Among babies, changing appetite patterns are not uncommon. Some days they may eat well, but other days they may refuse to eat. This phenomenon is known as an appetite slump. Knowing the exact cause of such changes ensures that babies remain healthy as they grow. In this article on kidsrush.com, we will tell you how to help a baby who refuses to eat. Let’s start!
It is important for parents to be aware of what causes a baby’s refusal to eat and what they can do to get enough nutrition. This post explains the probable causes of low appetite and ways to improve it.
Related: Healthy Meal Plans for Kids
Table Of Contents
- 1 A baby who refuses to eat may have:
- 1.1 If A Baby Refuses To eat May Be He Is Not ready for solids
- 1.2 Too many fluids
- 1.3 Distraction at mealtime could be a cause that your baby refuses to eat
- 1.4 Aversion to certain foods
- 1.5 Playing with foods
- 1.6 Growth spurt and activity variation
- 1.7 Fear of feeding
- 1.8 Teething could be a possible reason that your baby refuses to eat
- 1.9 Constipation is another symptom that your baby refuses to eat
- 1.10 Acid reflux
- 1.11 Food Intolerant
- 2 Here are a few tips on helping your baby to eat
- 2.1 Consult a pediatrician
- 2.2 Feed smaller amounts at a time
- 2.3 Don’t force-feed a baby or toddler
- 2.4 Offer healthy snacks at regular intervals
- 2.5 Watch your baby’s appetite for a couple of weeks
- 2.6 Try making meals attractive and appealing
- 2.7 You should encourage your child to try new foods
- 2.8 Avoid bribing your baby to eat food
- 2.9 Let your child play with the food
- 2.10 Make mealtimes happy and playful
- 2.11 When Should You See A Doctor?
A baby who refuses to eat may have:
Here are the potential causes of refusal to eat for a baby caused by various conditions or situations. (¹)
If A Baby Refuses To eat May Be He Is Not ready for solids
The average age of the first solid food intake by most babies is between four and six months. However, some babies refuse to eat by natural means when not ready. This usually happens among young babies who have just begun eating solid foods.
Too many fluids
Babies have small tummies, so they may refuse main meals if they drink tons of water or liquids. This kind of behavior is particularly common in infants who are already on solid foods.
Distraction at mealtime could be a cause that your baby refuses to eat
The short attention span that infants have makes them prone to distraction. Experts recommend keeping mealtimes calm and distraction-free. Media use, such as watching TV during meals, can make children eat more quickly due to their incapacity to recognize satiety cues. (²)
Aversion to certain foods
The baby may prefer one food item over another based on how the item looks, smells, or tastes. The baby may refuse to eat a food item because of its bad experience. Some babies refuse to eat foods they gag on.
Playing with foods
The situation may frustrate parents, but most babies grow out of it eventually. With so many food choices, young babies often find it easier to play with food than eat it. This is most commonly the case with babies who are just starting to self-feed.
Growth spurt and activity variation
In the growing stage of a child’s life, though, the child’s appetite may suddenly increase and then decrease, while in the acting stage, his appetite may be reduced. Similarly, active babies tend to eat more, while when inactive they may reduce temporarily.
Fear of feeding
It has been shown that babies may refuse to eat if they are stressed, frightened, or scared while eating. Several factors can contribute to this, such as being forced to eat or choking.
Teething could be a possible reason that your baby refuses to eat
Research suggests that babies using specific teeth, such as canines, lose their appetite while teething. This temporary loss of appetite is usually caused by swollen gums caused by discomfort. (4)
Constipation is another symptom that your baby refuses to eat
As babies transition from breast milk or formula to solid foods, bowel habits may become problematic. Constipated babies may temporarily refuse to eat. If this occurs, you must monitor changes in bowel movements to determine whether your baby is experiencing constipation.
When a baby is exposed to acid reflux, he will throw up what he eats. Things may even get worse when the baby has chronic reflux that causes inflammation in the esophagus and painful swallowing, causing him to refuse to eat. (5)
Food intolerances are common in babies, such as lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance (Celiac disease). These effects can include tummy pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and so on, as well as losing weight and wasting mobility.
Some babies, with certain physical anomalies, such as a cleft palate, may have a lesser appetite. Other babies might refuse to eat for a variety of reasons, including being sleepy, unwell, or just not hungry.
Here are a few tips on helping your baby to eat
A baby’s lack of appetite can be controlled in the following manner by their parents.
Consult a pediatrician
Baby’s refusal to eat could be due to constipation or perhaps ill-health, in which case a doctor cannot prescribe dietary changes. Those babies prescribed medication to better their appetite may refuse to eat due to malnutrition.
Feed smaller amounts at a time
Occasionally offering large amounts of food at once may cause them to lose interest in eating. They have tummies that fill easily. Thus, feed smaller meals as often as possible.
Don’t force-feed a baby or toddler
A baby that is force-fed will develop a negative perception that eating is stressful, creating a negative outlook on eating in their mind. Don’t force toddlers to eat everything before they have reached full capacity. Teach them to eat such foods if they feel hungry and satisfied.
Offer healthy snacks at regular intervals
By doing this, your baby ensures that they only get small portions and aren’t consumed in excess to the point of refusing to eat later.
Watch your baby’s appetite for a couple of weeks
A baby should not be given severe punishment for refusing to eat one or two days a week. Eating a little less one or two days a week should not constitute a problem.
Try making meals attractive and appealing
Food can be presented in appealing ways to older babies and toddlers, who may need to be lured to eat food. You can make mealtime more enjoyable by serving foods of various shapes and sizes, which babies can pick up and eat with their own hands.
You should encourage your child to try new foods
If it continues to irk your baby, it may be time to offer alternative food preparation methods and introduce them slowly, as research shows that it may take ten or more exposures for an infant to accept the taste. A combination of different foods is often recommended so the baby gets used to the taste.
Avoid bribing your baby to eat food
Besides, their health may decrease because of making them eat even if they are full, and they may see food as a means of reaching treats.
Let your child play with the food
But make sure they’re still eating something between feedings. Younger babies are often inclined to play with their food, and it’s their way of learning different textures before becoming self-sufficient.
Make mealtimes happy and playful
Do not hurry to feed the baby and let them take their time. Do not watch television while you eat and try not to distract yourself while doing so.
When Should You See A Doctor?
In most cases, healthy feed patterns and interest in food develop very quickly once your baby has reached his/her 1st month. However, if your baby:
- Refuses to eat consistently for days on end
- Does not gain weight or height
- Loses weight
- Gags each time they’re fed
- The appearance of dehydration and lethargic
- The baby seems to be in pain or complaining about his stomach
- Fever, vomiting, and diarrhea are symptoms of infections.
- After eating certain foods, you display reactions like hives or swelling of your face.
Usually, feeding a baby whole foods is an enjoyable experience. If your baby refuses to eat solid foods, you should consult your doctor. However, if your child fails to eat well, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
(1). Raising Children Australia: Toddlers not eating> Ideas and Tips
(2). United States Department Of Agriculture (USDA): Infant And Nutrition Feeding
(3). Hye Ran Yang> NCBI: How to approach feeding difficulties in young children
(4). National Childbirth Trust (NCT): Feeding and teething: how to help them with the pain
(5). P E Hyman> NCBI: Gastroesophageal reflux: one reason why baby won’t eat