Why baby is not eating food

Why Your Baby Won't Eat

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 23, 2022

It's just a fact of life: "Children come equipped to reject new foods," says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler. To help your baby accept new foods, start with tiny portions. Also try to make new food look similar to a familiar favorite. If they like pureed carrots, try pureed sweet potato.

Cereal on the floor and peas in baby's hair? Congratulations, your little one is showing signs of independence. At about 9 months, many babies start wanting to control feeding time and where they put their food. While it may be hard to sit back and watch the mess grow, take heart, this is an important step for your baby's learning, growth, and self-reliance.

It's normal for babies to spit up a little, especially newborns. Babies' digestive systems are still developing. Babies can also get reflux, which is when food in the stomach backs up into the esophagus. To help manage reflux, try feeding your baby more slowly or feed them less at each sitting, loosening their diaper, and keeping them upright after they eat. Reflux almost always resolves without treatment by 12-14 months of age.

You offer your little one a bit of food and they turn their head, swat at the spoon, or clamp their mouth shut. Babies refuse to eat every now and then for lots of reasons: They're tired, sick, distracted, or just full. Don't force-feed your baby, but do talk to your child's doctor if you're worried.

While picky eating may linger for weeks, even months, it rarely lasts. Your baby can become a picky eater for lots of reasons, says Ward. When babies aren’t feeling their best -- like when teething -- familiar foods provide comfort. Or maybe your baby just isn't ready to try a new food. Make sure you don't give the baby junk food just because that's all they want. Offer healthy foods, and a hungry baby will eventually eat them.

Up to 8% of children have food allergies. Symptoms such as rash, diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach pain can show up suddenly. Though kids can be allergic to any food, milk, nuts, eggs, soy, wheat, and shellfish are the most problem foods. Food intolerances are more common than allergies and may cause gas, bloating, and belly pain. If you suspect a food allergy, work with your child's doctor to find safe foods.

As many as 2 out of 5 babies cope with colic -- crying for hours at a time. Colic can start when a baby is 3 weeks old and usually goes away by their 3rd month. While colic won't affect your baby’s appetite or ability to suck, a colicky baby may need time to calm down before they eat. And they may be inclined to spit up a little once they do. However, call their doctor about vomiting, diarrhea, fever, weight loss, or blood or mucus in their stool. These are not symptoms of colic.

Diarrhea can quickly lead to dangerous dehydration. Signs include dry mouth, decrease in urination or wet diapers, no tears with crying, weight loss, lethargy, or sunken eyes. All are worth a call to baby’s doctor.

Babies are rarely constipated. And it can be hard to tell if they are because how often babies have bowel movements can vary. For example, babies who only breastfeed may have a firm stool just once a day. Signs of constipation include hard stools that can be large and painful, and blood around the stool. Before trying home remedies, talk to your baby's doctor.

Is jarred baby food the cause of your baby's digestive issues? It could be if you feed them directly from the food jar and save the leftovers for another meal. Doing that can introduce bacteria from your baby's mouth into the food where it waits until the next time your baby eats it. When baby eats the leftover food it can lead to tummy trouble such as vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms.

Sometimes mom and dad may be the source of baby's feeding problem. "There's a temptation to give older infants the same foods you're eating," says Ward. But that's never a good idea if what you're eating is junk. Start giving baby sweet, salty, or fatty foods now and it'll be hard to keep break your child's unhealthy eating habits when they are a toddler.

A baby's undeveloped gastrointestinal system can't deal with some foods that an adult's body can. Honey, for example, may lead to infant botulism, which can be fatal. Always steer clear of chunky foods that pose choking hazards such as popcorn, hot dogs, raw fruits and veggies, raisins, and meat or cheese chunks.

Because so many things could be causing your baby's feeding problems, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor if you're worried. Always call your child's pediatrician right away if your baby is losing weight; if they gag or vomit when they have certain foods; if you suspect diarrhea, dehydration, or constipation; or if you think they have reflux. You shouldn't feel shy about talking with your child's doctor if you have any questions or concerns.


