1. Love this! I am also an occupational therapist working in early intervention and this hit the nail in the head for so many issues I have working with my families! Especially the extended baby food issue

  2. Okay, we definitely need to work on a few of these issues-specifically the constant snacking. My 2.5yo is a grazer. She’s also quite small and in general not a good eater (picky, and seemingly exists on air alone some days). So, when she does ask for a snack, I often don’t want to deny her the opportunity to get calories in her. How do you recommend breaking the habit with a kiddo who prefers snacks over meals? And also, in regards to the eating alone rule, I will usually sit down with her to eat, but she can spend 45 minutes at the breakfast table and I don’t have that kind of time in the morning. So, after about 5-10 minutes, I get up to clean up/makes lunch/etc. Does this still count as eating together?

    • Great questions, Heather. First, I know it is unrealistic to eat every meal with your child for the entirety of the meal. Do the best you can, and try to make at least one meal a day the priority. As for the snacking, yes, it is a hard habit to break, but you can do it slowly. It doesn’t have to be a cold turkey kind of thing. You want to space meals 2.5-3 hrs apart from the start of one meal to the start of the next. Start slowly, try to hold off snacking for an hour, then 1.5 hours and so on. Tell her if she asks to eat that it isn’t time and that lunch or whatever meal/snack will be soon. I know that is scary, but you will soon see her starting to eat more when she does sit down to eat!

    • Thank you for the reply. I like the idea of slowly holding off snacking instead of cutting it out cold turkey because I know there are going to be some BIG feelings that come out when she can’t just snack all day. I will try this.. thanks again!

  3. I love the article. The problem we have is eating together which I’m sure is difficult for many. Little man goes to bed at 7pm (before my husband is home) so eating dinner together rarely occurs. I sit with him while he eats dinner but most of the time he is eating at 5-5:30 and if I ate that would leave my husband to eat alone. Should I be concerned that he is eating most dinners alone at 1 1/2yrs or should I not worry since as he grows his bedtime will be later so that we can eat as a family. Thankfully I made all of his food and normally pureed/chopped up leftovers so he eats anything and everything. Olives being his food of choice right now 🙂

    • Mary, it sounds like you guys are off to a great start- I definitely don’t want to stress you out about what is working for your family! I think that it will evolve over time and when you can I would try to steer it in the direction of eating together. For now, try to eat whatever meals you can together, especially on the weekends or maybe breakfasts? Maybe a couple times a week, eat a small dinner with each of your guys!

  4. Ties in with another poster. Our preemie 7.5 month old basically never eats with us. Weekdays she has early morning (7 am) and night (7 pm) bottles at home but breakfast (9 am) lunch (12:30 pm) and dinner (4:30 pm) when she has bottle and puree is at daycare. Should we be concerned that she eats occasionally only with me on Saturdays and with both of us on Sundays?

    • It is okay while they are this young, it can be really hard to make the schedules coincide. However, over the next few months I would strive to eat together as often as possible, especially once she is starting the transition to table foods. Once they are a year old it would be ideal (I know not always possible) to be eating most of your meals together.

    • Thanks Alisha! She is just over 6 months adjusted and delayed in gross motor although otherwise healthy so sometimes it’s hard to know what age guideline we should follow at what time. She has a significant tongue thrust since she came home from NICU and we are (still) in line to see an SLP to try to fix that before we go to table food. Love your blog!

    • Thank you! You said the key word, “guidelines”, they are just that. Generally, speaking use her adjusted age as a “guideline”, knowing that there is a lot of room for variability. Sounds like she is doing great, especially having a proactive momma like you! Let me know if I can be of any more help in the future.

