually in the form of a grunt or a flailing body movement. Any food you place in front of your baby now will be much better received than if you placed it there yourself.
It doesn’t have to be family feed time for this method to work, If you are on your own, simply sit down with your baby and read a magazine or book until he lets you know he is ready to be fed.
18. Beat the sweets
Nothing compares to a sweet sugary…Anything! As a guilty sweet tooth, I believe there is little better in life than something jam packed with sugar.
You do not want your child to adopt the same mindset. While I am a sugar monster, I would never let my young baby be one. Once a baby discovers sugar, everything else that is wholesome and nutritious will taste bland in comparison.
If you can delay introducing sugary foods (fruits are an exception) then you will find it much easier to feed your baby a wholesome meal.
19. Avoid liquids
In the lead up to meal time (namely an hour beforehand) try to avoid offering your baby large drinks, particularly milk or juice. Large drinks will diminish your baby’s appetite.
If your baby is thirsty, a drink of water will suffice and will not be overly filling.
20. Presentation is key
When presenting food to your finicky eater, don’t just plop it in a bowl. Try and make the food exciting. If you can capture your baby’s imagination then you have won the battle of feeding time.
Next time you serve food to your baby why not get a larger plate than required and make a picture out of the food? Even the most uncoordinated of parents (such as myself) should be able to create a food smiley face. Your baby will love it.
21. Is your baby hungry?
This point is so obvious that sometimes it can be missed. Maybe your baby is simply not hungry.
When feeding, be sure to pace out meal times appropriately. If your baby is not yet ready to eat because he is not hungry enough then he will very likely knock back the food served.
22. Sneak attack!
Does your baby absolutely love fruit but hate his vegetables? Why not mix the two together? Your fussy baby may not notice the difference.
Vegetables such as baby spinach leaves or beans have a subtle flavor that is easily masked when mixed with fruit. You will be more successful hiding vegetables if you choose sweet and flavorsome fruit to mix.
23. Involve your baby
While you may find them monotonous, babies and toddlers will find every day tasks fun. By taking your baby through the steps involved to prepare a meal your baby can develop a positive attitude towards food.
Involve your baby in everything, from purchasing the food at the supermarket, to making the food, to setting the table to eat the food. With this new found knowledge your baby may be more likely to try the food that ends up in front of him at meal time.
24. Watch the snack attack
If your baby has not eaten well this main meal, do not offer a snack afterwards. Your baby will quickly learn that he does not have to eat any meal presented and instead rely on the snack afterwards to fill him.
25. When its over, it’s over
When your baby has had enough, don’t push it. Your baby will not always eat the same amount. Sometimes he will eat more and other times less. This is perfectly natural.
Don’t bribe your baby to finish his meal if he is obviously full. Encouraging over eating is a unhealthy habit for your baby and may cause him to eat less at the next meal.
How about you?
Do you have any tried and tested techniques you use to feed your fussy child? Please, share them with me below!