My Baby Won’t Eat: when to worry.

January 29, 2024

In this article we deal with a widespread problem: the child does not eat.

“I can’t get him to eat the usual things.”

“My baby won’t eat anything!”

“I don’t know what to do anymore, it must be my fault…”

Some children also eat table legs and others who do not ingest more than a teaspoon. Of course, like adults, children go through periods when they eat more and periods when they eat less, but the difference is that the child has to grow and develop very quickly.

The adult is quietly able to skip a meal and then catch up at the next meal.

When should we start paying attention to our children’s eating?

When to worry if the baby does not eat?

Let’s start with breastfeeding or formula feeding.

Yes, the beginning is the very first feeding that the baby does.

Usually, many parents with older children wonder why their baby has such a difficult relationship with food.

For a careful analysis, we need to start from the very beginning, that is, from breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding should be carried out in total serenity and peace of mind: it must be a pleasant time without any particular problems. If minor attachment or sucking problems arise during breastfeeding, they should be resolved as soon as possible.

Breastfeeding is essential to unite mother and baby in a strong bond.

If natural breastfeeding is not possible, the moment of breastfeeding-even if it is artificial-remains unique and must be just as wonderful.

The phase after breastfeeding is also can be quite complicated.

Weaning.

Regardless of the type of weaning you have chosen for your baby (classic or self-weaning) must be gradual, well-accepted by the baby, and above all must take into account one factor: the baby must be ready to start introducing foods other than milk. If you notice problems like diarrhea, talk to the pediatrician.

There are many signals our baby sends us to show us that he is ready:

  • he is sitting up by himself
  • has an interest in our food
  • he brings food to his mouth

This and much more are covered in detail in the guide I have written to help parents grow a good relationship between their children and food.

A so-called “difficult” child with food is just a child who needs to find his or her way of approaching food, to do so with total freedom and in his or her timing. The child must have a good emotional experience with food.

Forcing the child or comparing one’s child to another only increases one’s stress and consequently that of our child.

If the child is not eating, he may not be ready yet. In this case, do not rush: start gradually and possibly wait before proceeding.

Safety, especially during the beginning of weaning, is crucial. So remember to be ready and don’t risk your baby’s life: attend a pediatric infant disobstruction course.

Children, especially in the early weaning period, need to interact with food: skipping these important steps means compromising their relationship with food both now and in the future.

The habits of the non-eating child.

Introducing seemingly harmless habits can lead to tremendous long-term damage. If during weaning, in order to get your child to eat more you distract him or her with the phone, videos or games, you cannot then expect him or her to love to eat and not demand the phone in front of his or her eyes every time to eat.

Distract your child from eating with the use of:

  • phones
  • games
  • tv
  • books

will only prevent him from focusing on the one thing he should focus on: food. If he does not learn to value mealtime and good food, how do you think he will enjoy eating?

If he does not learn to value food and finds himself gulping down spoonful after spoonful while distracted, how will he begin to love mealtime?

His rejection of food, the continual need to make up for it, and the introduction of bad habits, will only get worse over time until it becomes unsustainable for both you and him.

Of course, it is not your fault, it is just a matter of knowing the best ways and putting them into practice, and unfortunately, there are not many places to learn them easily.

How to stimulate a child’s appetite?

First of all, it is essential to understand that trying to force children to try the foods on the table through direct pressure or guilt activation will not do your child’s relationship with food any good.

This kind of “pressure” from adults is ineffective and should be avoided, as it does not teach the child to respect internal hunger and satiety signals or his food preferences.

Quite often parents adopt these pressure tactics out of fear that their child is not eating enough (when in many cases the child eats, but it is the parents who forget that he or she has eaten bread, chips, small snacks, dried fruit, snacks, during the day and so at mealtime then does not eat), or may even develop significant nutritional deficiencies. For these concerns, it is always advisable to consult the pediatrician, who can assess the child’s growth and provide reassurance to the parents or decide to investigate the situation further.

How to help a child eat?

To help a child become familiar with a certain food, it is therefore important to present it to him repeatedly, avoiding forcing the interaction or hiding it in other foods without the child being aware of it. Masking food can generate distrust of the meal preparer and does not lead to acceptance of the food offered.

If you want a child to start eating vegetables, you could start by asking him to help with the preparation and giving him small age-appropriate tasks such as washing, cutting, or adding salt. After that, it is important to be patient and continue offering the food despite initial refusals, varying recipes, and serving it perhaps a couple of times a week, without adopting unnecessary blackmail or punishment that can also undermine the child’s self-esteem.

We are with you.

We at Parentalife are by your side throughout the parenting journey. We know how many difficulties can arise and we want to support you through our guides, classes, and personalized counseling.

Remember, on this journey, you will never be alone, we are with you.

Fonti

Scaglioni S, De Cosmi V, Ciappolino V, Parazzini F, Brambilla P, Agostoni C. Factors Influencing Children’s Eating Behaviours. Nutrients. 2018 May 31;10(6):706. doi: 10.3390/nu10060706. PMID: 29857549; PMCID: PMC6024598.
Articolo aggiornato al 22 Novembre 2023

About the Author

Severino Cirillo

Health, Wellness and Education Expert. With a degree in Community Health, he is the CEO of Informed Parent and is responsible for validating the blog's scientific information and coordinating the editorial team of experts, consisting of gynecologists, midwives, psychotherapists, and others in pregnancy, perinatal, and parenting wellness and health.