8 Tips for Feeding Solids to a Fussy Eater

It's dinner time! Your baby is strapped into her high chair and ready to chow down. But as soon you try the old airplane maneuver to convince her to open the hatch, she gives you the old head-turn ("no, thanks"). Or she tries one bite (yay!), then spits it out and flips that rice cereal onto the floor (boo!). Of course, you're tempted to throw in the towel -- that is, after cleaning up the mess with it -- but you know your baby has to eat. Not to worry, mealtime doesn't have to be so stressful with these tips for getting your baby to eat (no airplanes involved).


1. Sweeten the deal. "A good trick is to place food on a spoon and add the sweet taste of either fruit or yogurt to the tip of the spoon," says Schnia Roseberry, founder of DrNanny.org. Why? Because babies have sweet tooths, even more so than adults. Or if your baby balks at downing something healthy but bland like pureed kale, combine with a sweeter fruit like pureed banana or applesauce, suggests Ruth Yaron, author of the best-selling book Super Baby Food.

2. Sneak attack. If you're trying to introduce healthy foods and it's not going well, try this approach. "Prepare a half portion of your baby's favorite food alongside a half portion of the food you are trying to introduce," says Jess Miller, a nanny of 14 years who writes a guide for feeding babies at BabyPit.com. "Place them in the same bowl but keep them separate. Feed a spoonful of your baby's favorite and then alternate with the new introduction. Repeat until baby is full."

3. Let baby feed himself. "It always amazed me how effective this method is, particularly among strong-willed babies," says Miller. "Simply buy some easy to hold baby cutlery and put a bowl in front of them and watch in amazement as your baby eats foods you had no success with before." Just one thing: Prepare for mess. "Maybe prepare a second portion of food just in case this one gets sent tumbling to the floor," Miller adds.

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4. Be creative. Presenting the food to your baby in a more appealing manner is another way to get baby to chow down on food. For instance, "decorate your baby's plate in the shape of a face: curly carrot shavings for hair, half grapes for eyes, a blueberry for a nose," says Yaron. By associating the food with a fun object, your baby may be more inclined to let the food pass his lips.

5. Make it a game. "If you can associate food with fun, then half the battle of feeding a fussy baby is won," says Miller. "Play a game where food is the reward. Ask your baby to point at a household object or to make an animal noise. When he gets the answer correct, he gets a bite of your now delicious baby food."

6. Let your baby play with his food. "I know this goes against the advice your mother told you, but it seriously works," says Miller. "Let them smear it all over their plate, let them stack it into a tower. As long as the food eventually goes into your baby's mouth, who cares about the journey it takes? All you need to do is be quick to reprimand if your baby starts throwing food or pushing it onto the floor. This behavior is easily discouraged if addressed each time it occurs."

7. Don't engage in power struggles. "Keep offering new foods and don't be offended at refusals," says Yaron. "Remember to keep mealtimes pleasant and not to start any battles." Because food should be fun, and once it's not, feeding baby becomes that much harder.

8. Give up! If all else fails, maybe the problem isn't a picky eater, but a baby who is simply not ready to graduate to this new phase. "Some babies aren't ready to eat solids, so don't force it," says Roseberry. If your baby has already started eating solids but suddenly stopped or seems fussier than usual, it could be a sign that they are teething or maybe they're bored with the options (be sure to offer variety!). In either case, "if you notice signs of the baby being fussy, it's time for a break, no matter if the feeding was only 10 minutes," says Roseberry.

What are your tips for feeding a fussy baby solids?


Images © Brooke Fasani Auchincloss/Corbis; © iStock.com/PicturePartners

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