Why children are fussy eaters – take our quiz

Why children are fussy eaters – take our quiz

By working out what it is that your child finds off-putting about food, you can understand why she’s being picky. Then you can offer her foods that she actually wants to eat.

According to researchers from the University of Illinois, there may be good reasons why children can loathe the sight, smell, taste or texture of some foods.

‘Picky eating tends to peak around the age of two to three years old,’ says Professor Soo-Yeun Lee of the University of Illinois, who conducted the fussy-eating research.

‘There are a whole number of reasons why behaviours that are labelled “picky” crop up at this age. For example, some toddlers are still developing their oral skills, so they can find certain textures very hard to swallow. They’ll gag, and parents might see this as fussiness.’

Soo-Yeun’s research has found there are four major types of picky eaters.

Each type describes children with very different issues with food, which each need to be handled in different ways.

‘So, if you’re worried your child might be a picky eater, the first step to handling the situation is to find out what sort of eater she is,’ says Soo-Yeun.

Take our quiz to find out what sort of picky eater your child is, then read on below to find out how to help them.


According to our quiz, what sort of picky eater is your child? 

  • A Sensory Resonder
  • A Preferential Eater
  • A General Perfectionist
  • A Behavioural Responder

Sensory Responder

A child who’s a sensory responder will have likes and dislikes based totally on the sensory qualities of a meal. So the food’s taste, texture and/or aroma, are critical to her.

A sensory responder tends to prefer hard and crunchy textures, and sweet or salty-tasting food.

But, depending on her personal preferences, she may turn up her nose at anything that smells too strong, such as garlic, sprouts, or pongy cheese.

She may also shun bitter tastes like broccoli, courgettes and lemon, and reject intense flavours like spices.

Sensory responders often dislike having foods that are mixed together (think casseroles or multi-ingredient pasta dishes) and they might well be very picky about the way their food is presented.

Accept her preferences

Working with your child is much more effective – and far easier – than trying to force her to do what you want.

If your child has a strong aversion to particular tastes, the first thing to do is to work out her pet hates. It may be bitter flavours, like green veg. It may be fatty flavours, such as lamb or ice cream. It may be complex, strong flavours that she finds overwhelming, like curry or rich casseroles.

Once you know what it is, find substitutes. For example, if she hates bitter flavours, stick to sweeter vegetables like peas, swede or sweetcorn. If fatty flavours are the problem, stay with leaner meats like chicken or turkey.

The principle works in exactly the same way with textures and smells. Do your detective work then eliminate the problem area from your child’s diet.

Heed your child’s preferences for having her food presented in a certain way too. So, if she hates two foods touching, go with it. Or if she’ll only eat veg if she’s got a sauce to dip it into, that’s fine.

There’s no need to turn these preferences into a battle for control. Remove the issue, whatever it might be, and your tot will gradually relax about food and become more confident about eating.

But this doesn’t mean cooking your child whatever she wants. ‘Give her a choice, such as if she wants pasta, rice or bread,’ says Soo-Yeun, ‘but don’t only cook whatever she demands, or she
won’t broaden her choices.’

Use pudding wisely

If your child likes sweet things, then you might find she’s more willing to experiment with different foods when it comes to pudding than for her main meal. So, get adventurous with your choices here. Roast a fig to go alongside her ice cream. Or sprinkle some cinnamon on her apple purée.

And don’t make puddings a reward. ‘If your child is only allowed dessert if she eats her main meal, you’ll make her crave sweet treats even more,’ says Soo-Yeun. ‘It’s counter-productive. And it just turns veg into a mechanism for gaining a pudding, rather than encouraging children to love veg for its own sake.’

Preferential Eater

If you’ve got a preferential eater on your hands, then you’ll be used to cooking the same meals every day.

These children are happy with what they know and they don’t like trying anything new.

They’ll often also hate the idea of trying dishes where different ingredients are mixed together, such as casseroles, shepherd’s pie or soup, or dishes with lots of flavours, such as curry or any pizza that isn’t plain old cheese and tomato.

She is also likely to prefer one food group overall: so she might be a chicken-fanatic, a pasta-addict, or a pea-lover.

Keep encouraging her

‘Research has shown that children often need eight to 10 exposures to a food before they start to like it,’ says Soo-Yeun.

‘This can be tricky if your child says she’s already tried something and didn’t like it. You can defuse that by calmly saying, “Well, you might like it today. Give it a smell, give it a lick, give it a bite, see what you think.” Don’t push her to finish the food, but praise her when she tries it.’

Model healthy eating

When you eat a food, you send an immediate and clear signal to your child that the food is trustworthy, and that will really help a preferential eater.

The more your child sees you eating something, the more familiar that food will become. So, if you want her to eat something, tuck in yourself, even when you’re not feeding it to her.

General Perfectionist

If your child is very particular about what she eats and how she eats, you probably have a general perfectionist.

This is the most common category and covers a range of food-related behaviour. Like sensory responders and preferential eaters, these children may reject a wide range of foods.

They often reject food that has a slimy, lumpy or slippery texture, such as cheese-based sauces, spinach and cottage cheese. They can also get picky about additional things, such as the way the food is laid out on the plate.

Another common behaviour amongst perfectionists is to prefer food that’s all the same colour. Think about your child’s favourite foods, and if they’re tomatoes, strawberries and red peppers, you might be on to something.

Get her involved

‘You can help your child become more familiar with different foods and give her ownership over her meals by getting her involved with the preparation,’ says Soo-Yeun.

‘She could wash vegetables, chop soft fruit and put the chunks in serving dishes. Or you could go one step further and get her involved with growing fruit and veg.’

Experiment with texture

Cook one food that your child likes in two or three different ways, and present it at the same meal. Roast carrots taste, smell and feel so different to boiled or steamed ones.

Cook smart

These children tend to prefer smooth or puréed foods, so a blender is your best friend.

For example, if you’re making spaghetti bolognese, once you have made the sauce, purée it so it is completely smooth. They also enjoy sweeter flavours, so a simple change, such as caramelising the onions well when you’re making the sauce, will help.

Behavioural Responder

The tricky issue with these children is getting them to sit at the table in the first place.

Does your child refuse to come when you ask her, then cry or decide she has something better to do? And once you’ve coaxed her to the table, does she look at the food you’ve slaved over as though it’s roadkill-on-toast?

