By 9 months, many parents return to work, if they haven’t done so already, and therefore a bout of nursery bugs can hit just as teething and fussiness also rear their heads. This combination can often cause a lot of confusion about the best way forward.
Firstly, let me introduce myself, I’m Natalie Peall, author of the Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook and I’m going to be sharing my top tips for dealing with the start of fussy eating. 9 months is a common age for fussiness to begin and, in my opinion and experience, it’s best to start as you mean to go on: good habits and a clear idea of how you’re going to deal with the potential challenges.
Unfortunately, fussiness is normal – it often happens when parents think life is going smoothly and their little one is eating a variety of healthy foods.
My first piece of advice: continue to offer a variety of well-balanced meals. Just because your little one enjoyed potato wedges or the treat pizza you made them and hasn’t eaten anything since doesn’t mean you should keep reverting back to offering that because you know they’ll eat it. This is how bad habits form. Instead, offer an array of meals, safe in the knowledge that until 12 months, your little one is still gaining nutrients they need from their milk. As much as we’d like our children to eat everything we lovingly serve them, we cannot force feed them – but we can consistently offer a variety of meals and ensure that they learn that there’s many different foods to explore when they choose to do so. Living on one or two things they’ve developed a real liking for isn’t the best start to a positive lifetime relationship with food.
Another tip I often offer to parents relates to vegetables
If your little one begins to refuse vegetables but will still eat other foods, get creative with how you serve them so you know they’re still getting a nutritious balanced meal. Grate vegetables into pasta sauces, curries, sandwich fillings or savoury muffins, spiralise vegetables to look like pasta or use a crinkle cutter to create a variety of fun vegetable chips cooked with a pinch of paprika or herbs to add an extra flavour dimension! Often these tips are just as good for adding some extra vegetables to our own diets and it’s a great way to use up some leftover veg sitting in the bottom of your fridge!
Another method for dealing with fussy eating is to keep emotion away from the table. To develop a positive relationship with food, children need to eat for themselves, not to please us. On the flip side, we don’t want children to think refusing to eat will get a reaction from us or cause us to desperately offer something ‘better’ because they don’t want the tasty casserole you’ve offered! Instead, if your little one refuses to eat, simply remove their plate and offer food again at their next mealtime. This way, they will never think you’ll offer something they prefer as a consequence of them refusing to eat.
However, sometimes little ones won’t be avoiding eating due to fussiness. Sometimes teething can put them off their food.
If you’ve noticed signs of teething then a different tack may be needed. I found a few recipes were key to getting us through Annabelle’s periods of teething and I’ve shared these on my Baby Led Weaning Recipes app: Mighty Mash Meal, packed with vegetables in a soft, easy to eat form; Teething Soup, tasty and nutritious as well as being easy to eat with a spoon or soaked into soft bread; cold recipes like the Frozen Yoghurt Barks, Lollipops or Ice Cream recipes – all of which are tasty and ideal for soothing soft gums.
Another tip I found really useful was to offer teething gel or granules 10 minutes or so before meals, so that Annabelle’s gums were more comfortable. Although these tips have worked for many babies, there are always babies who are a bit different and I always say it’s a case of finding what works for you, whilst avoiding bad habits. Some parents have found their babies aren’t so keen on soup or mash during teething, instead preferring to gnaw away at the denser texture of a Broccoli and Spinach Bites for example, presumably as it helps relieve some pressure on their gums!
These recipes are also handy to have to hand during periods of illness. These recipes are relatively easy on the throat and mouth and so have seen many babies through Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, colds and other illnesses. Germs spread like wild fire around young children and so around this age, when many babies are put into childcare, parents find that illnesses become a frequent feature of life for a period of time. Don’t panic: this too shall pass! Keep offering foods, being mindful of offering soft and easy to eat foods, but don’t worry if they don’t want it. The important thing, during periods of illness, is to keep their fluid intake up so they don’t get dehydrated. And obviously if you’re concerned, speak to your Health Visitor or GP for medical advice.
If you have any questions or I can help in any way, please do message me on my Baby Led Weaning Cookbook Facebook page.