Feeding FAQ: 12-18 months – Food Fads/Fussiness

My 13mth son has become a fussy feeder. How can I improve this?

My son of 13mths will not eat protein. I have tried to disguise it by mincing and adding it to dishes. Since moving house one month ago he is refusing most foods and only accepting those he likes and knows. Previously he was an excellent feeder. I know can only get him to eat bread, rusks, cereal, lentil soup and apple.

I am keeping meal times happy, trying lots of finger foods and different recipes but we seem to be getting no where. Could you suggest some ideas? Should I reduce his breakfast?

At present he takes 7ozs of milk at 7.15am followed by 5/6 tablespoons of muesli or ready brek mixed with chopped fruit and 3ozs of milk. A dozen dry shreddies and 2 mini rice cakes. He is offered very well diluted juice all through the day. Lunch at 11.50am is a slice of cucumber, a piece of brown bread, an apple and a biscuit toast. He takes 4ozs of milk at 3pm. Tae at 5pm is lentil soup, rusk and yoghurt. My son has a further 6ozs of milk before bedtime.

Your son is at an age where fussy eating can become a problem. After the first year a baby’s appetite does decrease quite a lot and it can be worrying when a baby refuses foods that were previously accepted. Try keeping a food diary as this will help you look at his food intake over the period of a week rather than day by day. If you see the full picture you may find that, apart from his unwillingness to take in protein, he is eating a balanced if somewhat limited diet.

Cutting back on breakfast is a good idea. Begin to offer him milk from a cup at breakfast rather than having a 7oz feed before the meal. Offer him natural yoghurt mixed with cut or grated fruit and a few finger foods. When dealing with a fussy eater it is easy to keep offering food throughout the day in an attempt to make him eat something. However, stay with three meals a day until he appears happier to eat a wider variety of food. Only offer him a snack mid-way between meals if he really seems hungry. Keep snacks to fruit rather than breadsticks or bread which may fill him up too much before his next meal. Watch his fluid intake which could also be knocking the edge off an already small appetite. Offer him a drink of well diluted juice mid-way between meals. Remove his cup once he has had a drink, rather than leaving it in sight where he may sip on it throughout the day.

By the age of one year a baby needs a minimum of 12ozs of milk, including that used on cereals and in cooking. Cut out the feed you are offering at 3pm and replace it with well diluted juice. This should help increase his appetite for tea. If you stop offering him cereal at breakfast give him a small bowl of cereal after his savoury tea so you know that he has had enough carbohydrates to see him through the night.

Once you have cut back on his breakfast you may also find your son more willing to try something different at lunch time. As he likes bread and rusks try spreading them with a casserole recipe. Begin with a very small amount and gradually increase it so he gets used to the taste. It can take time to get a baby interested in food again. Keep using finger foods and offer them with dips such as thick cheese sauce. Lentils are a form of protein so your son is receiving a small amount if he continues to enjoy the lentil soup and you may be able to enrich it by adding a very small amount of grated cheese. Take a look at the question and answer on page 127 of the Contented Weaning Guide which is similar to your own problem. You may also find the Contented Child’s Food Bible a useful read as this gives you the exact portions a baby of this age needs. It is easy to overestimate how much a baby can be expected to eat over the course of a day.

Make sure the food you are offering him looks attractive as this may encourage him to try different things. Giving him small amounts of several different foods, laid out in an attractive way, could appeal more than one or two foods mixed together.

There are several cookery books on the market which have ideas for “picture” food. One of the best is “First Foods” by Miriam Stoppard. It can be fiddly to prepare these foods but they may entice your son to try different things as the food is presented in the form of a picture. Things such as a train or car made from small amounts of finger food may encourage him to try new tastes.

Make sure you eat at least one meal a day with your son as he may be encouraged to eat more if he sees you enjoying the same meal. You are right to keep meal times happy as a baby will quickly pick up on any tension you may be feeling about his small appetite. Make meal times short and just remove any uneaten food once it is obvious your son has finished. If, despite your continuing efforts, he still seems to reject most forms of protein discuss your concerns with your health visitor or doctor.