  5. Thank you so much for your blog. I’m having some feeding issues and I wondered if you had any insight. I’m the nanny to a 12 month old boy. I try to do the positive things you suggest, such as having a routine and schedule, limiting snacking, eating in a high chair with no toys, etc. He never eats with his parents, and dinner isn’t something I can control since I’m typically off work by then, but I do try to sit down and eat my lunch while he eats his.
    I don’t know what I can do to work on his feeding issues. It’s not that he has issues with specific types of food, it’s that he will refuse food that he likes. Just three days ago I cut up a kiwi for him and he devoured it. Today I did the exact same thing and he wouldn’t touch it. Muffin, same. I try to have patience, but he will refuse food after food that I know he likes until I run out of options. His mom just gives in and gives him cheerios. The one thing that he seldom refuses is yogurt, so today I did what I normally do to get the fruit into him, and put a small piece of kiwi in each bite of yogurt. After several bites like this he would accept just the plain kiwi on the spoon no problem, but still wouldn’t eat it himself.

    After reading your “no force feeding rule” I’ve resolved not to do it anymore (I really already knew I shouldn’t do it, but it’s just so difficult!), but in the past when he would refuse to touch food that I knew he liked, I would stick a piece in his mouth a few times, and once he realized what it was he would usually go ahead and start eating it. I try to have his preferred foods at meals when offering new things, but he refuses food he loves so often that I don’t know what his preferred foods are!

    • What a wonderful nanny you are to be seeking out help! I’m sorry my response is so late! This is a tricky situation because your not the parent. I would really make sure that you aren’t allowing any snacking at all- he needs to be hungry. Also, nothing but water in between his meals, that can fill him up to. Does he like messy play?

      I would offer 3-5 foods at a meal. If he doesn’t eat then I would let him get out and try again at the next meal. But, before you get to that point, play with the food a little, be real silly and see if you can get him to imitate. I have lots of articles on picky eaters that may be helpful, check the article index in the menu bar! Let me know how it goes!

  6. The one about eating WITH your children, is I think the most effective. We eat with our kids, and while they don’t always eat much, they gladly eat everything they see us eating – well, with the exception of beans! Kids are natural copycats, give them a good example to follow.

  7. what if my little boy doesnt eat anything i serve him, that made me stick with baby food uptill he was about 17 months, he would never sit down with us, he is very active and can’t stay still. he is 23 months now, hates milk and most dairy food, doenst like the texture of anything I give him although Iv tried everything around about 8 months but always had an alternative due to fear of starving him…any advice? Thanks

    • I would start slowly with the above steps. I would also recommend getting a feeding a eval or setting up a consult to help you determine what the underlying issues are. Also, peruse the article index, look for exploring food and expanding variety articles. Please let me know if I can be more help.

  8. Do you have any advice on weaning night feedings? I nurse our 13 month old before she goes down at night, and then she usually wakes once in the middle of the night for another nursing session. She seems to be truly hungry, and not just nursing for comfort. We’ve been trying to get as much food into her during the day as possible so that she won’t wake hungry in the middle of the night, but that means doing whatever it takes to get her to eat, breaking some of the rules you have here. We fear that if she doesn’t eat much during the day, she’ll wake up multiple times :(.

    • First, only you can decide what works for your family and that may mean bending the rules a little here and there. I would encourage you to not get “stuck” feeding in between meals, etc. Always try to be moving toward following the points I talked about. I know when they are this little it may seem like it isn’t a big deal, but it is. Allowing them to eat in between meals really will make them eat less overall. I would also try a snack right before bed, maybe a nutritious smoothie to fill up her belly? Sometimes you just have to take the leap and keep your fingers crossed as you sleep, she might surprise you (assuming she ate well that day).

  9. My baby girl is 11 months old. She is very active and cannot sit still. I need to distract her with toys or some cartoons to watch on in order to feed her, else she will refuse to open her mouth and crying loud to get off the highchair.

    Is that fine if I let her continue watching the cartoons which I feed her? She will only eat in that way.