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Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, registered dietitian; author, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler.
Piette, L. Just Two More Bites: Helping Picky Eaters Say Yes to Food, Three Rivers Press, 2006.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, Bantam Books, 2009.
Children's Hospital Boston: "Newborn Gastrointestinal Problems."
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, National Institutes of Health: "Gastroesophageal Reflux in Infants."
National Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition:  “Pediatric Gastroesophageal Reflux Clinical Practice Guidelines.”
Mackonochie, A. The Practical Encyclopedia of Pregnancy, Babycare and Nutrition for Babies and Toddlers, Lorenz Books, 2006.
National Institutes of Health: "Food Allergy."
American Academy of Family Physicians: "Feeding Problems in Infants and Children."
KidsHealth.org: "Your Colicky Baby."
ADD American Academy of Pediatrics, healthychildren.org: "Diarrhea" and "Constipation"
Children's Hospital Boston: "Newborn Gastrointestinal Problems. "
American Dietetic Association: "Don't Feed Baby from the Jar," "Introducing Solid Foods."
Dr. Greene.com: "Honey and Infant Botulism."
The New York Times: "Labels Urged for Foods That Can Choke."
Children's Physician Network: "Picky Eaters."

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5 Reasons Your Baby Refuses to Eat

When your baby refuses to eat it can be very stressful. One thing that will ease your stress is understanding why your baby isn’t eating.

Food refusal in infants and young children is a tough reality for parents to accept. I see 5 common reasons why babies taper off in their eating.

Here, you’ll learn why your baby is refusing to eat and how you can help.

I’ll cover:

  • Constipation in babies
  • Boredom with the same food options
  • Pain
  • Feeding practices that are counter-productive
  • Readiness to eat
Photo by Donnie Ray Jones

Why is My Baby Not Eating?

Your baby ate yesterday. And the day before.

But, today, she’s not having food. What’s going on?

One of the most worrisome issues I see new parents face is when their baby refuses to eat.

From being sick to being extra sensitive to texture in food, there are several reason why your baby won’t eat.

When your baby is not eating, it can be a temporary thing, or it can develop into a concerning pattern.

Many babies have a good appetite in the first year or two of life.

They grow at a rapid pace. Their bodies lengthen and they gain weight.

Even their brains are getting bigger and learning is taking off at quite a clip.

All of this infant growth and development takes energy.  

As a result, babies generally have a good appetite and a natural drive to eat.

Yet, sometimes babies just won’t eat as well as expected, or as well as they used to.

You’ll need to discern whether this is a temporary phase, or a pattern that’s developing.

Most babies who are in a temporary food refusal phase will show interest in eating and get back on track within a meal or two.

If your baby is not eating and it’s becoming a pattern, he may need more help.

If baby is losing or not gaining weight, appears dehydrated, or is regressing to the bottle and not regaining interest in eating food, then it’s time to see the doctor.

Common Reasons Your Baby Won’t Eat

I’ve seen many babies who won’t eat in my career as a pediatric nutritionist.

Often, by the time I see them, they’re in a pattern of not eating enough and growth is faltering.

When we get to the root of the challenges, several things have come together to create the issue.

In other words, it’s not usually one thing, but a few things that have created the “perfect storm.”

Let’s take a look:

5 Reasons Your Baby Refuses to Eat. #babyfood #firstfoods #startingsolids #healthyeating Click To Tweet

#1: Your Baby is Constipated

When babies transition from a liquid diet and start to eat solid foods, constipation can set in.

Liquids such as breast milk or infant formula are fairly easy to digest and absorb in the intestines.

But add in solid food and the gastrointestinal tract has to do more work.

This can slow things down.

And this can cause baby losing appetite.

I had a similar experience with one of my kids.

When my first born transitioned from breast milk to solids, we had a heck of a time with constipation.

In part, her digestive system was getting used to solids and a new baby feeding schedule.

When babies are constipated, it causes a feeling of fullness.

If the intestinal tract is full of stool, the stomach may fill up, and this may lead to a lost appetite and less eating.

You can help your baby if he’s constipated with home remedies such as diluted prune juice, but take care to use only those that are appropriate for an infant.

Talk with your pediatrician if you’re worried.

Also, as your baby grows, you’ll want to incorporate more fiber into her diet.

#2: Your Baby is Not Eating Because He’s Bored

Recently, I met a child who, at the age of 22 months, was still eating baby food.