Behavioural responders may cringe, cry or gag at the sight of certain foods and pick over everything on the plate.

Your child’s eating habits are less about food choices and more about being in control of her food: perhaps she’s using meals as a way to assert control, or perhaps she’s just not interested in food and would prefer to play than eat.

Share decisions

Handing over some level of control will really help a behavioural responder.

‘Parents understand the importance of eating a balanced diet, and which foods are healthy,’ says Soo-Yeun. ‘And children understand when they’re hungry and when they’re full. So you should decide what foods to put in front of your child, but leave it to her to decide which ones to eat and how much to eat. This means your child is eating healthy food, but she is also being given control and ownership over it.’

Cook smart

Behavioural responders like to see what they’re eating, so can be put off by a sauce with unidentifiable lumps in it.

Avoid this by aiming for a Masterchef-inspired deconstructed meal and put the food into different serving bowls and let her help herself. If you’re making spaghetti bolognese, put pasta in one dish, cheese in another, and the sauce in another.

If you tend to add lots of different ingredients to your sauce, then separate a portion of sauce for her before you add the mushrooms and peppers. Your tot may only want cheese with her pasta, or just have sauce and cheese. Giving her control means she is more likely to eat something.

Stop worrying!

The one thing that will help all fussy eaters, is for you to start thinking more positively.

‘Parents often worry that picky eating will lead to malnutrition,’ says Soo-Yeun. ‘But that rarely occurs in developed countries like the UK. Young children are far more in touch with their body’s needs than we are. A young infant will call for food when she’s hungry and stop eating when she’s full.

‘But we lose those instincts as we grow up because we start eating when society expects us to: at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Instead of demanding that your child eats, encourage her to respond to her instincts. If she isn’t eating, or stops eating, ask, “Are you full?” And if she says, “Yes”, trust her.’


The best toys for autistic children

If your little one has been diagnosed with autism, finding toys to keep them occupied can be a challenge. Experts believe the right kind of play can help provide autistic children with valuable sensory feedback and develop skills in listening, observing and turn-taking. Take a look at our suggestions below, and let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any that worked for your little one.

Bubble Lawn Mower

Bubble machines are great for autistic children as they help provide them with sensory feedback. This fun lawn mower has the added advantage of getting your little one outside, running to catch the bubbles as they go. If your home is big enough, you could always use it as a hoover, or invest in a smaller bubble maker to stow away for rainy days!

GetGo A-Zebra Toddler Trampoline

A toy that will help save your furniture, and allow your little one to release energy in a positive way whilst improving his motor skills. This indoor trampoline plays a sound as your child jumps up and down, providing them with extra encouragement to keep moving.

Marble race game

Marble race runs are always fun and have a number of educational benefits too. Helping your child to practise fine motor skills as he puts the maze together, he’ll also be provided with sensory stimulation (and a lot of excitement) watching the marble roll through the maze.

Big City train set

There are a number of reasons why trains are so popular with children in the autistic spectrum; they have large spinning wheels and can be categorised into different models and sizes. This train set can be extended as your little one grows, and like a 3D puzzle, he’ll enjoy sorting and constructing the track.

Ladybird Touch and Feel Books

You may have found story time isn’t very fun for your little one. Why not try a touch and feel book, rather than one with a lot of text to help keep your little one engaged and learning to read?

Washing Machine

Many autistic children love watching things spin round, so a washing machine toy could be the perfect solution if you’re worried about your tot sitting in the kitchen watching the real thing!

Connect 4 grid game

Another game that will help your little one learn how to play nicely with others, connect 4 encourages turn taking, problem solving and colour matching.

Musical footsteps

Music therapy has proved to be really beneficial in studies of autistic children, giving them a multi-sensory experience, whilst they have fun. This roll out play mat will let you stamp, sing and play music together.


Why ‘baby talk’ is good for your baby

People often tell new parents to avoid sing-song “baby talk” with their new addition to the family because it will slow the child’s language development.

But evidence shows it does the opposite; baby talk plays an important role in development and babies prefer it to other types of speech.

Who uses baby talk?

Scientists used to call baby talk “motherese”. Now it’s referred to as infant-directed speech because not only mothers, but fathers, strangers and even three-year-old children use it when talking to a baby. Just about everyone uses it, even if they’re trying not to.

What is baby talk?

Baby talk has shorter sentences, simpler words and more repetition. But it’s not only baby words like “tummy” that make it attractive to babies. Much more important, especially in the first 18 months or so, are the sounds of baby talk. Baby talk has a characteristic structure, rhythm and use of emotion.

Recollect John Travolta reading the stockmarket listings in a sing-song voice to baby Mikey in Look Who’s Talking. It wasn’t the words that made baby Mikey happy, but the sounds and intonation.

Compared with adult-directed speech, infant-directed speech has more emotion, irrespective of the actual words used. It has a higher pitch and more up-and-down patterns, which attract infants’ attention. It also has more hyperarticulated vowels and consonants, which exaggerate the differences between sounds.

It turns out this exaggeration helps language development. When mothers use more exaggerated vowels in baby talk their babies are better able to distinguish speech sounds. And exaggerated vowels help children acquire larger vocabularies

What about other cutesy-wutsey speech?

Baby talk differs from other cutesy-wutsey speech, such as that directed to pets. We increase emotion and raise the pitch of our voice when talking to dogs and cats. But while this makes it sound cutesy-wutsey, research shows we don’t exaggerate the vowels as we do in infant-directed speech. This is perhaps because most animals can’t learn human speech (parrots being one exception).

We also exaggerate vowels to computer talking heads, but we don’t raise the pitch.

And when talking to foreigners, we exaggerate vowels but show more negative emotion.

So we adjust the ingredients of our speech (pitch, emotion, vowel exaggeration) to suit the needs of the audience.

How old is too old for baby talk?

We adjust the ingredients mix within baby talk over infants’ first year to match their developmental level. We continue to do so as children become older and their language knowledge becomes more advanced.

The developmental adjustments mothers make follow infants’ speech preferences across ages: more emotional at three months, approving at six months, and directive (“yes, look at the doggie”) at nine months. How mothers talk to their baby is automatically in synch with their baby’s preferences.

