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Got a Picky Eater?

It's not all about the food

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Most young children are finicky about food from time to time. But babies who have more-inhibited temperaments are more likely than extroverted little ones to snub new grub.
Got a Picky Eater?

It’s not fun when your baby turns up his cute little nose at every food you offer.

But relax: it’s not all about the food.

In a study, researchers at the University of Colorado in Denver recently observed how babies responded to new foods and new toys in the first 18 months of life, and found that infants who were wary of new toys also tended to be less accepting of new foods.

So no, your baby is not just giving you a hard time because you gave him carrots instead of sweet potatoes. Instead, it suggests that your little one’s attitude toward food may stem from his temperament. In other words, he was born with it.

“From the time they’re very young, some infants are more ‘approaching’ and react positively to new things, whereas other infants are more ‘withdrawing’ and react negatively to the same stimuli,” says researcher Kameron Moding, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Denver.

Moding has determined that for those “withdrawing” babies, food definitely falls into the category of “new things I am not too sure about.” In experiments with babies at 6, 12, and 18 months old, “it was striking how consistently the responses to new foods related to the responses to new toys,” Moding says.

In the lab, one-year-olds who were happy and interested in checking out new toys were also game to try new foods. And on the flip side, those who reacted negatively to new toys seemed to feel the same way about new eats.

Moding also found that there was little change in babies’ responses over time. The ones who were hesitant, or withdrawing, at 12 months were hesitant at 18 months old too.

Mealtime Makeover

That means that if you’re dealing with a choosy eater, don’t expect that he’ll grow out of it quickly. (And remember: this is a very different mindset from that of a baby who just doesn’t feel like having apples and pears one night.)

Also, don’t bother attempting to bend him to your will. It’s just not his style, and it will be easier for both of you if you work with his responses instead of against them.

Keep exposing your baby to new foods, offering him a little at a time. Moding says it may take up to 10 attempts before he’ll feel comfortable enough to take a nibble, so be patient.

Just try not to get frustrated when it seems as if he’ll never budge. Since he thrives on familiarity, offer new tastes at home, at his usual mealtime, along with foods you know he does like. Throw in a few reassuring words too. Remember, he’s learning a lot more than he’s letting on!  

See Also: Make Mealtimes Memorable

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