Baby led weaning: my fussy eater

Baby led weaned babies are not fussy eaters. Maybe. Mine wasn’t. She’d eat anything. Curried chicken? Yum. Squid? Yes, please. Paper? Err, unfortunately yes.

The standard line was that baby led weaned babies develop an enviable appreciation for textures and flavours leading to balanced, diverse, nay, adventurous diets.

I probably didn’t even read that anywhere official but somehow I thought I’d found the key to avoiding that pattern feared amongst parents of toddlers: fussy eating.

Well. Five months ago my then fourteen-month-old become a vegetarian. Or maybe a white-food-e-tarian.

I thought it was because we were abroad. We were visiting Trinidad for my brother’s wedding. Then she got tonsillitis while we were out there so no surprise she wouldn’t eat.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take the mango rejection hard. “What you mean you won’t even try mango? Paw-paw? WATERMELON?”

We stopped in Marks & Spencer’s in Gatwick Airport on the way back and bought a punnet of strawberries. Talitha ate it like it was running away. British, much?

For the past five months she has lived on: porridge, pasta, bread, rice, ryvita, cheese, eggs, yoghurt, bananas, rice cakes, berries and potatoes. Recently she dropped the berries and started playing with bananas instead of eating them so I’ve stopped buying them.

I can’t really complain. I know toddlers with even narrower diets so I should be grateful for that list. But it does irk me.

In fact, I’ve been through a series of emotions and thoughts. I’ve worried about spoiling her by letting her reject a meal and then have a rice cake later instead. I’ve wondered about her intake of vitamins and minerals. I’ve been annoyed when she’s asked for food and we’ve run out of her “safe” foods. I’ve despaired when we’ve gone out with friends and she’s chosen not to eat anything at all.

Realising stress is not a good ingredient for our mealtimes, I read My Child Won’t Eat by Carlos Gonzales but it didn’t fully address my problem.

My child will eat and I’m fine with her eating small amounts if that’s what she wants. My issue is that my child will only eat this, this and this.

In the end, I decided to simply relax. Looking around tells me that most toddlers go through a phase of fussy eating and it usually doesn’t last forever.

I don’t make Talitha something else if she doesn’t want what we’re eating but I do try to include something in the meal that she will eat. Pasta al forno – she’ll probably leave the fish but eat the pasta. Well, ok.

I think it’s important to keep offering the veg and other foods I’m sure she won’t eat. Some day maybe she will. And putting it on her plate sends a positive message that all these foods are good and that I believe she will eat them when she’s ready.

I give her smaller portions so there’s less waste and so the plate it less intimidating. I’ve also reduced my own servings so I have space to eat her leftovers too.

If she’s hungry again later, I give her a healthy snack without making a fuss of it. There are honestly bigger things to think about.

As for the protein, vitamins and minerals, we’re still breastfeeding a fair bit. Some days she eats more and feeds less. Other days she feeds more and barely eats. My reading around this has made me interested in increasing my own intake and has reassured me that she still gets hefty nutrition from my milk.

Every now and then she surprises me. Two months ago she wouldn’t touch Ryvita. Now she’s all about it. For the past two days she’s devoured apples, which she wouldn’t even touch before. She’s even started asking for them: “Bapple?”

I thought I was teaching her to eat. Maybe I am. What’s definitely happening is my fussy eater teaching me to majorly chill out and stop making parenting so hard for myself.

Any fussy eating stories of your own to share?

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  • We went through the same issues at approximately the same stage. I did exactly as you suggest – kept offering everything, reduced portions sizes, and tried to relax. It drove me crazy though – especially when my little boy, who I’d been so proud of for his love of diverse tastes and his willingness to try anything, started to refuse all but the blandest of dry foods. In the end we took a somewhat hard line with it. He was allowed to refuse anything – but he had to taste it at least once first. So on the days he declared carrots were “yuck”, we said fine. Taste one carrot and if you still don’t like them then you can leave them. Gradually, his taste for different foods returned, and although he still has his fussy days, now at 3 years old, he eats a varied diet again. So I guess if I could go back and offer myself advice, it would be my usual parenting advice “Don’t worry – this too shall pass.” 🙂
    Lisa | recently posted..Pregnancy: Week 26