So don’t worry about knowing when to stop using baby talk – your child’s behaviour will guide you. This is not because parents are following some child development manual; mother and infant have a highly developed conversational dance, and under normal circumstances each responds to the nuances of the other’s speech.

Is all baby talk the same?

Baby talk can differ from the norm under certain circumstances. Baby talk by postnatally depressed mothers, for instance, tends to have less exaggerated pitch intonation.

And baby talk to hearing-impaired infants does not contain exaggerated vowels.

Is baby talk the same in all languages?

Some form of baby talk seems to be used across all languages, though it has only been studied in only a few of the world’s 7,000 languages. Nevertheless, we know baby talk differs as a product of linguistic and cultural factors.

Quiché Mayan baby talk, for instance, does not have heightened pitch because high pitch is reserved for people of higher status.

Cantonese baby talk has no vowel exaggeration but it does have exaggerated tones. These pitch differences signify meaning changes Cantonese and many other Asian, African and Central American languages.

Japanese baby talk appears to have no vowel exaggeration but when talking to babies Japanese speakers make adjustments that emphasise the unique rhythm of Japanese speech.

Caretakers and infants work as a team to provide an optimal developmental context. In English, this entails baby talk with a mix of pitch, emotion and sound exaggeration optimal for each infant. Other ingredients are most certainly involved, at least in other languages.

Irrespective of the ingredients or language, participation in the parent-infant dance results in baby talk. When each party attends, observes, listens, the dance is smooth. When one party doesn’t or can’t act on feedback from the other, toes get stepped on.


Forty Percent of Moms Say They Didn’t Make Enough Milk

I remember sitting in the lactation consultant’s chair, her hands positioning my tiny but full-term newborn twins to my breasts. She had just weighed them, and I was nursing them to see how much milk they were consuming.  She weighed them again when they were done.

“They’re using more energy trying to nurse than they’re actually consuming,” she told me. “You need to supplement with formula until they are stronger.”

So I did. And I pumped. Every two hours like clockwork. A few weeks later, I returned both babies to the breast. Each session would take over an hour, and both babes would pop off exhausted and still hungry.

“You need to nurse the stronger twin to bring your milk in. Right now, you’re not making enough for both babies,” my lactation consultant told me. What she said was different from what I heard, which was: Your body is failing these babies.

I ate the oatmeal, supplemented with fenugreek, and did all the things a mom’s supposed to do to boost milk supply. I was exhausted, depressed, frustrated and in very real pain. Even worse, my babies were hungry. So at 6 weeks, they became formula babies.

Sound familiar? Well, the specifics may differ, but 40 percent of the more than 1,000 moms we surveyed in conjunction with HLN’s Raising America say they gave up breastfeeding because they weren’t making enough milk. They are women like me, who know breast is best, but worry that it’s just not enough.

Truth is, the majority of new moms out there do, in fact, have the ability to produce enough milk for their babies. Research shows that only about 15 percent of women are physically unable to maintain a healthy milk supply, with only about 5 percent having physical problems that simply can’t be overcome by any measure.

That’s a pretty big disparity between perception and reality. Are moms just taking the easy way out? And does it really matter?

“If 40 percent of mothers are finding it’s not working for them, then we have a big problem — a problem that needs systematic studies of strategies to fix the problem,” says Alison Stuebe, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Dr. Stuebe has real concerns about saying that moms citing low-milk supply are taking the easy way out of breastfeeding. “I find that the overwhelming majority of mothers want to do what’s best for their babies.” And if she’s having problems, then it’s her doctor’s job to help her find a solution, Dr. Stuebe says. “What we don’t need is finger-pointing that blames individual mothers and tells them this is all in their heads.”

She pointed out Dr. Marianne Neifert’s 2001 report that said: “A health-care professional would never tell a diabetic woman that ‘every pancreas can make insulin’ or insist to a devastated infertility patient that ‘every woman can get pregnant.’ The fact is that lactation, like all physiologic functions, sometimes fails because of various medical causes.”

For many mothers, the odds are simply stacked against them from the get-go: Giving birth in a hospital that isn’t “baby friendly” –  that is, one that doesn’t support practices that have shown to boost breastfeeding success rates such as nursing within an hour of birth and not giving pacifiers – significantly decreases a mom’s chances of making it work. And modern feeding practices such as nursing every few hours instead of every 5 to 15 minutes, also affects a mom’s milk supply, Dr. Stuebe says.

The fear of low milk supply is so great that one company, Upspring, created a test called Milkscreen for moms to use at home to see if they’re making enough for their babies. The product was met with outrage last month from breastfeeding activists, who claimed there was no accurate way to test milk supply at home and that the product played on a huge insecurity of new mothers. Almost immediately, retailers pulled Milkscreen from shelves and the company suspended production.




Dads: Get the Kids to Help You Clean

The last thing you want to do when you’re home with the kids is spend your time cleaning up after them. You can encourage them to help you—and maybe even make a game out of it. Don’t be discouraged if you think your kids are too young. Even toddlers can learn that toys and books need to be put back where they belong.

Yes, they can do laundry…

If they’re old enough to dress themselves, kids can learn how to match socks and fold them with a little help. Show them how the washing machine works and where the soap goes; if the water isn’t too hot (and you have a top-loader), let them hold their hand under the water as it fills the machine. After the clothes are washed, have them throw the clothes in the dryer. After everything is dry, teach them to fold kitchen towels or socks, and then show them how to put everything in their drawers and closets. (They will probably “forget” this skill once they reach their teens, but enjoy it while you can.)

…and dishes, too

While dish-storage cupboards may be out of reach for most kids, the silverware drawer isn’t. Preschoolers can take spoons and forks out of the dishwasher and put them in the drawer. Older kids can learn where all the dishes and glasses go, especially if they’re tall enough to reach the upper cupboards. If you don’t have a dishwasher, get out a step stool. Young kids will love “stepping up to the plate” and learning to wash and rinse their cereal bowl.

Tackle the floors

If you use a traditional broom, toddlers love to hold the dustpan while you push dirt into it. If you use new devices that absorb or collect debris or let you mop without a bucket of water, such as the Swiffer Sweep & Trap or WetJet, kids love pushing them around and seeing what they can pick up. Older kids will have the strength to push the vacuum around, but they may need help moving furniture.

