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Is Your Baby a Picky Eater?

If your baby loves carrot puree one day but pushes it away the next, or if you find yourself begging your little one to eat, you're not alone. Between 20% to 50% of kids are described by their parents as picky eaters.

Why do babies turn into picky eaters? What are the signs? And what can you do about it?

Picky Eaters: Understanding the Signs

The symptoms of a picky eater can seem pretty obvious: Your baby may push away the spoon or turn his head from it. She might close her mouth as you try feeding her, spit out food, or become cranky or tired at mealtime.

Yet these signals don't necessarily mean your baby is picky. They can also be signs your little one is simply full, distracted, or not feeling well.

A baby can seem picky for dozens of reasons -- or no reason at all. He may have an immature digestive system, which will cure itself with time. She might be teething, have an infection, food allergy, or just may not be ready for solid foods yet.

As long as growth and weight gain are normal and the baby is achieving his or her milestones, there's usually no reason to worry about a fussy baby who prefers a limited diet. But if you find yourself worried about infant feeding problems, talk to your pediatrician before trying the following tips.

Tips to Help Tame a Picky Eater

Never force feed. If your little one turns her head from the spoon, she's telling you clearly she's had enough -- even if it seems she's had very little. Trust that your child will eat what she needs. If you force baby to eat despite these signs, your little one may start associating eating with tension and discomfort -- and become even more fussy.

Try different textures. Even babies have food preferences. Some enjoy wet foods, while others may prefer finger foods. Some may want to graze through a half dozen mini-meals, while others may favor liquids over solids for a time. Make sure that you do not feed your child "junk" in order to get him to eat. Offer healthy options and he'll develop a taste for them.

Transform the tempo. Some babies want to eat fast, others slow. Could you be frustrating your little one with the wrong feeding tempo? There's only one way to find out: Try slowing down the next feeding, or picking up the pace.

Minimize distractions. Make food the focus of mealtime. Turn off the TV, remove toys and books, and help your little one focus on one thing: Eating.

Keep meal length reasonable. It's tempting to let a picky eater take as long as she wants to eat. Although you shouldn't rush mealtime, don't let it go on much longer than 20-30 minutes.

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