  • I think fussy eating is something all children do at some point – it is more about control than actual fussiness (although can then become all out fussiness)

    We took the view that we would continue to eat as a family, we would continue to have one meal served up and they would be given that and no other. Pudding was something they got for trying what was infront of them. For tea we started to give them a bit of choice (eggy bread or dippy egg, pasta or pita & humous) so they had a bit of an illusion of control

    Writing down what they ate showed that it did vary and that if we were less bothered (I think they saw food as one thing we cared about so something they could use a lever on us) then it became less of an issue

    Now at 3 and nearly 5 they have some strong views about food (one likes baked beans, one doesn’t, one likes gravy, one doesnt’) but they will at least try things and know that all we want is for them not to say yuck when faced with a meal someone has cooked. Amusingly it took refering to pancakes as crepes and a flat out refusal to try until they realised they’d been had to really hit that point home…

    All I can say is good luck, don’t fret it will get better and keep trying new things (it takes something crazy like 20 tries for them to decide) and just carry on showing them that grown ups eat lots of fun things and they’re missing out
    Muddling Along recently posted..Deliciously decadent Nutella & white chocolate truffles

    • I’m realising that the illusion of control is very important to toddlers so I’ve started phrasing things in (limited) choices as well.

  • Apparently babies don’t really need anything except protein and carbs until they’re quite old! And Dad said they’ve done loads of studies that show that if you leave a baby to eat what it wants over the course of a week it will eat a perfectly balanced diet. I think the key is not to turn food into a big deal. So they won’t eat it? So what. They probably will the next day/week/month. Atticus also used to love blueberries and now isn’t bothered, likewise bananas and tangerines, but now he’s going through a major apple phase but hardly touches vegetables. I’m not too worried – he’s got loads of energy, is growing fine, sleeps well and is happy. They’re the most important things!

    • That’s reassuring for a lot of parents who’s kids won;t eat fruit or veg. I agree, making food into an issue is dangerous.

  • I think what I’ve learned over the past two years of having my blog and talking to mums of babies and toddlers is:

    All kids have a fussy stage at some point
    Most kids eat similar foods around 12-15 months regardless of how they were weaned
    Don’t stop offering foods just because your child says “no”
    Occasionally hiding foods is a good insurance policy
    Don’t get too stressed!

    I realise you’re doing this but so many people term their children ‘fussy’ while restricting their diets for them. I was talking to another Mum over Christmas who said she was overjoyed when her son started eating chocolate because at least it was another food in his really restricted diet! It put things into perspective when I was fed up my son had refused cucumber but was happily eating lasagne.

    I wouldn’t term my son fussy but he has gone through stages of it. One thing to try is cutting up foods in a different way or serving them in a different way. He refused halved grapes for a while but would eat them sliced. He refused whole apples but would eat them in wedges. He won’t eat pear unless it’s peeled. Carrots have to be in wedges not sliced. These little ideosyncrasies I’m prepared to put up with for now. It’s him exerting some control over his life. It’s normal for toddlers.
    Mamacook recently posted..Slow Cooked Sausage and Lentil Stew for the whole family

    • You know, there’s a lot of sense in that. Talitha seemed to have gone off bananas for a bit but then I noticed at a creche she goes to she eats them sliced. So I started slicing them and voila!

  • Iyla has always been quite a fussy eater and I do have stages where it stresses me out but I generally have the same approach as you and just don’t want to make it a big deal. Fishfingers, pasta and sausages / mash / Yorkshire puddings are pretty much the only meals she is guaranteed to eat but I always put veg on her plate and sometimes she will try it. I give her wholemeal pasta and bread and she does eat lots of fruit, cheese, yoghurt etc so I don’t think it’s as bad as it could be. It’s mainly not eating vegetables and her lack of variety that’s the problem but I’m just hoping that she will get better as she gets older! I can’t be dealing with every meal being a stressful battle anyway which is why I won’t make a big deal about it. The only comforting thing is that it sounds like nearly all toddlers are fussy! x
    Mum2BabyInsomniac recently posted..29 Weeks Pregnant

  • Harry has never been particularly fussy and eats anything but even he goes through food refusal phases, albeit short ones.