Don’t forget to dust

Dusting may not seem exciting to you, but for a 4-year-old, it’s really fun to “polish.” If you don’t feel comfortable having your child use polish on a rag, hand them a dusting wipe, like a Swiffer cloth or duster. Point out all areas that need to be polished, and keep an eye on them when they’re dusting the TV.

Picking up toys

Even toddlers should be able to help pick up toys and books and put them in a toy chest or on a shelf. Stress how important it is to always pick up all the toys on the floor so no one gets hurt by stepping or tripping on them. Plus, when you’re done, you can all play a game together on the now-clear floor!


5 Tantrum Stoppers That Work

Easy discipline tricks that will end whining and battles with your toddler.

It’s time to leave the store. My daughter, the usually cheerful Page, does not want to go. Let’s set aside the fact that it’s tempting fate to bring a 2-year-old to a toy store when the goal is to buy somebody else a birthday present. And that it’s a really bad idea to do so as one last stop during a morning of errands, squeezed in perilously close to naptime. The net result: a full-out Limp Noodle, a tired, angry child who does not happen to agree with you. The arms go slack. The body sinks heavily to the floor. “No! No go!” the Noodle screams. “Not my choice!”

Ordinarily, the great thing about having a toddler is watching her develop her sense of self. That, however, includes the discovery that she has a will of her own. And where there’s a will, there’s also a won’t. The good news: Resistance is not only normal, it’s healthy (it’s your kid gaining confidence, learning independence, and figuring out who she is). The better news: There are tricks for guiding her to a more cooperative attitude. We’ve rounded up some of the best for five of the most frustrating toddler tussles you’re likely to face:

“My toddler won’t let me buckle him into his car seat.”

Worth a battle?

Absolutely. Buckling isn’t just the law, it’s a matter of life or death. Keep your toddler in a five-point-harness seat as long as possible. They’re safer, and harder to unfasten in mid ride.

Tactics to try: Keep it light.

“I make games out of things that they must do,” says Harrisburg, NC, mom Shannon Mathews of her four kids, including 2-year-old twins. “We make it a race to see who can get buckled into their car seat first.” Distracting play, like silly songs or goofy faces, works, too. “If I have just the babies, I make them laugh as I’m strapping them in so they forget what I’m doing, and then I quickly give them each a toy off the floor of the van—there’s always a toy on the floor of our van!”

Bribe them, pure and simple

One snowy winter when Ann Nibbio, a mom of three, was repeatedly having a hard time getting her brood into their car seats, she stashed a bag of chocolate kisses in the glove compartment. “On the way to the car, I’d say, ‘Hey! I just remembered those kisses in the car. You can have one when you’re all buckled up.’

“My kid won’t kiss Grandma.

Worth a battle

Nah, says psychologist Debbie Glasser, Ph.D., founder of Newsforparents.org. “I don’t recommend forcing toddlers to kiss relatives. That approach tends to backfire and make children less likely to greet their relatives and more likely to make a scene.” Anyway, a coaxed hug is seldom sincere—which misses the point in the first place

Tactics to try: Warn your kid

A better way is to prep her so she’s not put on the spot: “Aunt Linda is coming to dinner tonight. She’d love a big hello!” Then, before you answer the door, prompt her: “Aunt Linda loves hugs, but even if you just smile, she’ll be so happy to see you!

Demo your own PDAs

Nibbio’s father resides in an assisted- living facility, where his fellow residents sometimes ask her toddler for a kiss. “I just laugh and say, ‘She doesn’t give kisses, but I do’—and then I plant one on the person’s cheek.” Seeing you give hugs and kisses may help her become comfortable with the idea down the road

“My tot won’t let me brush her teeth.”

Worth a battle?

It depends on your feelings about dental hygiene. I personally never brushed a single one of my kids’ teeth, although I gave each child a soft brush and modeled the general idea. But I stopped short of forcing the issue or using timers, or even having them open wide so I could do all the work myself. Maybe I just got lucky, but I found that with enough praise and by emphasizing the fact that they got to gargle and spit (both fun), the job got done. Pediatric dentists, however, recommend twice-a-day brushing from infancy, and say you should lend a hand until at least age 5 or 6.

Tactics to try: Blame someone else.

That’s how Suellen Durdaller navigates must-do situations with her daughter. “I tell Alysa, ‘The dentist says you must brush your teeth.’ This takes the pressure off me. I just state it as a fact and move on,” says the Downingtown, PA, mom of three.

Sidestep the “no.”

Being matter-of-fact can be useful, says Glasser. “Instead of making a request that requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ try rewording it to pull the response you’re looking for.” Don’t ask, “Ready to brush your teeth?” Instead, say, “It’s toothbrushing time. Will this be a red-brush day or a yellow-brush day?”

“My kid won’t eat vegetables.”

Worth a battle

A small one. Toddlerhood is often a period of strong preferences and weird food jags (okay, picky eating), and that’s fine—within reason. Even if your child is ona veggie boycott, there’s no need to panic. Odds are his food choices will balance out over time, says Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, R.D., a pediatric dietitian at the Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t keep (subtly) working on getting him to acquire a taste for green (and red, orange, and yellow) things.

Tactics to try: Make it a raw deal

Most veggies taste stronger when they’re cooked, which is why most little kids prefer theirs straight out of the crisper (or lightly steamed). Serve yogurt or salad dressing for dipping matchstick-cut carrots, peeled celery, edamame (soy beans), and broccoli “trees.”

Fall back on fruits.

To balance an overall diet, pick fruits, particularly those high in vitamins A (cantaloupes, apricots, mangoes) and C (oranges, strawberries, kiwis). A multivitamin may ease your mind, too; ask your pediatrician.

“My child won’t come when I call.”

Worth a battle?

It’s not realistic to expect a 2-year-old to abandon, say, the close study of the TV remote that he’s conducting just because you tell him to. That said, you don’t want to be at the utter mercy of his whims. “When you repeatedly call but your child doesn’t show up until he’s ready, you’re actually teaching him to ignore you,” says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Discipline Solution and a mom of four.

Tactics to try: Make it sound worth the trip.