    • I would avoid it if you can- try to wean her away from it. If you haven’t already read my eating basics in the menu bar, I would recommend it. Make sure you are following most of those strategies- especially spacing meals apart, she may not be hungry enough. Ideally, we want kids to eat without distractions but do you best and take baby steps to move away from it. Good luck!

  10. I feel like I’m guilty of several of these items on the list. My husband and I both work full-time and I have an 8 y/o step-son who is with us full-time. Because my husband has a long commute and is gone before breakfast and home just before my 1 y/o’s bedtime, I often times feed him dinner alone while I make dinner for the rest of us and then the three of us eat after he is in bed at 6:30/7. I’ve been having trouble getting him to eat any finger foods that aren’t bread, crackers, or fruit, so I’ve been giving him squeeze packs as a way to get veggies in him. What is your take on those? Is it basically the same as continuing baby food? I also just read your article on transitioning from the bottle and now I’m thinking I’ve been giving him too many fluids between meals as well and perhaps this is why he is also starting to refuse foods he has liked in the past and throws most things off his high chair tray?

    • Oh Sara, I don’t want you to feel guilty. Everyone’s circumstances are different and sometimes you have have to make the best of difficult schedules. I would say to keep doing what you are doing, fitting in family meals when you can.

      I don’t love the squeeze pouches but they do have their place. I would try not to rely on them too heavily. I would really space the meals as I suggested, that can make a huge difference. Also, see how to transition to table foods under the popular posts in the side bar or under the article index in menu bar. Let me know if you need more help!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! I’ve cut back on the milk bottles and only send one squeeze pack to daycare now instead of two and I’ve already seen an improvement, and so have they. Next step will be to cut that one out too and just use them for when we are on the go….they are so convenient! 🙂 Your blog has been so informative for me, thank you!

    • Yes, you’ll want to treat your snacks more like meals. Depending on the timing of naps it may end up being 5 times. Make sure your snacks have a carb, protein, and fruit/veggie.

  11. Thank you so much for publishing this article I was starting to feel like a really strict and mean mummy. We enforce all these things at dinner time and my little girl eats very well and we can take her anywhere to eat because of this. Thank you once again and I now feel very empowered as a mummy x

  12. Hi! We follow a strict routine for naps and meals (we have twins!) so it helps save our sanity. We feed three meals a day with three bottles of formula and two snacks (one before lunch and one before dinner/mid afternoon). Our pediatrician suggested this schedule and has been great with helping us with feeding. MY girls eat everything and have the food repertoire of toddlers BUT i was just wondering if two snacks a day aren’t ideal? I find they are super hungry at those two times even after eating full meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have a set time for snacks and don’t allow grazing so Iam hoping that i am doing it right! 🙂 Also, we do try to eat with them as much as possible (lunch and breakfast) and was wondering also when you recommend pushing high chair up to table for them to eat?

    • Wow! You are doing great. You can definitely play around with the schedule and find what works for you. It is most important that they not graze and that they have a decent space (at least 2 hours) in between meals. You are doing that!

      You can start by pushing their high chairs up to the table now!

  13. I’d appreciate your advice please, my son refuses to be fed by us as he is used to being fed by the nanny five days out of seven, so weekends and when she is away he refuses to eat anything we give him. He hasn’t eaten for four days now and frustrating hubby and I big time! I’m hoping he’ll starve and give in but he is not. Please help!! I think psychological he associates feeding with her and i don’t know how to fix this

      • No worries. he is 2.5. we have stopped feeding him as suggested by a child psychologist. so now he feeds himself but he never finishes a meal. he’ll snack on stuff throughout the day but im sure he’s not full as he often runs to the fridge. he is also sticky about what he snacks on. he wont even finish a sandwich, which we let him cut into different shapes to make it fun, he’ll just have a few bites and leave it.

        • That’s great! I would strongly recommend getting him on a schedule, the way I describe in this post, it can make all the difference. Best of luck!

