My child doesn’t want to eat

“Isn’t he hungry?”, “Did he ate enough?, “Is this good for his health?” – those are questions that I keep on asking myself since the moment my son left my belly, and believe me, at the beginning those truly were very justified questions because first 3 months of my motherhood were constant fight for milk, with all possible ways & strategies, which ended up with long term “milky way”.

Already back then when Mateusz was 3 months old I started to realise that its very much about trust, trust to your baby that he or she knows better than the clock when s/he is hungry.
When he finished 6 months, I started very slowly to offer him variety of things to eat. I remember those first months of “discovering” that food can be not only for touching or flying, but as well for eating as very enjoyable moments of spinach or pumpkin being all over him / or the space around.
The change started to come when he turned 1 year, and slowly the “ideal” scenario was to start reducing the milk and replacing it with other sources of energy. At least this is what smart books (and blogs) were advising. And this is when my frustration of “why he does not it that?”, “why he eats only one thing?”, or “who he does not want to eat at all?” started to grow.. I was trying different strategies, but what eventually I realised was that there is very clear division of responsibility between the 2 of us when it comes to food:

I am responsible for:
WHAT I offer
HOW I offer it
& WHEN I offer it

and my son is responsible for:
HOW MUCH he eats

Accepting this very simple division was like a healing!


So first let’s talk about my responsibilities.

WHAT I offer is the kind of food I put on the plate, as well the way it looks. Sometimes what works for us is the order as well (today he was very enjoying a bit of bread before eating an egg, if we start with egg or give egg and bread together, bread would probably stay on the plate – this i tried many times. This as well means not to have his favourite raisins around when we want to eat lunch. Children are masters of mindfulness, they live here & now. In case of my son it means that if he sees raisins he wants to eat raisins, no matter how attractive other food around is.

HOW I offer is not less important, this means for me with no cartoon in the background (ideally), if possible with nothing very attractive for my child happening around (for instance his cousins playing his favourite game as this would definitely win competition with lunch). Most of all it means me eating together with him, ideally having exactly the same things on the plate. Sometimes I laugh that kids appear in our life to make us eat healthier 😉

WHEN I offer is as well very crucial, and it’s not that much about exact timing and counting hours, but If we had some good fruits late afternoon than maybe early dinner is not a good option. Few times of being surprised that dinner at usual time is not welcomed were enough to realise that.

& now comes most difficult part – to have enough trust to respect the fact that my child knows best
HOW MUCH he wants to eat at the very moment. I am not saying it’s easy. I am not saying I am never stressed when he refuses to eat.

But this simple division of responsibilities somehow helped me to take it more easy and eventually if there is this issue when everything I offered stays on a plate, it’s easier to discover the reason, because.. there is always a reason.. or because he does not feel well, or because his belly is full with other stuff he just ate, or because he is too busy discovering the world around, or because he is wondering why he is the only one eating this strange food while everyone else eats something else..
And one more reason, just building trust towards new things. There was a moment when he loved to experiment and try out new tastes. Now he needs to taste 3-4 times and sometimes after 4th or 5th one this new fruit or vegetable (especially now in season) becomes his favourite one, while during the 1st try i often have feeling he will never take it to his mouth again.

And there is one more thing that extremely helped me – the book by Carlos Gonzalez “My Child won’t eat”, spiced with very positive humor and attitude, truly helps to trust more your child and yourself and to simply enjoy the food. Believe me or not.. my son sometimes eats while watching cartoons, sometimes tastes new flavours before dinner or lunch time or eats something I would not offer him at home when we are traveling..
don’t get too stressed with breaking the rules, making exceptions, life is full of surprises and sometimes what helps the most is to take things easy..
so.. Bon Appetite!

Author: Kasia Szajda

Kasia is mom of Mateusz, trainer of intercultural competences and didactics of intercultural learning and active participation. Within last 16 years trainer and facilitator, cooperating with: the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Environment, the European Commission, UNESCO and different NGOs from all over Europe. Prepared and delivered over 30 trainings on: project management, intercultural learning, active participation, oral history, European citizenship for international groups. Main directions of working with teachers / educators: non formal education methods, using coaching and tutoring in the process of supporting personal development, educational project as a tool. Deliveres above mentioned activities in Polish, English and Czech.