You could say by this point, he was hooked on smooth purees and was very disinterested in textured food other than crunchy crackers and cereals.

He was also delayed in his self-feeding skills.

Pureed foods are great and many babies love them.

Some babies love them too much, getting hooked on them.

Others don’t get challenged with more texture, receiving “safe” purees and familiar flavors.

After you introduce solids, and by 7 months, most babies should be moving on to more texture, flavor and food experiences. In other words, this is the typical age for an upgrade.

Babies and young toddlers are naturally curious. They want to explore and try new foods.

Holding them back when they are developmentally ready to move on can delay their overall developmental progress, including language skills, self-confidence and of course, nutrition.

One study showed that children who didn’t move on to more textured foods like chopped table food and finger foods by 9 months showed significant picky eating later on at 7 years of age.

If your baby is refusing purees and spoon-feeding, or stuck on baby food pouches, he may be bored with food.

Skip to chopped table foods or try a baby led weaning approach, instead.

Boredom may be a sign your baby needs more texture, flavors, and more autonomy (Hello, finger foods!) with self-feeding.

#3: Your Baby Won’t Eat Because She’s in Pain

Teething is a common culprit for a baby not eating. His mouth hurts.

But there are other reasons for pain that may be contributing to why your baby won’t eat.

An illness involving a sore throat or ear pain may cause short-term food refusal.

Reflux (a condition where baby’s stomach acids creep up into the esophagus) can cause pain and impede interest in eating.

If this is chronic, your baby may associate pain with eating and develop a pattern of disinterest.

Colic and other digestive problems including gas, cramping or other symptoms can be problematic.

Food allergies or intolerances such as esophageal esophagitis, (EoE), oral allergy syndrome (OAS) or a food allergy to one of the Big 8 (ie, milk, egg, wheat, etc) can cause pain, discomfort and reduce food intake.

An acute illness like a cold can turn any baby off from eating.

However, most babies will resume eating when the illness passes.

If you suspect a more involved, underlying medical condition is the root of your baby’s refusal to eat, see your doctor.

#4: You’re Using Negative Feeding Practices

Feeding should always be a positive experience, for any child, at any age.

When it’s not positive, young children can make negative associations with eating.

For example, if your child is eating with a baby-led weaning approach and is gagging frequently, this could be negative for him.

The same goes for spoon-feeding your baby.

If you force bites of food when your baby is full and doesn’t want any more, you could trigger a negative association with coming to the highchair to eat.

While most babies will recover from minor incidents like gagging, some babies who are more sensitive to their environment, transitions and changes, or a have a sensitive temperament may imprint these negative experiences.

You can imagine, this can make a baby withdraw from food, or at least negatively influence her desire to eat.

To avoid this situation, brush up on your feeding style and feeding practices so they are positive, connected and responsive – this will help you create a positive feeding experience for your baby.

You can learn that and more in my book, The Smart Mom’s Guide to Starting Solids.

Grab this on Amazon

#5: Your Baby is a Late Bloomer

Babies are unique and have individual characteristics, but they all follow along a developmental scheme.

Tackling the different stages of development happens at different times and reflects what we call developmental readiness.

We have stages of readiness for solids, which is a guideline to help you know when your child is ready to take the next step.

For example, babies are generally ready to begin first foods around 6 months.

Some are ready earlier, some are ready later.

It’s important to watch for the signs. (Read more about those here.)

Some babies are slower to show signs of readiness for solids.

They are late bloomers, if you will. Kind of like my late readers!

No matter how much we practiced reading skills, they weren’t early readers. They learned on their own time table.

Some children are poorly coordinated in their ability to chew and manipulate food in the mouth. They need more practice.

Some find textures offensive and need more time and experience with them to warm up.

Other babies are more sensitive to the sensory characteristics of food. They may gag when they see, touch or taste food.

This may be why your baby refuses to eat. Don’t fret too much if your baby is a late bloomer.

Stay alert to signs of readiness and provide opportunities for more experiences with food.

One thing you can do is plop a spoonful of puree on the highchair or a spoonful of chopped food and just let your baby mess around with it.

If your baby is holding or touching food, show him how to bring his hand to his mouth.

Remember, keep it positive and let your baby lead. No forcing!