When 17-month-old Isabella Covert of Wauwatosa, WI, is in a run-the-other-way mood, her mom, Juanita, pours as much excitement into her tone of voice as she can. “Then I’ll scoop her up to show her I’m happy she’s with me.” At home, Covert sometimes lures Isabella by waving a puppet or playing a musical toy and dancing.

Count down

“Instead of calling ‘Come here now!’ give two warnings,” says Pantley. In the toy store, I might have tried “Page, you’ll need to come in five minutes.” And then, in five minutes, “Page, please come now.” Pantley suggests waiting a minute, and if your child still doesn’t respond, taking him by the hand and saying, “When I call, I expect you to come.”A toddler can’t tell time but will quickly catch on to your progression of heads-ups. (You can also say something like “Two more trips down the slide.”) It helps, Pantley adds, to let your child know you understand his point of view: “I bet you wish you could stay in this toy store forever, but it’s time to go now. Hug the toy doggy one more time. Now here are my keys to hold.” Warn, distract, have your way.

Of course, sometimes even your best efforts will still net a full Limp Noodle. But a little creativity and practice may spare you a steady diet of them.


The Hidden Sugar in Your Kid’s Diet

While fruit drinks, sodas, and other sweet beverages bear the brunt of the too-much-sugar finger-wagging, new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that food choices can contribute significantly more added-sugar calories (59 percent) to your child’s diet than beverages (41 percent). And almost two-thirds of added sugar is gobbled up at home—not at daycare or school. Most of us aren’t doling out Pixy Stix at snacktime, so what gives? “Many parents don’t realize that oftentimes when fat is taken out of a food, sugar is put in. So if you’re buying something labeled low-fat, it likely appears healthier than it really is,” says Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Read labels carefully and avoid foods with more than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Some sneaky sugars you may have missed:

Low-Fat Peanut Butter

“Manufacturers take out the fat, but to give it the texture and taste of regular peanut butter, they add sugar,” says Tanner-Blasiar. “The fat that is naturally occurring in peanut butter is healthy, so go with the regular stuff.” P.S. Truly healthy peanut butter contains peanuts and maybe some salt-that’s it.


Some children’s cereals contain more sugar than a Twinkie—and it’s not just the rainbow-colored, chocolate-loaded choices that are the problem. “Ideally, you want to select a cereal with five grams of sugar or less per serving,” says Tanner-Blasiar. Or you can mix a healthier low-sugar cereal with a pre-sweetened one.

Packaged Fruit

The little bit of sugar you get from eating whole fruit is a good thing, since it’s also packed with nutrients and fiber, which helps fill you up, says Tanner-Blasiar. With canned fruit, however, the good-for-you element is less beneficial and the sugar is higher—especially if you’re buying the syrup-packed variety. “Always look for water-packed,” says Tanner-Blasiar. “If you accidentally get the syrupy one, thoroughly rinse the fruit in water.”

Flavored Milk

Keep this to an occasional treat. Instead of premade varieties, make your own with skim milk and Ovaltine or Carnation Instant Breakfast, both of which have additional vitamins and less sugar.

Fruit Leather

These are just as sugar-packed as fruit juice. Check the label. If you see things like corn syrup, artificial colors, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, say no thanks. “The only ingredients should be fruit-derived,” says Tanner-Blasiar, and fresh fruit is always best!


Since milk already contains sugar thanks to naturally occurring lactose, added flavors can really up the quota. Your best bet is to buy plain or vanilla and add your own sweetness by way of berries or banana chunks.


Foods (and Drinks) That Soothe Sick Kids

For a cold

When your child’s nose is stuffed up, she’s coughing or her throat is so sore it hurts to swallow, push fluids. This will loosen phlegm and make it easier for your child to cough it up. “Offer your child water first, then ice pops and ginger ale. Diluted fruit juice is fine, too, in moderation,” says Michele Peterson, M.D., a pediatrician with the HealthEast Woodbury Pediatric Clinic, in Woodbury, Minnesota.

For a sore throat, either warm or very cold liquids are soothing as well: warm tea, hot chocolate, ice pops, and cold juice. You may want to skip citrus juices, since they’re acidic and can hurt some kids’ throats. (If OJ doesn’t bother your child, though, it’s fine.)

To encourage her daughter Nora, 2, to drink when she has a cold, Joanna Carrell of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, gives her a sippy cup with a soft, rubbery straw in it. “She only gets to use a straw when she’s sick, so this cup is a treat,” says Carrell. “I fill it with half juice and half water, and it’s a great way to make sure she gets fluid when she’s very congested and doesn’t feel like drinking anything.”

Chicken soup, of course, is the classic remedy for colds and sore throats. And it is something special. Research has shown that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties, reducing the movement of neutrophils—immune cells that stimulate the release of mucus. Both homemade and canned soup—even just the broth—are effective. If your child has an appetite, try adding some crumbled-up whole-wheat crackers or cooked macaroni.

For an upset stomach

Fluids are important if your child has diarrhea, and essential if she’s throwing up. Every year several hundred thousand children with stomach flu are admitted to hospital emergency departments for dehydration. Often when a child is vomiting, parents avoid giving anything to drink at all, to let her stomach “settle.” That’s a mistake, says Beth Gleghorn, M.D., division director for pediatric gastroenterology at Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland. Withhold solid food—and plain water, which isn’t well tolerated in the digestive tract during a stomach flu. But be vigilant about offering the right fluids. Here’s how:

For a baby

  • If you’re breastfeeding, nurse for shorter periods more frequently. If she throws up right after a feeding, wait 20 minutes and then offer the breast again. “It’s likely that you’ve gotten something into her, even if it seems like she’s thrown up everything,” Dr. Gleghorn says. If your baby keeps throwing up, and you think she may be getting dehydrated, stop breastfeeding for a couple of hours and offer a tablespoon (half an ounce) of an oral rehydration solution like Pedialyte every 10 to 15 minutes, until the vomiting stops. Then resume nursing. (Pedialyte, or a generic version of it, has the right balance of potassium and sodium to replenish what kids lose when they vomit or have diarrhea.)
  • If you’re bottle-feeding, stop the formula and instead give your baby one tablespoon of an oral rehydration solution. Wait 20 minutes and then offer another tablespoon. One easy way to offer the fluid is to put it into a medicine dropper. “As your baby feels better, keep doubling the amount of liquid in the dropper,” says Dr. Peterson.

