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Feeding Your Toddler

Getting Kids Excited About Food

At 1 year old, your child is learning to eat on their own. They can chew her food as well as you can, so for the most part they can eat the same food as the rest of the family. However, young children tend to reject new foods the first time they are served. The more often a food is served (up to 10 to 15 times or more), the more likely your child is to accept it.

The nutritional value of a food is probably lost on your toddler. However, there are ways (tricks if you will) to get a picky eater on the right path. For starters, you can make the kitchen a fun place. One way to entice your toddler to eat different foods is to include your child in dinner preparations—even if it’s doing something as simple as stirring the contents of a pot. With your guidance, your child can mix ingredients using a wooden spoon.

By age 2, your little kitchen helper can wash down surface areas, stir food in a mixing bowl (or a pot, with your supervision), be a taste tester and more. The more involved your child is, the more likely he or she will eat the food you’re preparing.

Too Old for Nursing?

Having a toddler doesn’t mean having to stop breastfeeding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding a child throughout the first year of life and continuing beyond that if both mom and child desire. The World Health Organization recommends continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years or longer.

Your toddler is getting plenty of nutrients from other foods at this point, but breast milk continues to:

  • Provide a nutritional boost
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Lower the risks of obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol later in life

Both you and your child will continue to benefit from the closeness and calm that breastfeeding provides.

So don’t rush to wean if you and your little one aren’t ready. Enjoy this special time and rest assured that you are still providing an amazing health food for your child.

Doesn't Want to Eat?

Beginning in the second year, your child will probably start to become more independent. That can include choosing what he or she will and won’t eat.

If your toddler is resisting eating his food, try to remain calm and positive during mealtime. When food is thrown on the floor, clean it up and say, “Oh, I see you’re not hungry now.” Then end the meal. While you might be tempted to try to “find” something else for your child to eat, limit foods to 1 or 2 choices. Your toddler will eat when hungry.

If she’s been a good eater up until now and is in the normal weight range for her height, you probably have nothing to worry about. Most likely, it’s a phase that she’ll soon outgrow. If this pattern continues, and she’s not eating at all, discuss it with your child’s health care provider.

Biting While Nursing?

If your toddler is biting while nursing, it’s likely they are exploring cause and effect. They have probably discovered that they can make you jump whenever they want by using their teeth when nursing. Fun for them, not so much for you!

Your little one doesn’t realize that they are causing you pain, but is enjoying the instant and dramatic response to their action.

The next time they nurse, if possible, take her off the breast after they are satiated but before they have a chance to nip you. If they do nip you again, take them off and, rather than yelping, firmly tell them “no!”— then end the nursing session.

There is no need to wean your child because of this, but do teach her that this behavior is not funny and not allowed.

Wants to Eat Junk Food?

Everything in moderation is an easy rule to live by. Foods like french fries will certainly not cause your child any harm if they’re offered once in a while, but a steady diet may create a lasting preference for high-fat and high-salt meals.

Remember, simple swaps can turn unhealthy foods into smart choices. Potatoes, for example, are full of nutrition and can be nutritious baked in the oven without a lot of oil and salt—bonus points if you keep the skin on!

On the other hand, sweet potatoes prepared the same way are an even better alternative, as they’re more nutritious and have a lower glycemic index (i.e., they contain “good carbs”).