True "picky eaters" do not emerge until well into toddlerhood when their likes and dislikes have been clearly established.
Babies are rarely picky eaters in the truest sense of the word.
Babies who seem to be "picky eaters" have yet to develop a true like or dislike of foods. As your baby turns 9 to 10 months old and enters into toddlerhood, what seems to be picky eating is usually just your baby or toddler's way of asserting control and independence.
Ways to Help Discourage a Picky Eater
Feeding your baby a variety of foods, on his own terms, will help decrease the odds of establishing a true "picky eater". Some of the best advice ever given to parents who feel they may have a baby who is a "picky eater" is this:
Realize that it is up to you to offer your baby healthy and wholesome foods; it is up to your baby to decide whether or not to eat that food.
Your baby will never starve himself and the best thing you can do is to just continue to offer the foods and try and relax about how much is eaten or not eaten.
Picky Eaters May Just Be in a Picky Phase
Remember, a baby's appetite will change on a constant basis as will his likes and dislikes of foods.
A baby who is ill or teething may not wish to mash those favored finger foods with sore gums. That same baby may lose his appetite for a few days and then suddenly the typical appetite comes roaring back.
An infant who is busy exploring the carpet or the new soft-book she has received may be miffed when she is put into a high chair and offered food, even if it is her favorite carrot and pear dices.
Don't forget about the natural slow down of growth that babies go through. They are ravenous for a few days or a week or two and then suddenly they are barely eating. Babies who are coming out of a growth spurt will tend to eat less than they were during the growth spurt.
As your baby gets older, the appetite will naturally slow as he becomes less reliant on breast and/or bottles for his nutrition and requires less to sustain healthy growth and development.
Remember that as solids replace breast milk and/or formula, it becomes more difficult to realize how much baby is now eating. Chart the foods your baby is eating during a 5 day period and you may be surprised to find that your baby really is not as "picky" as you think.
The Picky Eater - Strategies for the Picky Eater
Give Your Baby Control. If you are still spoon-feeding your baby, she may be at a stage where she would prefer to feed herself and control what she is eating.
Try offering her up a plate of yummy and colorful finger foods. Try something like sweet potato cubes with baked apple dices and diced green beans then "walk away" in that you let her explore and eat the food(s) on her own terms. Always ensure you are watching your baby during feeding times.
Spice It Up. If you are serving "bland" foods, try adding some spices or cheeses (providing there are no dairy allergies) and also try and mix up creative combinations.
It's In The Bowl. Give baby his own colorful bowl and fun-shaped spoon. Let him experiment and feed himself. Make food and eating "fun", offer colorful, healthy and fun foods and above all, make eating a relaxing experience.
As you know, never force baby to eat and never make food and feeding a battleground. Always remember, your baby will never starve himself.
Picky Eaters over 12 Months Old
If your "picky" baby will soon be 1 year old, you may wish to take a peek at our Toddler Food website where we have a page devoted to Toddler Nutrition. We have a page devoted to the Picky Eater. In reading through some of the pages, you will probably be surprised at how little toddlers actually need to sustain healthy growth and development.
It is recommended that an infant between the age of 8-12 months old nurse every 4-5 hours or take between 24-31 ounces of formula. When you stop and think about it, these amounts are relatively small compared to the days of your baby eating non-stop. If your baby is "picky" for a few days, there should be no harm done.
Take heart, your little "picky eater" baby will continue to surprise and dismay you when it comes to eating. Babies are so predictable in their unpredictability. When you think you have found the magical foods, another wrinkle in his eating pattern will appear.