For a child, age 1 and up

  • Offer one or two tablespoons of an oral rehydration solution every 20 to 30 minutes, advises Andrea McCoy, M.D., a pediatrics associate professor at Temple University in Philadelphia.
  • If she throws up, wait 30 minutes and try again.
  • If she keeps it down, slowly increase the amount until she’s taking two tablespoons (about an ounce) every 10 minutes.
  • Don’t worry if you give your child more than these amounts—this isn’t medicine. The only reason to give so little at first is to help your child keep it down.
  • By age 3 or 4, many kids will balk at the taste. Try disguising it by stirring a drink mix like sugar-free Kool-Aid or Crystal Light into the Pedialyte, suggests Dr. McCoy. “It doesn’t increase the sugar load and it can mask the salty taste.”
  • If your child has only diarrhea with no vomiting, an oral rehydration solution is fine, but you can also give her other liquids such as water or milk. Even flat soda (like ginger ale) is okay, says Dr. McCoy. But skip fruit juice for now.
  • If your child falls asleep—and doesn’t show signs of dehydration—don’t wake her up just to drink more. To get better, she needs rest, too.

For a child who’s starting to feel better

A couple of hours after she’s stopped vomiting, you can offer fruit juice. Dr. McCoy suggests white grape juice—but not for medical reasons: If it comes back up, it won’t stain the furniture.

At this point you can also offer small portions of food. The goal is to get your child back to her regular diet of foods she likes, with some exceptions. For a day or two, avoid sugary drinks, orange juice or other acidic beverages and foods that are high-sugar, spicy or greasy.

Instead, give a recuperating child simple foods such as crackers, dry cereal, pancakes (no butter, and easy on the syrup) or peanut butter sandwiches. Try canned chicken noodle soup and salty crackers; she needs to replace some sodium, too. Lydia Voles of Ossining, New York, cuts toast with a dinosaur cookie cutter, which delights her sons, Jack and Cal Lepkowski, 8 and 5.

Joann Muñoz of North Bergen, New Jersey, prepares an Ecuadorean drink for her 2-year-old, Zein. “I boil a cup of white rice with a pinch of salt in four cups of water until it’s almost crumbling apart,” she says. “Then I strain it and give my son the starchy water. It settles the stomach and is very binding.”

Milk was once considered off limits right after a stomach flu, but that’s no longer the case, says Dr. McCoy. “Once the vomiting is settled, and children feel better, they can go back to drinking milk,” she says. Just start it slowly, she says. In most cases it’s fine and won’t make a case of diarrhea worse.

For a fever

If your child has a fever but no vomiting or diarrhea, he’ll still need fluids. Offer frequent sips of diluted fruit juicee, Gatorade or milk, says Dr. Peterson. Applesauce, soup and fruit (fresh or canned) also contain plenty of liquid.

Even if your feverish child doesn’t have much of an appetite, some options might be appealing. Try: applesauce topped with a few raisins and a little cinnamon sugar; chilled, canned peaches served, sundae style, over vanilla frozen yogurt; cream of wheat flavored with a dash of vanilla extract and a little maple syrup; and club soda topped off with cold cran-raspberry juice.

Remember that whether your child has a fever, a stomach bug or a cold, it’ll probably be a day or two before he really starts to eat like himself again.


Baby’s First Foods

Getting your baby to learn how to eat his first foods can seem like a daunting milestone, but it’s not astrophysics. When the time is right, he’ll figure it out, with a little help from you. And even if you goof once or twice  — say, give him fruit before rice cereal  — nothing bad is likely to happen. Still, by sticking to the right timing and sequence of your baby’s first “real” foods, you can improve his nutrition and health.

Before you start, remember that offering solids is a gradual process. Until now, your baby has only known breast milk or formula (and he’ll continue to need them until he’s 1). If he pushes food out of his mouth or presses his lips together when you eagerly try to spoon-feed him, don’t force it. He may not be ready to eat solids yet. And even when he is, it can take as many as 20 times before he warms up to a particular food.

The first few times you offer him something he’s never eaten before, one or two teaspoons is enough. Just getting the taste of it on his little lips is an accomplishment. The most important thing is to make his first experiences with new foods as positive as possible.

Why You Shouldn’t Start Too Soon

It’s best to introduce solid foods when your baby’s between 4 and 6 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In some cases, it’s okay to begin a little later (some babies may not be developmentally ready until 7 months), but starting sooner is definitely not a good idea. Here’s why:


It’ll backfire.
Babies are born with a reflex that makes them push their tongue forward when something touches it — which means they can’t use the tongue to move food from the front to the back of the mouth. If you try to push the food into your baby’s mouth, he may start to gag, which certainly isn’t going to make his first experience with solids a pleasant one. Between 4 and 6 months, this reflex disappears.

He may develop a food allergy.
“The gut is much more permeable before four months, so whole proteins can be absorbed easily, which increases the risk of developing an allergy,” says William Dietz, M.D., director of the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

He doesn’t need it.
Up until about 6 months, breast milk or formula provides all the nutrition he requires. After that, he’ll start to need certain nutrients from solid foods. He also should get additional calories — how many varies from baby to baby. On average, by the time he’s 1, he may take in about 400 extra calories from solids; 600 by age 2.

He could acquire long-term health problems.
In one study, infants fed cereal before 3 months old had a higher risk of developing celiac disease (a serious intolerance of wheat protein) than those who were fed cereal between 4 and 6 months. Studies also suggest that babies given cereal before 3 months (and, possibly, after 7 months for the first time) are at greater risk for diabetes.

Getting your baby to learn how to eat his first foods can seem like a daunting milestone, but it’s not astrophysics. When the time is right, he’ll figure it out, with a little help from you. And even if you goof once or twice  — say, give him fruit before rice cereal  — nothing bad is likely to happen. Still, by sticking to the right timing and sequence of your baby’s first “real” foods, you can improve his nutrition and health.

Before you start, remember that offering solids is a gradual process. Until now, your baby has only known breast milk or formula (and he’ll continue to need them until he’s 1). If he pushes food out of his mouth or presses his lips together when you eagerly try to spoon-feed him, don’t force it. He may not be ready to eat solids yet. And even when he is, it can take as many as 20 times before he warms up to a particular food.