If your baby isn’t ready and you force it, this won’t be fun or pleasant and may lead to disinterest or a situation where your baby refuses to eat.

[Watch our YouTube video about Baby Feeding: Which Mistakes to Avoid]

Get More Help if Your Baby is Not Eating

How long should you wait to do something when your baby refuses to eat? Should you wait it out?

At what point is waiting it out potentially causing more challenges down the road?

In most cases, your baby will sort things out on his own, provided you offer regular, balanced meals and snacks, have a positive feeding environment, and stay relaxed.

Here are the Signs You Need to Visit the Doctor

It’s time to head to the doctor’s office if your baby:

  • isn’t moving on to more textured food by 9 months
  • still refuses to eat
  • shows little interest in eating
  • seems distressed with eating
  • appears dehydrated
  • is losing weight

In this case, it’s best to further investigate the root issues, such as a food intolerance or allergy, digestive problems, or sensory challenges.

Perhaps your baby needs a feeding evaluation, or you need a dietitian to evaluate your feeding approach including the feeding schedule, food offerings and feeding interactions.

Help Your Baby Love Food!

Feeding your baby should be a positive, learning experience.

For more resources and support in this area, check out the following materials:

Try New Food Workbook is a very helpful resource for parents who may be entering into the picky eating phase.

It’s also a great way to learn how to prevent picky eating!

Listen to The Nourished Child podcast for free information about baby nutrition and feeding.

Tune in to these podcast episodes for more inspiration!

Simple Tips for Adding New Foods

Reasons Your Child Won’t Eat (& What You Can Do)

You may also want to read:

  • 11 Stool Softener Foods for Kids
  • My Favorite Children’s Books about Nutrition
  • 25 Allergy Free Snacks for School


Watch this video on YouTube

This post was updated on January 17, 2021 to include more resources.

What to do if the child does not eat well

April 14, 2019 A life Food

How to feed children with a selective appetite and instill in them a love for healthy food - we explain together with "Maloyezhka".

Why babies are so picky about what they eat

Children's appetite and eating habits are influenced by the timing of the first meal, metabolic rate and lifestyle.

First solid foods

Doctors refer to the age between four and six months as the "window of tolerance" - this is the time when children should be given their first solid foods. The longer a child is not introduced to a new food, the stronger his attachment to one type of food is formed. This affects appetite later: children refuse vegetables, ask for cookies and agree to eat soup only if there is ice cream later. nine0003

Metabolic rate

The child may eat little because he has a slow metabolism. This is a normal feature of the body, not a pathology. To understand how this works, you can draw an analogy with the fuel consumption of cars: one car needs 5 liters per 100 kilometers, while the other “eats” 20 liters under the same conditions.


Selective appetite or refusal to eat is largely a matter of upbringing and lifestyle. If the child does not want to eat, then he did not spend enough energy and did not have time to get hungry. To awaken the appetite, you need to increase energy consumption: walk in the fresh air, ride the slides or offer classes in the sports section. The more energy children expend, the better their appetite. nine0003

How to understand if a child is eating enough

Traditionally, parents, grandmothers and neighbors from the stairwell determine the health of the baby by his fatness and appetite. "The child must eat," and the more the better. If it doesn't, then something is wrong with it. Do not rush to panic.

It is believed that among children aged 3-6 years, only 18% are "babies".

Malnutrition is not defined by portion size and appetite, but by a lack of nutrients in the diet. nine0003

Here are the criteria to determine this:

  • The child does not gain weight for a long time, growth and lags behind in physical development. Calculate your baby's weight, height and daily nutrient requirements using the calculator.
  • A child older than 1.5-2 years does not eat certain food groups. For example, refuses vegetables, meat or cereals.
  • The child bites and eats mainly junk food: sweets, fast food and processed meat (sausages, sausages). nine0036
  • A child older than one and a half years old eats only liquid homogeneous food (for example, milk, formula or puree).
  • The child refuses any food and goes on a hunger strike.

Keep a food diary and record everything your baby eats in it. After a week of observations, analyze the records, or rather show them to a pediatrician or gastroenterologist. Remember that the main indicator is the balance of nutrition, and not just the amount of food eaten. You won't be happy if your child eats a whole pack of cookies - what's the use of "empty" calories? nine0003

What should be in a healthy diet for a child?

