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Skip to 0 minutes and 0 seconds [LOGO MUSIC PLAYING]

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: One of my clients, Sarah’s, rung me this morning to say her little boy Archie is causing her a bit of grief. And it’s a really hard time being a young mum. So I’m going to just pop by and have a chat to her about some of the things that she might be able to do to make it a little bit easier with Archie so he’ll be a great eater for a long time to come.

Skip to 0 minutes and 30 seconds SARAH: I’m really quite concerned about it. He’s well. He is growing well. But I’m worried he’s not getting enough nutrients from his main meal.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL:And you mentioned on the phone that he’s not eating his main meal.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds SARAH: He very rarely will eat it. I’ll prepare healthy meals for him for his main meal. And he’s just fussing so much. He’s not interested in eating anything.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Pushing it away, that sort of thing?

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds SARAH: Cracking it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Cracking it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds SARAH: I don’t want this meal.

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Oh, how frustrating.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds SARAH: Very. And I get anxious and worried that he’s not going to get enough food. So then I offer him something I know he will like, like a sweet dessert or mashed fruit.

Skip to 1 minute and 4 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: And what does he do then?

Skip to 1 minute and 6 seconds SARAH: Which is healthy, but then– oh, custard, maybe, or a sweet yoghurt. Oh, loves it.

Skip to 1 minute and 10 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Loves it. So he gobbles it in.

Skip to 1 minute and 11 seconds SARAH: Oh, loves it. More. More.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: So he’s a little bit hungry. Yeah.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 seconds SARAH: He’s hungry. He wants his food. But he wants the yummy stuff that he loves.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Yeah. Yeah. [BABY PROTESTING]

Skip to 1 minute and 20 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: And so you’re feeling you need a bit of advice about how to encourage him to eat the meal that you’ve put that time into.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds SARAH: Yeah. I put in a lot of effort. And I actually get a bit, oh, my, you’re not eating this beautiful food? You know? It’s so nutritious and healthy for him. And just some ideas on how I can get him to eat that food?

Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Well, look. The first thing is, what he’s doing is really, really normal.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds SARAH: OK.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: I mean, he’s nine months old. He’s becoming more and more independent, as you know. So as soon as he started to crawl, he moved away from you a bit further, didn’t he?

Skip to 1 minute and 47 seconds SARAH: Yes. He’s kind of exploring his own world.

Skip to 1 minute and 49 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Yeah, becoming his own person. So this is very normal for children. And it’s very normal for children to be a bit manipulative, which doesn’t mean he’s being naughty. It just means he’s using his innate natural desire to get on with things.

Skip to 2 minutes and 2 seconds SARAH: OK.

Skip to 2 minutes and 3 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: If he thinks he can get away with something, without even thinking it through, he will. So what he’s getting away with at the moment is, by fussing, he’s making you provide something else that he knows he likes better. So he’s learning a bit of a habit here. If I don’t eat that, I get that.

Skip to 2 minutes and 18 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: And sometimes it’s good to think about when you were a kid and how you felt about things. So I’m going to give you a bit of a scenario.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds SARAH: Yeah.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: When you were little, so if you can remember back to, say, even four or five, if your mum gave you chicken, let’s say, for dinner, and you really wanted fish fingers, and you said, mama, I hate chicken. Yuck. I’m not eating this chicken. Go away. Take it away. I don’t want it. And your mum said, oh, Sarah, OK. Look, would you like some fish fingers? You’d say yes, of course. And what would you think?

Skip to 2 minutes and 45 seconds SARAH: Well, I could have whatever I want when I want it.

Skip to 2 minutes and 46 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Whenever you want it. OK. So there’s a very clear message. So as a parent, you feel you’re doing the right and the kind thing. However, there’s ramifications. There’s an outcome from that. So the opposite scenario would be mum gives you chicken and you wanted fish fingers. And you say, yuck, mum, I hate your chicken. I want fish fingers. And she says, Sarah, this is what we’re having for dinner tonight. This is our family meal. And you make a fuss. And you say I don’t want this. I don’t want this. I don’t want this. And she does nothing at all and continues to eat her dinner.

Skip to 3 minutes and 15 seconds And to your surprise, she actually then removes your plate of dinner when the family has finished eating. Now what would you feel then?

Skip to 3 minutes and 22 seconds SARAH: Oh. Hungry.

Skip to 3 minutes and 24 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Hungry?

Skip to 3 minutes and 25 seconds SARAH: Annoyed that I get what I wanted.

Skip to 3 minutes and 27 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: And you might make a real fuss. And you might try it again and again, and maybe even again. But eventually, what would you do?

Skip to 3 minutes and 33 seconds SARAH: I’d eat.

Skip to 3 minutes and 34 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Yeah. You’d stop. Because you weren’t getting the reward.

Skip to 3 minutes and 36 seconds SARAH: I’d eat what I was offered first time. [INTERPOSING VOICES]

Skip to 3 minutes and 38 seconds SARAH: Yeah. OK. I see.

Skip to 3 minutes and 39 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: So it’s a strategy. And it’s not just around food and eating. It’s around lots of things with kids. If you give in, they’ll take. And they’ll make a fuss when there did needn’t to be a fuss. And fussing around food’s a problem. Because it makes you stressed and crossed.

Skip to 3 minutes and 53 seconds SARAH: Definitely.

Skip to 3 minutes and 53 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: And it often leads to using food you know they like as rewards. And often, the food’s actually not all that healthy. You mentioned yoghurts and custards. They’re good foods in and of themselves, but they don’t comprise a whole healthy diet.

Skip to 4 minutes and 8 seconds SARAH: Yes.

Skip to 4 minutes and 9 seconds KAREN CAMPBELL: Lots of people use sweet biscuits and cake because they know children will enjoy those. Again, it’s not going to make for a very good long term diet.

Fussing about food: dealing with food rejection

Children can exert enormous power over parents when they sense the stakes are high. This is, of course, the case when it comes to feeding young infants.

Many parents find the enjoyment and excitement associated with the early days of feeding their baby begins to disappear when their child starts to cry and fuss when being offered food. This shift in interest around food often reflects the baby’s growing independence.

Parents want their baby to eat and enjoy a wide range of foods, many of which they’ve taken a lot of time to prepare. Food made with love, cost and time is meant to be enjoyed, not spat out or cried over!

In this video, Karen discusses these issues with a parent who’s feeling frustrated and disappointed that her previously ‘good eater’ is now not enjoying mealtimes at all – unless, that is, she brings out the sweet custard!

The key messages of this video are:

  • Avoid engaging with your child when they don’t want to eat and, instead, allow them to decide when to eat (if at all) and how much they will eat.
  • The more you fuss and try to encourage your child to finish what you’ve offered, the more ammunition they have and, in turn, the more they will fuss. This outcome is stressful and upsetting, and it can be avoided.
  • The importance of not providing ‘back up’ options, which will usually be sweet. Remember that we’re programmed to enjoy sweet tastes and this is partly why babies enjoy breastmilk. However, if you offer sweet alternatives to the main offerings, you’ll soon find this becomes a focus for your baby.

Your task

Watch the video and, in the comments, share your thoughts about why some young children become fussy eaters and how this can be avoided.

  • If you have experienced a fussy child, what did you try to do to overcome it?
  • What advice were you given?
  • Did it work?

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This video is from the free online course:

Infant Nutrition: from Breastfeeding to Baby's First Solids

Deakin University

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