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From fussy eater to happy toddler

Any toddler can become a fussy eater. Even a baby who happily ate every fruit, vegetable and all foods in-between in those early days of weaning can change their mind. This is a well-known stage of child development, known as the 'neophobic' (afraid of new things) phase. During this time your child may refuse foods they once accepted and be unwilling to try new foods.

While this may be stressful for parents, it marks a new stage of independence for your child. With this in mind, below are some tips to help continue to develop good food behaviours and enjoy family meals:

  • Eat as a family. Toddlers are watching and copying what their parents, siblings and playmates are doing – use this to your advantage.
  • Set aside time for eating. 20 to 30 minutes for meals and 10 to 20 minutes for snacks is the longest you can expect your toddler to focus on food.
  • If first refused, try again. It can take you offering a new food 10 or more times before your child knows and will eat a new food.
  • Let children explore new foods. Touching, smelling, licking and squashing can all be part of learning about a new food. Embrace messy play!
  • Be realistic with how much you expect your child to eat. A toddler should eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Try not to force 'one more mouthful' – read your child's cues.

The good news is your toddler should grow out of this stage. However, for some toddlers, this fussy eating can become a bigger problem. You should discuss with your health professional if your child is displaying signs of any of the following:

  • weight loss, static weight or poor weight gains
  • difficulty managing or progressing with different food textures
  • vomiting, gagging, choking with foods
  • excluding entire food groups e.g. will only eat dairy foods, or refuses all meats.

Mater Health and Wellness are now offering a specialised paediatric feeding therapies clinic providing dietitian, speech pathology and occupational therapy services. Specialist clinicians will assess your child's nutritional needs, growth, eating skills and behaviours and develop an individualised plan to help you move your little one through this stage.

For further information or to make an appointment, contact Mater Health and Wellness on 07 3163 6000.

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