    All I can suggest is to keep doing what you are doing and keep calm.

    As an aside I can’t believe she doesn’t like mango!
    Mummy Glitzer recently posted..St Werburg’s City Farm

  • So humourously and eloquently written I love resding this whilst feeding my chubby baby to sleep. My 22 month old only really ate solids at 11 months when I was three months pregnant and my milk was reducing. Now she has plenty of breastmilk with good days and ‘bad’ days of eating solids. I say bad because I’m sure she knows what she needs but I feel real pressure that she mainly relies on me for nutrition. She sometimes eats…avocado, olives, ‘papple’, orange, blueberries, strawberries, pear, pasta and salmon with peas and sweetcorn,, bolognaise and rice, roast potato, chicken, toast or cheese and ham toastie. other food she won’t try, says is ‘hot’ even if not or spits out. Her portions are tiny and she may only have a bite before moving on. My 5 month old will start baby led weaning in the next couple of months. Will be interesting to see how he goes!

    • Thank you! I guess it’s important to remember that they’re still in a stage of transition when they’re this young. Actually, there’s research being done to suggest that solids be delayed until eight months and there’s argument by some that they don’t need to be introduced for the first year, which actually fits with the fact that many babies don’t each much until the sort of year mark. Not that I’m advocating any of that but I do find it interesting.

  • Gorgeous pictures! Sorry, bit distracted. This must be frustrating for you- especially when BLW is framed as “the key to non-fussy eaters!”
    The very main thing is not to worry, eh? To just always allow snacks and meal times to be marked with joy and fun, even if it is made up of a soul potatoe. I feel so sad that mealtimes for many families are filled with angst- nothing is worth that. We just need to trust our kiddies and roll with it. (All of which you’ve concluded yourself!)
    Lulastic recently posted..1950′s cabinet makeover – my new craft station

  • In think they still have a fussy patch even when they are baby led. Little A was baby led and then became pretty picky between 2-3 years. Apparently there is an evolutionary reason for this – that in the wild it would be much safer for babies to eat very familiar foods so that they didn’t poison themselves…
    older mum in a muddle recently posted..Finding The Feminine

    • It’ll be interesting seeing when and how Talitha’s diet expands. Maybe age two is something to look forward to…

  • So far with Matilda we’ve had a few phases of refusing to eat much other than toast and cheese. But they come out of it, this week we can’t get enough food into her.
    I think you’ve figured out the right approach anyway, don’t stress about it, let them eat what they want and just keep offering small amounts of new stuff.
    I also found she’s more inclined to try something when it’s mine. The feeling of ‘stealing’ food from me appears to be a good one 🙂
    The Fool recently posted..My relationship with boobs

  • It is very typical for toddlers to go through picky phases… as long as they don’t get stuck there- you’re a.o.k! Sounds like you’re doing the right thing by continuing to offer her other foods. You may find some helpful tips in this post which lists 10 things which are particularly helpful for this age group:

    Also… I noticed that your little one is eating mostly wheat and dairy products… According the book, What’s Eating Your Child by Kelly Dorfman, sometimes removing the wheat and dairy from their diets will cause them to open up to new foods. I gave the book to a friend of mine, she cut way back on dairy and wheat and within days her son was eating foods that he hadn’t eaten in months.
    Julie@teachinggoodeaters recently posted..What the Kids Ate Wednesday + The Lunchables Experiment Day 1

    • Hi! Thanks for you comment. I’ll take a look at your link. I wouldn’t say even from the list in this post that she was mainly eating wheat and dairy but I have certainly heard about that connection. Great that you’ve mentioned it as it may well be relevant for readers. As it turned out, she’s branched out on her own just with me continuing to offer. She’s still slow to try new things but I wouldn’t call her fussy eater anymore – more like a cautious eater. All the food groups are now covered – a bit of a relief as she’ll be three in June and I’ve only had colostrum for months now! 🙂

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