  14. Hi! I would appreciate any advice you could give me. (I have read many of the pages throughout your website and printed/often use your helpful list of table foods.) My 15 month old girl has slowly made the transition to table foods, but is still eating pureed baby food as probably half her food intake, with maybe 24 oz of milk during the day. She’s about at the 40th percentile for height and weight, which is great after being 10th percentile at birth. The main issue we have with feeding her is that she seems to actually NEED toys to distract her enough to eat when we are spoon-feeding her, so I’m conflicted about your rule of no toys at the table! She needs to have something to do with her hands. Is this weird?! She does better when feeding herself finger foods, and we’ve started letting her feed herself with a spoon when it’s thicker foods like yogurt, let her have a 2nd spoon in addition to mine, etc. Should we just let her totally take over and take away the toys? (Not “toys” so much as empty baby food containers she can put together, other random objects, etc.) I worry that she won’t eat enough if we aren’t spoon-feeding her, but I also worry that we’re making her somehow overeat BY distracting her, if that makes sense. My husband has started playing baby videos on the ipad to distract her while he feeds her, which is a habit I’d like to stop… but mealtimes are becoming a struggle, she’ll eat this way, and he says “but look how much she ate!” and I can’t argue about that. And by “how much” he means maybe 2 4 oz containers of food. Is this too much at one sitting?
    Sorry for the novel and many questions, but please let me know of any suggestions you may have. ☺

    • These are all great questions and you are not alone! I understand your husbands thinking, but you are may be over feeding her, and the calories she is getting from baby food aren’t huge. It is not weird at all and is quite common for me to see. It is totally fine to still feed her, but she can also try to feed herself too. I would strongly recommend taking the ipad away, it is a very slippery slope. I can’t tell you have many kids I treat that are 3, 4, or older and can’t eat without distraction. It becomes a huge source of stress for the family, and often the skills kids need to chew and manipulate food are under developed as a result. The reason she is eating more is because she isn’t really paying attention to what she is doing, and because of that she isn’t learning how to eat or modulate her appetite. Toddlers need less calories than they did even a few months ago because they aren’t growing at the same rate. Is she eating a variety of table foods? How much table foods will she eat at a meal? I can give you some more direction with those answers.I know this is a hard time, my third is 15 months too!

  15. Hi! Your advice is so helpful! I wondered if you could help me on another issue. My daughter (21 months) eats really well (90th percentile which is steady since birth) however she still wakes frequently in the night for milk (she has about 4 bottles of 8floz each at night!!) This seems way too much but she won’t have water or a substitute. What can I do?

    Also your advice in relation to toys at the table is really helpful! Would you suggest cold turkey on the iPad at the table or gradually stop it?

    Thank you so much for all your helpful advice!

    • Oh my goodness, do you mean 32oz total at night? I would start to drastically cut that down and I would talk to her doctor if it is that much. THere may be something going on with her metabolism if she is drinking that much at night and eating well during the day. In terms of the ipad, it depends on what your comfort level is. There will be so upset when you don’t offer it and you’ll need to be able to handle that if you go cold turkey. If that is too much slowly transition away. By the way, you are very welcome, glad this is helpful to you!

  16. Hi Alisha

    My 8 month old refuses his chair (mainly at his dinner time around 5pm) for what I thought was from being tired but perhaps it is due to some bad habits we have started as mentioned in your post such as snacking and eating elsewhere (i.e. in his pram on the go). The reason we provide snacks is because we were told to a few months back when my son wasn’t gaining weight (he doesnt really like milk so we were told to up his calorie intake by snacking but now i think it may have started the high chair problems).We also have lunch outside in his pram or on a picnic mat as we like to take him outside to play. We sometimes do this for brekky too. Could this be why he is refusing the high chair and if so, are you suggesting we always come home for meal times in his chair and stop the snacks (unless he is clearly hungry)? We always eat at the table with him and he feeds himself as he hates to be spoon fed so I can only imagine his problem is because he doesnt eat in his chair for other meal times…???

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