The first few times you offer him something he’s never eaten before, one or two teaspoons is enough. Just getting the taste of it on his little lips is an accomplishment. The most important thing is to make his first experiences with new foods as positive as possible.

Why You Shouldn’t Start Too Soon

It’s best to introduce solid foods when your baby’s between 4 and 6 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In some cases, it’s okay to begin a little later (some babies may not be developmentally ready until 7 months), but starting sooner is definitely not a good idea. Here’s why:


It’ll backfire.
Babies are born with a reflex that makes them push their tongue forward when something touches it — which means they can’t use the tongue to move food from the front to the back of the mouth. If you try to push the food into your baby’s mouth, he may start to gag, which certainly isn’t going to make his first experience with solids a pleasant one. Between 4 and 6 months, this reflex disappears.

He may develop a food allergy.
“The gut is much more permeable before four months, so whole proteins can be absorbed easily, which increases the risk of developing an allergy,” says William Dietz, M.D., director of the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

He doesn’t need it.
Up until about 6 months, breast milk or formula provides all the nutrition he requires. After that, he’ll start to need certain nutrients from solid foods. He also should get additional calories — how many varies from baby to baby. On average, by the time he’s 1, he may take in about 400 extra calories from solids; 600 by age 2.

He could acquire long-term health problems.
In one study, infants fed cereal before 3 months old had a higher risk of developing celiac disease (a serious intolerance of wheat protein) than those who were fed cereal between 4 and 6 months. Studies also suggest that babies given cereal before 3 months (and, possibly, after 7 months for the first time) are at greater risk for diabetes.

The Best Foods, Age by Age

When your baby is ready — he can sit up in his high chair and shows interest in your food — you’ll want to start certain kinds of foods first. Be careful not to inundate your little gourmet with too many different foods in a short span of time. Allow at least three days between new foods. That way, you won’t overwhelm him, and you’ll be able to spot any problems that may arise with a particular food.

Let your baby decide how much to eat. For some meals — or days — he may not eat much; on others, he may be ravenous. Go with the flow.

What you eat matters, too
When you were pregnant, the flavors of the foods you ate were transferred through amniotic fluid to your fetus; if you’re nursing, what you eat flavors your milk. Research shows that when your baby is ready to eat solid food, chances are he’ll remember those flavors. For instance, in one study, 3- to 10-month-old babies of moms who drank carrot juice in their last trimester or during breastfeeding seemed to relish the taste of cereal made with carrot juice instead of water. Those mothers who didn’t drink carrot juice had babies who were tentative about eating carrot-juice-flavored cereal.

There’s no guarantee that if you love broccoli your baby will as well. But the more varied and healthy your food choices, the better your chances are of raising a kid who likes his veggies, too.

A Safety Checklist

Until your baby is at least 7 months, don’t puree your own beets, turnips, carrots, spinach, or collard greens because they may have large amounts of nitrates, which can cause anemia in young infants. (Commercial baby-food varieties are fine. They’re tested to be nitrate-free.) And if you use well water, get it tested for nitrates.

Until your child is 1, avoid honey — it can contain spores that may produce life-threatening infant botulism.

Until your child is 4, don’t feed him these foods, which are choking hazards:

  • nuts and seeds
  • popcorn
  • raw vegetables
  • hard or sticky candy
  • chewing gum
  • whole grapes, cherries
  • chunky peanut butter (instead, use the smooth kind, spread very thinly over crackers or bread)

After your child is 1, cut up firm, round foods (grapes, cooked carrots, hot dogs, chunks of cheese or meat) into very small pieces — about a quarter inch — before serving.

At any age, if your child experiences rashes, vomiting, bloating, gas, or diarrhea after a new food, stop giving it to him and talk to your doctor. He may have an allergy or food intolerance.

The Best Foods for 4 to 7 Months

New Foods
Begin iron-fortified rice cereal, mixed with breast milk or formula. Gradually — one new food every few days — introduce other kinds of cereal, such as wheat, bran, or oats, and finely strained, pureed, or mashed fruits and vegetables.

How Often?
Twice a day

Sample Daily Menu
These are suggestions to give you a sense of how much food your child may need over the course of a day. Your baby may eat more or less.
* 12 teaspoons of cooked warm rice cereal
* 2 ounces of jarred, mashed apples
* 2 ounces of jarred, pureed carrots

The Best Foods for 7 to 10 Months

New Foods
Strained or mashed fruits and vegetables with a slightly thicker consistency, like bananas, applesauce, squash, cooked egg, finely chopped meat, poultry, or fish

How Often?
Up to three times a day

Sample Daily Menu
* 12 teaspoons of barley cereal
* 4 ounces of mashed bananas
* 1 scrambled egg yolk
* 1 four-ounce jar of mashed sweet potatoes
* 1 four-ounce jar of chicken and rice

The Best Foods for 9 to 12 Months

New Foods
Phase in soft combination foods, such as macaroni and cheese, pasta with tomato sauce, and casseroles. Now that your child can sit up and bring food to his mouth with his hands, he can eat finger foods that dissolve in the mouth without chewing, like baby crackers and bite-size cooked frozen vegetables.

How Often?
Feed him three to four meals a day, along with two nutritious snacks, such as a small cup of yogurt, a little cheese, or some bean dip. That, by the way, is an ideal eating pattern for the rest of his childhood. The portions will get bigger as he grows, but the basic schedule will stay the same.

Sample Daily Menu
* 18 teaspoons of baby oatmeal
* 4 ounces of plain yogurt with 1 four-ounce jar of peaches
* ¼ cup of peas, placed on his tray
* 1 six-ounce bowl of pasta with cheese
* ½ slice of muenster cheese, cut into tiny pieces

The Best Foods for 12 Months and Up

New Foods
Add whole cow’s milk to his diet. He’ll need the extra calories and fat until he’s 2; then you can switch to lower-fat or skim milk.

How Often?
Three or four meals, plus two snacks; the same pattern as above.

Sample Daily Menu
* 4 to 8 tablespoons — that’s 12 to 24 teaspoons of cooked vegetables or fruit, cut into small pieces or pureed
* 4 servings of grain food (a serving is ¼ slice of bread or 2 tablespoons of rice, potatoes, or pasta)
* 2 servings ½ ounce or 1 tablespoon each serving) of cooked meat, poultry, fish, or eggs

Is Your Child at Risk for Food Allergies?