Nutrition should be balanced, consisting of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

  • In the recommended diet for children 2-3 years old, proteins make up about 20% of all food, fats - 30-35%, carbohydrates - 45-65%.
  • For children 4-18 years of age, the recommended diet is 10-30% protein, 25-35% fat, and 45-65% carbohydrate.

Healthy nutrition is especially important for children as they grow and develop. They need protein for muscles, calcium and phosphorus to strengthen bones, iron to deliver oxygen to organs and tissues, including the brain. To gain the right amount of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, a balanced diet should include six food groups:

  1. Meat, fish and eggs.
  2. Vegetables.
  3. Fruit.
  4. Dairy products.
  5. Complex carbohydrates (whole grain bread, cereals, durum wheat pasta).
  6. Legumes.

At least 2-3 products from each group should be among the products for the child.

Nutrient deficiencies can be filled with PediaSure Maloezhka drink for children 1 to 10 years old. It contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, 29 vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics and is proven to be effective. After a month of regular use, the baby's appetite and activity improve, after two months he begins to gain weight (if he was underweight), and after three months his diet expands - the child eats more varied. nine0003

The dangers of selective eating and malnutrition

Refusing healthy foods leads to nutritional deficiencies and developmental delays.

Lack of protein can cause stunting, memory impairment, reduced physical activity and weakened immunity. Children with poor nutrition may lag behind their peers in mental development. Consumption of sweets and fast food increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, overweight and obesity at school age. nine0003

How to feed your child if he refuses to eat

Stimulate your appetite

The best medicine to increase your appetite is hunger. To make the child want to eat, increase physical activity: walk more and send the child to the sports section.

Be creative with the decoration of dishes

For a child to want to eat a dish, it must look beautiful. Build a funny face out of boiled vegetables, lay out a bicycle or decorate a dish with vegetable sauce. Use cookie cutters to make shapes out of bell peppers, eggplant, and zucchini. Unusual "accordions" of vegetables can be created using curly graters and knives. nine0003

Cook together

Children are more likely to eat food prepared by themselves. Let the child help you and captivate the process: let him mix vegetables, rub carrots or watch potatoes bake - he will become interested in what happened and will want to try the dish.

Offer food many times

Young children may refuse unfamiliar foods. This is also true for adults - not everyone is able to try fried grasshoppers or veal brains. It takes time to overcome the fear of new food. Therefore, offer the same dish many times: the child may agree on the tenth or fifteenth attempt. nine0003

Respect refusal

Saying a firm “no” is an important social skill. Do not suppress it and respect the opinion of the child. Otherwise, he will not learn to stand his ground in adulthood and say no, including to himself.

How not to feed your child

Do not force him to eat

We strive to feed the baby with all our might and do it with such zeal that he develops an aversion to food. He ceases to listen to the signals of his body and understand when he is full and when he is hungry. And the harder you push, the more the child resists. It's okay if he skipped breakfast or lunch - he will be more hungry for dinner. nine0003

Remember that a child's body is not used to social norms and the need to eat five times a day. If the child has no appetite, it means that he has not yet spent all the energy that entered the body with the last meal. A little patience, and the appetite will appear.

Don't make them eat up

Don't scold the child for not eating everything. Perhaps you gave him too much portion and he physically cannot handle it. The skill to “stop when you’re full” is important and will come in handy in adulthood. nine0003

Don't let your child snack

If you want your children to eat well at lunch, don't let them snack between meals. Remove sweets and cookies from the table, do not make sandwiches. If the baby works up an appetite, he will not refuse the soup.

French mothers adhere to this principle: they teach the child to eat at certain hours. "Children don't know how to snack, so they're always hungry by a certain time," writes Pamela Druckerman, author of French Kids Don't Spit Food. nine0003

Do not entertain the child while eating

Cartoons, books and dancing with a tambourine distract the child from eating. No need to stuff a spoonful of porridge at any cost. It is necessary to teach him to treat food consciously, to feel its taste and feel full. Instead of cartoons, talk about food: what does it look like? What does it look like? What does she taste like? Do you want another piece?

