WHY is my Child a picky Eater?

Updated: Mar 30

"Eating is complicated but making progress often doesn’t have to be. Little steps will enable small amounts of progress and over time these little steps will combine to form notable gains." Judith Yeabsley - The Confident Eater

I always ask parents why they think their child struggles to eat. Many give me a list of all the things they feel they have done wrong. Others really struggle to give an answer as food has just always seemed so challenging for their child. It’s natural to blame ourselves when things go wrong, especially with one of the things we feel is a core responsibility, like feeding. Yet more often than not a child becomes a picky eater because of they have entered a particular phase in their development, or they have fallen into an unfortunate habit, none of which are the fault of the parent. From my observations and experience there are a few key phases/periods when fussy eating seems to start, and you can probably identify with one of these.

Key phases/periods

1. From baby

Your child never seemed to get into food. Right from the start they were not enthusiastic. They may even have been a baby that was uncomfortable with a change in formula, for example, it goes that far back.

2. Soon after baby

Your child takes food initially but soon after seems to find it difficult and is not interested in eating.

3. Toddler

Almost overnight your puree/family food loving baby starts refusing everything and you find yourself down to only a few options.

4. Traumatic event/life

Something happens. Your child gets sick and spends two weeks hardly eating. When they are well again the whole eating landscape seems to have changed. Or you go on holidays and the food is different and your child struggles to eat for the two weeks and again, once home everything seems more challenging. There are many different versions of this, but the outcome is the same, a child who was eating well and suddenly doesn’t seem able to.

5. Gradual

Baby eats well and all is going along as expected. Your child drops the odd food here and there but nothing drastic. Suddenly you take inventory (often when you are travelling or a relative stays etc.) and you realise that your child’s diet has become incredibly limited.

6. Compromise

This often happens during periods when life is particularly busy or stressful, for example, with a new baby, a sibling who’s unwell or moving house. There are too many plates spinning, so we are just coping. Food becomes a lower priority and meals that are eaten easily are top of the list. It seems to happen so quickly, our veggie eating child is suddenly only accepting pasta, nuggets and crackers.