How To Feed A Fussy Toddler

Jennifer Douglas Jennifer Douglas

It is very common for parents to notice a change in eating between infancy and toddlerhood. Often children around 2-3 years change their eating behaviour. Fussy or selective eating is a normal developmental process and a sign that your child is starting to learn how to assert themselves and have some control around their natural environment.

Parents can become worried that they are not feeding their child adequately. Children have an amazing ability to regulate the amount of food they need and it is important to remember that they will grow and develop at their own pace. When thinking about eating and family mealtimes there are roles that both the parent and child play.


The parents role in feeding:

- What child is going to eat

- When child is going to eat

- Where child is going to eat

The child’s role in feeding:

- How much they are going to eat

- Whether they will eat it

Respecting your child’s role to decide whether they will eat something and how much takes the pressure off the parent. There are days when a child will eat everything on their plate and days they eat two bites; and this is normal. When looking at food intake for a child it is important to look at intake over the whole week rather than an individual day. Some days your child will eat just vegetables, the next day just meat and the following day bread, but when we look at the intake over the whole week it looks balanced.

Some toddlers worry about trying new foods and this is common. Keep offering new foods regularly and it may take a children 15 times seeing a new food to think about trying it. There are various stages to trying new foods and each stage should be seen as a good progression towards eating.

- Seeing the food

- Touching the food

- Smelling the food

- Tasting the food

- Chewing and swallowing the food

Each time you introduce a new food to a child you might want to keep a tick sheet of what number you are up to and this is a good way to notice the change in your child moving from just looking at the food, to touching it, to eating it.

Eating together as a family can help improve willingness to try new foods. This allows for your child to see parents eating and enjoying foods in a relaxed environment without distractions. It is possible that your child may need assistance with feeding when they are tired and being there to help is important. All of the family should be served the same foods and alternatives not given if there is food refusal. Often parents are worried that if their child does not eat dinner they will wake through the night, but offering alternatives at mealtimes is likely to accentuate this behaviour.

If you have tried multiple approaches to improving your child’s food intake and you are still not getting anywhere, then you might need some extra help

How can we help at ChildrensOnlineClinic:

We have a team of Paediatricians and GP’s that can look at possible underlying health conditions which may impact on fussy eating, such as reflux, constipation, or food allergy. If these are all normal then our Dietitian can look at your child’s diet and let you know what nutrients they may be missing and how to adapt their current diet to meet their needs.