Practical Advice

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12+ months
From fussy eaters to happy healthy toddlers
Most toddlers become less open to trying new foods or reject foods they liked before, any time from about 12 months onwards. It can be stressful but it’s completely normal and nothing to panic about.

Why do toddlers get fussy now?

Many toddlers experience a fear of new foods known by experts as neophobia. It’s thought to be a survival mechanism, left over from thousands of years ago to protect them from eating unfamiliar foods that may be poisonous.

My little one’s getting fussy. What can I do?

Keep offering things they’ve rejected, along with their favourites. They will usually change their minds and eat many of these foods again.

In some cases, your toddler may only want to eat a very limited range of foods. If this happens, remember that most toddlers can regulate how much food they actually need – and they still have tiny tummies. The following tips may help:

• Try not to react – just keep offering a range of healthy options
• Give small portions and learn to tell when your toddler has had enough
• Praise your toddler if they try everything and allow them to stop when they have had enough
• Don’t comment about any leftovers – simply take them away

Watch out for food allergies
As your baby’s diet becomes more varied, it’s a good idea to look out for the signs of allergies. You can never be too careful.

Look for the symptoms

Symptoms of a food allergy are due to the body’s immune system trying to tackle the food. They can include diarrhea, breathing difficulties, swelling and rashes. These symptoms may occur right away, or several hours after eating.

In very rare and serious cases, food allergies can lead to anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling of the throat and mouth and can be life-threatening. If you suspect anaphylaxis, contact an emergency center immediately.

Is your baby at risk?

Most babies and toddlers can eat a varied diet without any problems. But, your baby is more likely to have a food allergy if either parent or their siblings have a history of food allergies, or suffer from eczema, asthma or hay fever. Your health care provider will be able to guide you if your family has a history of food allergies.

What’s likely to cause an allergy?

There are certain common foods likely to cause allergies – these include milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, sesame seeds, soy, mustard, fish, and seafood. If there is an allergy concern, avoid giving these foods until 6 months, and then introduce them one at a time so you can monitor your baby's reaction. Whole nuts should be avoided until your child is four years old because of the risk of choking.

Avoid possible peanut allergies

If your baby’s close family have eczema, asthma, hay fever of any other food allergy, it might be an idea to avoid peanuts when you’re breast feeding. It’s also wise to wait until your little one is at least 6 months old, before giving them any foods that may contain peanuts. Make sure you check packets for any traces of peanut.

Always check labels

If a product contains one of the common allergens, it will be clearly labelled in the ingredients list by its common name. Make sure you check!

The top 10 common food allergies:

- Eggs
- Milk
- Mustard
- Peanuts
- Seafood (fish, crustaceans, shellfish)
- Sesame
- Soy
- Sulphites
- Tree nuts
- Wheat

Encourage them to help themselves
Give your toddler plenty of tries at feeding themselves with a spoon or fork. Offer more and more food that they can pick up and feed themselves with and ensure there is always finger food available. Always supervise your toddler when they are eating.

What to do if you're worried

Your toddler's appetite can vary hugely from day to day, so try not to worry on those days when they appear to eat very little. They might eat poorly for several days in a row, especially if teeth are coming through.

If you’re really worried or your toddler is clearly not gaining weight, talk to your General Practitioner or healthcare professional. They will be able to spot the very rare cases that may require specialist help.