The average infant has about a 5 percent chance of developing food allergies by age 3; there’s no evidence that restricting certain solid foods will help prevent allergies for most babies. Likewise, it’s fine to continue eating your normal diet when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

But if you or your baby’s dad has asthma, hay fever, eczema, or food allergies, the risk goes up to 20 to 30 percent. If you both do, the risk is 40 to 70 percent. There’s still debate whether restricting your diet when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding — avoiding peanuts, for example — will reduce your baby’s chances of developing allergies, so it’s best to talk over your particular situation with your doctor. But if there’s a family history, once your baby is born, follow these recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Breastfeed exclusively for 6 months; if you use formula, buy a hypoallergenic one, such as Nutramigen or Alimentum. (Even after he’s eating, he’ll still need breast milk or formula until he’s at least 1.)

After 6 months, introduce solids, but avoid the foods that cause most food allergies: peanuts, tree nuts, cow’s milk, and shellfish. You may also want to skip wheat and soy.

After age 1, introduce whole cow’s milk, wheat, and soy (if you’ve avoided them). Do so one food at a time, and wait a few days before introducing the next one so you can watch to see if there’s any reaction.

Wait until your child’s at least 2 before feeding him eggs, and at least 3 before giving him seafood or nut products.


New Mommy Survival Guide

No matter how many moms you talk to before you give birth, you won’t truly know what the first few weeks of motherhood really are like until you go through them. Sure, you know you will need standard supplies for Baby, like diapers, burp rags and bodysuits, but what about you? What will you need to survive the 24-hour grind of regular feedings, endless diaper changes and lack of sleep? We have compiled a list of what we think are mommy must-dos and must-haves for the first few weeks of motherhood.

Before Baby Arrives

Meal prep

Make meals ahead of time and freeze them, so you can easily pull them out and heat them when you’re hungry. Lasagna, chili or casseroles freeze really well. You don’t have to cook for hours. Just make a double batch of whatever you happen to be cooking and put half of it away for a future meal. It’s also a good idea to make sure your pantry is well-stocked with simple things you can make if all of a sudden your days become nights and nights become days because baby doesn’t sleep. Great things to have on hand, especially when you’re sleep-deprived, are dried pasta, soup, cereal and crackers.

Stockpile supplies

Before having a baby, if you need anything like food, clothing or toiletries, you can just run to the store whenever you feel like it to restock. Not anymore! After baby arrives, if you want to go out, you need to take the baby with you. Because it’s silly to spend a half hour or more getting a baby dressed and stocking the diaper bag just to buy one thing from the store, it’s a really good idea to stock up on items you may need. Here are some things you will not want to run out of:

  • Formula and bottles: Obviously you’ll need formula if you’re not nursing, but you may need it to supplement even if you are.
  • Diapers: You’re going to go through 8 to 12 per day at first.
  • Wipes: Because something always needs wiped!
  • Household paper products, like paper towels, tissues and toilet paper: Again, because something always needs to be wiped.
  • Laundry detergent: You’ll be doing A LOT of laundry.
  • Extra crib or bassinet sheets and blankets: So you can stretch out time between laundry loads.
  • Baby bodysuits or one-piece outfits: They are the easiest to open and close through all those diaper changes.
  • Acetaminophen: It helps with the aches and pains of recovery, and it’s safe to take while nursing.
  • Heavy-duty feminine napkins: This is not a fun topic, but trust us, you will need a supply that will last several weeks.
  • Stain remover: To keep baby’s spit-up marks from turning all your clothes into a polka-dot theme.
  • Nursing pads: Your breasts will likely leak a bit between feedings, especially if it’s close to feeding time and you hear a crying baby! Even if you’re not nursing, your body will still produce milk for your little one at first and your supply will take a while to dry up.
  • Stool softener: Even though you’ll be leaking elsewhere, the one place you will want to may elude you. Be aware that some pain medications can make this problem worse. Ask your doctor which stool softeners are safe to take while nursing, and for heaven’s sake, listen to the nurse when she tells you not to push when you go to the bathroom. You don’t want to deal with hemorrhoids on top of everything else!
  • Antibiotic cream, like Neosporin: This helps with healing, especially if you have a C-section. It works wonders healing the incision.
  • Protein or meal bars: These are good for easy snacking because some days you’ll even be too tired to consume the frozen meals you prepped ahead of time.
  • Mouthwash: You may not have the time or energy to brush the protein bar breath away.
  • Cotton swabs: These work to snag the ever-elusive baby booger that hides just out of reach of your adult-sized hands. Just be careful not to stick it too far in.
  • Two kinds of diaper-rash ointments: Regular diaper-rash ointments work well for daily diaper changings, but when the diaper rash overpowers them, stronger ointments, such as Triple Paste, work shockingly fast to clear up Baby’s bum. Sometimes even overnight!
  • Antibacterial gel: You’ll learn quickly that not every public place has a changing station, and you will have to change diapers in weird places without areas to wash your hands right away.

When Baby Gets Home

Let someone else feed the baby once in a while

The reality is newborns eat every 3 to 4 hours, and delegating some feedings can give you some uninterrupted rest. Granted, this is easier if you’re using formula. Whoever happens to be around, Dad or a visiting relative, can feed the baby while you do something else (most likely sleep!). If you’re nursing, you can pump some breast milk into a bottle or save it for later by freezing it, although experts advise waiting a few weeks while mom and baby are getting into the rhythm of breastfeeding before introducing a bottle to avoid nipple confusion and to encourage milk production. Nursing moms may find that it’s simplest to nurse rather than pump—the milk is always ready and always at the right temperature, with no stressful pumping or bottles to wash—and others can pitch in in other ways.

Ask for help when you need it

In a perfect world, every mom would have a baby nurse waiting for her when she came home from the hospital. The reality is, most of us are on our own with a new baby, especially if Dad has to go back to work right away. If you feel overwhelmed caring for a newborn, reach out to a friend or relative for help. If you’re feeling particularly sleep-deprived or can’t remember the last time you bathed, taking a break to take a nap or a shower should help even the most nervous new mom relax so she can savor her time with her little one.