Talk to your child about food not only from the position of "tasty - not tasty". Food can be crispy, sour, sweet, spicy, spicy, soft. An inquisitive attitude to food will help to cope with children's fear of new dishes. nine0003

Do not focus on nutrition in the family

Do not show your child how important nutrition is to you, no matter how difficult it may be. Do not praise the baby if he ate something healthy or ate in principle. If the child notices this, he may begin to manipulate you: beg for toys, ask for a trampoline and ride that pony in the park for a spoonful of oatmeal.

Food is just food, it gives strength and energy. Don't use it as a reward or punishment. If the child is crying, it is better to hug him than to soothe him with chocolate. nine0003

How to instill in children a love for healthy food

Start with yourself

Your child imitates everything you do, including adopting your eating habits. Why does he have to eat oatmeal and steamed broccoli when you're so hungry for cakes and fried potatoes?

Double standards do not work in the family: either you all eat right (at least in front of the children), or you allow the children to eat not the most healthy food.

Don't be manipulated

You are the parent and only you can decide what your child will eat. You can gradually accustom him to healthy food or indulge desires by agreeing to give him a cookie or a piece of sausage.

Stand firm, but leave the child a choice: offer 2-3 healthy meals, and let him decide what he will eat. Don't yell or force him to eat something he doesn't want. Remember how often hated semolina was shoved into you or forced to eat milk soup in kindergarten. And how you love sweets only because they were forbidden in childhood. nine0003

Show that healthy food can be tasty

There is a lot of healthy food: vegetables, fruits, herbs, legumes, nuts, dried fruits, honey. Introduce the child to different products, tell an interesting story about each and let's try a piece. Let the kid understand that the right food is not only oatmeal and cabbage soup.

The same dishes can be prepared in different ways. For example, cauliflower can be boiled, baked in the oven with other vegetables, fried with egg and tomato, added to a jellied pie. To make the taste more pleasant, vegetable slices can be dipped in Greek yogurt or sour cream sauce, and fruit slices in honey. Show your imagination, the child will definitely like something. nine0003

If your baby has a weakness for juices and drinking yoghurts, replace them with PediaSure Baby. It is free of dyes, preservatives, palm oil, gluten and GMOs, and in terms of energy value it is comparable to a serving of boiled cod and a medium apple. A bottle of drink can be taken for a walk, given to a child at school or kindergarten, or simply offered as a dessert after breakfast or lunch.

Learn more about PediaSure Maloezhka

*Activities of Meta Platforms Inc. and its social networks Facebook and Instagram are prohibited in the territory of the Russian Federation. nine0168

what to do at home and why it happens

Mothers, fathers, grandparents experience great anxiety when a child refuses to eat, especially if this does not happen from time to time, but constantly. The fidget has to be persuaded to eat an extra spoonful of porridge, come up with new, unusual dishes and games so that the baby leaves the table full. "Komsomolskaya Pravda" deals with the expert, because of what you should and should not worry and how to increase children's appetite. nine0003

How much a child should eat at different ages

There are nutritional standards developed by scientists (1). It is important for parents to know the recommended numbers, but following the norms for grams will be a big mistake. It is better to focus on the common sense, well-being and mood of the baby.

The volume of breast milk or formula for newborns in the first 10 days of life depends on weight. If the baby was born with a weight of more than 3200 g, he should eat a volume of milk per day equal to the number of days lived multiplied by 70 (2). A child 5 days old eats 350 ml. If the baby's weight was less than 3200 g, the number of days lived is multiplied by 80.

From 1.5 weeks to 2 months: WHO recommends 1/5 of the baby's weight as normal (3). That is, with a weight of 4 kg, he should eat 800 ml per day.

From 2 to 4 months, mother's milk and formula are taken in the ratio of 1/6 of the baby's weight. You can calculate according to the formula - weight in grams divided by height in cm and multiplied by 70.

Babies from 4-6 months old eat 1/7 of their own weight. For 6-8 months, the norm will be about 1000-1100 ml of food per day, and for 8-11 months - 1200-1300 ml. nine0003

From 1 to 2 years old, children usually eat 1300-1400 ml of food per day. After 2 years, the Union of Pediatricians of Russia advises parents to switch to a full three meals a day with two intermediate snacks (4). On average, a child of this age eats 1500 ml per day.

