What to Do When a Child Won't Eat
When a child won’t eat, their mother and the rest of their family can feel worried, desperate or panicked, depending on the extent of the child’s poor appetite. When a child doesn’t eat well and isn’t receiving all the nutrients their body needs to grow and develop, they become susceptible to various illnesses that will affect them starting with childhood. And these can continue to accompany them throughout their whole life.
The human body requires energy from food in order to carry out all its functions.
No one can live without eating. This idea is understood by adults, but children have a hard time, for example, putting their toys down to have their snack, or understanding that they need to eat to avoid getting sick.
That’s why their mom and dad are responsible for making sure their child is well fed.
What can we do when our child won’t eat? Force them to, or allow them not to eat?
In this article, we’ll help you answer this question.
It seems like children stop eating out of nowhere
At certain stages in children’s lives they don’t have an appetite for certain foods.
If, for example, they used to love beans, it is likely that one day they will suddenly begin to reject them.
One day, as if by magic, your small child might spend a few weeks only eating rice and spitting out any vegetables, meats, potatoes and other dishes that your family offers them.
Striving to eat a nutritious diet is the best investment in your body and mind that you can make.
It’s a surprise when a child finally starts to eat something that they’ve always rejected, and may even have been repulsed by it before.
Feeding children is no small feat: You never know what the end result will be.
There are children who ate a lot when they were babies and have continued to do so for their whole life. They never lose their appetite.
On the other hand, others fluctuate through various stages of having a bad appetite and good appetite which totally baffles their parents.
It’s normal for a child to stop eating in stages and after a while eat a little more.
But what can we do during the stages where they will not even try a bite?
We will give you a few possible solutions.
Tips for Moms Whose Children Won’t Eat
Moms, if your child is one of the ones who stops eating in stages, and you feel like you have to bend over backwards to get them to eat food, consider our advice:
Let Them Eat the Foods They Like
Let your child eat what they like as long as it’s not from the “junk” food group.
If, for example, they like Jell-O, yogurt, milk, cheese, or ice cream, and wants to eat it for lunch, it’s okay to let them eat what they want. After all, these foods contribute their share of fats, vitamins and minerals, which their body needs.
It’s better that they eat something than have an empty stomach.
Ask Them to Help You Cook
Your child may be little, but they would love to be by your side while you prepare a meal and even make a mess of the ingredients.
Allow them to play an active role in the preparation of what they’re going to eat and, even though you are trying to teach them better manners, encourage them to use their hands and get to know the dish that you’re preparing together.
This way they’ll grow their appetite. In the end, even if they don’t want to eat the finished recipe, at least you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that your child tried a few bites while you prepared it.
Serve Them A Varied Menu
If your child doesn’t always want to eat, offer them a variety of foods. Make them colorful, with beautiful designs and the shapes of smiley faces, boats, or houses (fruits and vegetables are good for these decorations).
The important thing is to try to see what foods they like, and how they like them prepared.
Hand Them A Spoon and Leave Them Alone
Even if you are right in front of them offering them food, place a bib on your child and let them practice or at least play with food on their own.
We know that this may result in disaster without them ever managing to eat a mouthful, but the distraction and feeling of independence, may motivate them to eat.
Never Force Them To Eat
If your child eats some snacks and you notice that they don’t want any more food, do not force it. This will only make the situation worse.
Serve Food Separately
Have various dishes on hand with different foods served separately.
A child who doesn’t want to eat can get overwhelmed when they see too many foods served on the same plate and could lose their appetite.
That is why we suggest that you separate them. Let’s say you’re giving them a stew, and they only eat two tablespoons. Well, you should stop, set the stew aside, and bring them some rice.
Then, do the same thing; set the rice aside and get the meat, follow that with a plate of salad… and so on.
If your child tries one or two mouthfuls of each dish, you can feel satisfied knowing that they ate something.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Franco, L. V. (2006). El niño inapetente: Doctor¡ Mi hijo no quiere comer!. Revista Mexicana de Pediatría, 73(4), 157-158. https://www.medigraphic.com/cgi-bin/new/resumen.cgi?IDARTICULO=8686
- Ortíz, H., & Barragán, A. (2012). Inapetencia infantil. Gastrohnup, 14(1), S35-S35. https://go.gale.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA420436249&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=01243691&p=IFME&sw=w
- Ducuara-Mora, P. E. (2011). Consideraciones sobre la inapetencia infantil y la adopción de hábitos alimentarios saludables. CES Medicina, 25(2), 153-167. https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/2611/261122529004.pdf