You might have a fussy eater and be wondering not only how you can help, but how fussy eating can potentially affect sleep. Fussy eating is usually just a phase, so please don't worry. It also will not have a huge impact on their sleep, as long as they are getting in enough food throughout the day. It can, however, be a very frustrating time for you as a parent, and having gone through it myself, here are my top tips on how to handle it.
TAKE A BREATH
You're frustrated, fed up and annoyed that for the fifteenth meal this week, your little one has refused it, thrown it on the floor, or like mine, fed it to the ever starving cocker spaniel. The more stressed out you get by their eating, the more stressed they will be and even less likely to eat. So, as hard as it is, take a deep breath, count to ten and dig deep for your inner zen. The minute I stopped getting so wound up by the issue, we saw a huge improvement. They can sense your tension, and meal times should be a relaxed event.
None of us are saints, and it is infuriating, I know.
Making meal times a family event, or just you and your little one, can also have a huge impact. Eating has always been a communal thing throughout history, and children lead by example. (Note this if your child eats at nursery! Infuriating but probably because they're all eating the same thing together) If you can bare to eat what they're eating, then all have the same, or put a small bit of their food onto your place. Offer to share with them
DON'T FORCE IT
If they're really fighting to even get into the highchair or sit at the table, or are very upset when there, don't force it. Negative associations with meal times and the highchair or table are something to avoid, so try not to battle them into the high chair or fight a bib on.
Spend some time in their high chair or at the table doing something non food related, they could sit and colour in, for example. After a while, try offering them a small snack in the highchair, once they're relaxed and happy. If they refuse it, just remove it and allow them to continue what they were doing.
SAME OLD SAME OLD
If they're hell bent on only eating the same 3 things (Porridge, beans and yoghurt for my little one), then go with it for a while. If they're happy to et that, will sit and enjoy it without upset and without you getting stressed, don't worry. You don't read that many Daily Mail stories about 25 year olds who still live on the same 3 things they ate when they were fussy two year olds.
Slowly introduce something new on their plate alongside the things you know they'll eat. They may not want to try it at first, and that's ok. Try again tomorrow. Keep breathing and counting to ten.
FUN FUN FUN!
Depending on the age of your little one, making food fun can really help. Get them to help you pick a new plate with a fun design, cut their food into fun shapes using cookie cutters (who doesn't love star shaped pancakes?) and if they're old enough, involve them in the preparation of the meal. Mixing, stirring, cracking eggs and helping roll things out can all be a great bonding session for you both and also encourage them to want to eat what they've helped to make
Children thrive on positive reinforcement, so lots of praise and positive language is really key. Big smiles and 'Well Done' when they've tried something new or used their cutlery. Even praise for just sitting at the table, to reinforce that positive association with meal times.
IT'S A PHASE
All children go through fussy eating stages, and it can feel like you're never going to get anywhere and they'll en up with rickets because you've fallen into a google hole with 'my child hasn't eaten a vegetable for 6 weeks', but I promise, it is a phase, they will get through it and come out the other end thriving. How you handle it can definitely have an impact on this.
If you're really struggling to get anything in them at all, this can disrupt sleep because they're hungry. This is where offering them the few things they will eat is important, because they need solids to grown, repair and thrive. Try to avoid very sugary things if possible as this can disrupt sleep and also isn't brilliant for their teeth
If you would like more help with your child's sleep I can help create a tailor made plan for your family based on your individual needs. Explore my packages for something that suit you