After 4-5 years, the amount of food is increased to 2000 ml per day. It is recommended to distribute the calorie content of food as follows: breakfast - 30%, lunch - 35%, afternoon tea - 15% and dinner - 20%.

Nutritional norms for children at different ages according to WHO recommendations

1200-1300 ml 9020 nine0197 from 1 to 2 years old
Age Normal Norma per day
from 1.5 weeks to 2 months 1/5 of the weight of the child
of 2 to 4 months, Child
from 4 to 6 months 1/7 weight of the child
from 6 to 8 months 1000-1100 ml
from 8 to 11 months
1300-1400 ml
from 2 to 5 years on average 1500 ml
older than 5 years on average 200200

Why not eat anything

Appetite in children depends on the state of health, genetic characteristics, maturity, growth phase, mood and even the time of day. It is necessary to distinguish between painful manifestations and cases that most parents have to deal with. nine0003

Complete refusal to eat is called anorexia. If a child experiences a painful reaction to some food or dish, this is a state of idiosyncrasy. Most often, adults deal with hyporexia - a decrease in appetite. Let us examine in more detail each reason why a child refuses to eat or eats too little.

Photo: pixabay.com

No feeling of hunger

The simplest and most obvious reason for poor appetite is that the baby is full. We try so hard to feed our kids that they just don't feel hungry and therefore have a hard time identifying it. nine0003

What should parents do? Don't be nervous, stay friendly and let your baby get hungry. Remove from your reach any foods and snacks that can interrupt your appetite - sweets, cookies, sandwiches, buns, juices, compotes and fruits. Offer your child food, but be prepared for him to say no. Wait until the baby himself offers to dine or agrees to your proposal.

Enthusiasm for some activity or game

Often children are so engrossed in a new toy that they forget to eat. An enthusiastic fidget does not want to give up an interesting business and break for lunch, so the calls of adults can be met with refusal or even whims. nine0003

Selective Appetite

If your child does not want to eat the main food and prefers to "bite", he may simply not like the taste and appearance of the dishes you prepare. Try to choose other recipes, experiment with salt and spices. Perhaps the child does not want to eat too hot or cold food.

Intoxication during illness

When children feel unwell, they refuse to eat any food. This happens with SARS, stomatitis, otitis and other ailments. In infancy, appetite may decrease during teething. nine0003

When a child is sick, the body is unable to adequately absorb food. All forces are spent on eliminating the source of pain, so the brain does not send signals about hunger. As soon as health improves, appetite returns.

Effects of vaccinations

After vaccination, the child may lose his appetite. This is especially true in children in their first year of life. In preschoolers and children of primary school age, problems with eating after vaccination occur in 15-20% of cases. Don't despair - it won't be long! nine0003


Appetite disorders may be caused by allergic reactions. For example, babies with atopic dermatitis often refuse to eat. When skin itching bothers, appetite fades into the background.

Few movements

Children of the first years of life are very active physically and rarely sit still. Natural mobility and outdoor play are the best way to work up an appetite. Some, on the contrary, spend a lot of time in front of the TV and at the computer, move little, and therefore do not experience a strong feeling of hunger. nine0003

Consequences of a child's poor nutrition

Regular malnutrition leads to the fact that the child's body does not receive enough nutrients for normal functioning. The child appears lethargic, drowsy and lethargic. With poor nutrition, there is a risk of underdevelopment of the brain, decreased learning and low immunity. Improper nutrition in childhood can lead to serious health problems in adulthood.

Parents are not in vain worried about the baby's poor appetite. Refusal to eat can be caused by serious chronic diseases, such as hormonal disorders. nine0003

For which symptoms should a child be seen by a doctor? If loss of appetite is accompanied by high fever, vomiting, rashes appear in the mouth or on the body, urination and stool become frequent. When a child loses weight, does not want to drink, or does not sleep well.

How to increase a child's appetite

Everyone has their own appetite. Some children like to eat more often, others refuse to eat, even when it's time to feed. However, there are ways to increase a child's appetite without violence, lectures, threats and blackmail. nine0003

Up to 1 year

A newborn child is completely dependent on the mother and sensitively reacts to her mood. In order for the baby to grow up happy and active, the mother must feed him in a good mood. It is necessary to apply to the chest in a calm environment, without loud, annoying extraneous sounds that can distract from eating.

There are many problems with breastfeeding that cause the baby to eat poorly. Causes of poor appetite can be improper attachment to the breast, inverted nipples of the mother, pain and excess gas in the abdomen of the crumbs. Sometimes lactation changes - there is little milk or, on the contrary, it pours excessively. From the mother's diet, breast milk can change the taste. When formula feeding, refusal to eat is sometimes caused by an incorrectly selected bottle or nipple. nine0003

In the first year of life, it is important that the child is monitored regularly by a pediatrician. Some children eat poorly because they are lactose intolerant, so milk is removed from their diet as early as possible. Sometimes the appetite increases from the introduction of complementary foods or the replacement of formula.

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1-2 years old

At this age, the child likes to repeat after others, so it is important that he observes how adults, older brothers and sisters eat. A good way to develop eating behavior is playing with a spoon and a plate. An active interest in food is caused by joint table setting, shopping trips and products that the baby can eat with their own hands. nine0003

3-5 years old

Younger preschoolers like bright and unusual dishes, because food is also a game. Liven up cereals, soups and salads to make them look irresistible. Put food on plates with beautiful pictures. The child will want to finish eating quickly to see the “drawn story”. An effective way of teaching is the example of a peer. Take your little one to visit a baby who eats with appetite.

5-7 years old

Older preschoolers are extremely inquisitive. Involve your child in cooking as early as possible. Children are happy to break eggs for scrambled eggs, make sandwiches, knead the dough and put it into molds. A dish prepared with your own hands is much more interesting and tastier! nine0003

Over 7 years old

Schoolchildren have many responsibilities during the day, so routine is important. A healthy appetite can be instilled as a habit. Remove all unnecessary snacks and set clear rules in the family when family members sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is worth walking more in the fresh air, playing sports and avoiding negative conversations during meals.

Popular Questions and Answers

How to establish a child's interest in food?

This question is answered by Natalia Pakholyuk, nutrition expert, naturopath, detox coach :

— A child should be taught to taste a variety of tastes, shown and allowed to taste. For many parents, a bunch works in their heads: “cutlet-pasta-cucumber”. While children need fresh herbs, fresh vegetables and fruits, processed vegetables, cereals and legumes. Parsnips, beets, radishes, parsley, turnips, sweet potatoes - the younger generation has not heard of many cruciferous vegetables, much less tried them. But these vegetables are really tasty! nine0003

A child is not born with an understanding of the principles of healthy eating. All knowledge about food comes to children from their parents through their own experience. Of the prerequisites - the child must have a correct daily routine, including full meals and snacks. Nutrition rules should be clear. It does not happen that “today you can eat at night”, and tomorrow “you can’t”. Or “today chips are allowed”, at all other times it is “forbidden”.

I recommend that parents go shopping with their children and study in detail the composition of everything that is on the counter. Forming good eating habits is a process that never ends. Therefore, the child and the parent must be in constant communication: what can be eaten, what cannot be eaten, what should be added to the diet, and what should be removed. nine0003

Can a child be forced to eat?

“You can’t force or encourage children to eat more than they want, you can’t use food as a reward or make it a duty, you can’t regulate a child’s emotional state with food,” says trainer-nutritionist Elena Kostyuk . “All this not only leads to overconsumption and is associated with weight gain in later life, but also disrupts the self-regulation of eating behavior. Children are not machines that require more or less the same amount of gasoline per kilometer. "Clean Plate Societies" should be a thing of the past. The right of the child is not to finish eating, to eat as much as he wants, and even to completely refuse food. If the child is healthy, active, develops according to age, has weight and height within the age norms, there is no reason to think that he does not receive enough food. For more complex cases, there is a food diary, nutrition structuring, consultation with a doctor (pediatrician or nutritionist), help from a child or family psychologist. nine0003

When should I see a doctor due to lack of appetite?

— If the child has no appetite, do not immediately run to the doctor. It is necessary to analyze the psychological component of the question: could stress, fear or resentment be the provoking factor? It is also necessary to exclude the factors of taking drugs and dietary supplements, illness, an abundance of snacks.

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