Nutrition is one of the most important factors to help your baby develop well. However, eating issues may crop up when you begin to introduce solid foods to your little one’s diet. This is when he or she will begin to change food preferences on a regular basis, often leading to a loss of appetite.
This can become a challenge for moms. While it may seem like your child is a fussy eater, there are several other reasons why children lose their appetite. It can be a serious issue as it can cause nutritional deficiencies in your child.
Children lose their appetite gradually. However, it is important to spot the signs so that you can make the necessary changes in your child’s routine or seek medical attention if necessary. Your child will show the following signs if he or she is losing appetite:
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There are several reasons for appetite loss in children. As they grow older, the body undergoes several changes that alter their food preference, the frequency of eating and the appetite of the child. Some of the most common reasons of appetite loss in children are:
#1. Growth spurts: The growth rate of a baby is at its peak up to the age of 6 months. From 6-12 months, this process slows down. It reduces even more between 12 to 18 months of age. As a result, the calorie requirement of the body reduces, too. This leads to reducing appetite in children from the age of 16 months.
#2. Teething: During the teething phase, babies tend to lose their appetite for about two to three weeks. This is natural because their gums are tender. This leaves them irritated as the teeth begin to grow. When they feed on a bottle or eat food, the pain increases, making the child avoid eating.
#3. Sometimes, the gums may also be inflamed, making it very painful for the child to eat. In such a case you can introduce nutritious liquids such as soups and juices, sweet yet soft treats such as sooji halwa and carrot halwa. This will ensure that the child does not suffer from any nutritional deficiency. After two weeks, if the appetite does not return to normal, it is best that you consult your doctor.
#4. Iron deficiency: Iron deficiency or anemia is one of the most common causes of appetite loss in children. This is accompanied by symptoms such as constant fatigue and pale skin. You must make sure that you consult your doctor and offer foods that are rich in iron as part of your child’s diet.
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#5. Weather conditions: If the weather gets too hot, children begin to lose appetite because of overheating. The child is cranky and even sweaty, making it difficult for him to consume any food. When the weather is hot, you should make sure that you keep your baby comfortably dressed. Give the child a bath in lukewarm water and keep her in a cooler part of the house. This will help to provide immediate relief.
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To help your child eat better, you must also change the diet slightly. Provide foods that are lighter on the stomach. Try to keep the child active during the warmer months as during summers the body consumes less energy to maintain its normal temperature. As a result, calories accumulated through food are not used much and the child feels less hungry.
#6. Introduction of solid foods: The transition from milk and formula to solid foods can be a little sudden for babies. The body will require some time to get used to it. With solid foods, digestion is slower. This also means that the child feels fuller for longer, making him or her eat lesser food. It is a good idea to introduce solid foods gradually in small quantities until the child is able to digest it properly.
#7. Worm infestation: Infants and toddlers often suffer from the infestation of the intestines by worms or parasites. This leads to issues like diarrhea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Worm infestation will require medicines and immediate assistance from your doctor.
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#8. The child is unwell: When children suffer from any health issues, such as common cold, cough or even fever, the appetite is affected. Once the child recovers from the condition, the diet will go back to normal. Any viral or bacterial infection may also be responsible for the loss of appetite in children. This includes bronchitis, ear infections or the flu. With these conditions, the heart rate goes up and the child finds it difficult to breathe. As a result, appetite is reduced. Having your baby vaccinated and taking him or her for regular check-ups will help you prevent these infections and keep the appetite healthy.
#9. The child is consuming too many fluids: If your child is drinking too much water or juice in between meals then the appetite may drop. If you are giving your child breast milk or formula, there is no need to provide the water to the baby. In fact, too much water makes it hard for the body to absorb the nutrients from the formula milk or the breast milk.
#10. Allergies and intolerance: Children may be allergic to certain foods such as milk, eggs, soy or even peanuts. This leads to symptoms like diarrhea, bloating and itching. It also reduces the appetite of the child. Make sure that your child is not introduced to foods that are known cause allergies until he or she is 1 year old.
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#11. The child has been vaccinated: Vaccines normally cause fever in children. The pain of the vaccination along with the raised body temperature may cause a loss of appetite in children.
#12. The child is constipated: Improper bowel movements are very common in children. This often leads to constipation which reduces appetite. With proper food and medication, this condition can be reversed easily.
#13. The child is too tired: If the child does not have regulated playtime and rest time, the body becomes too tired. This means that the child often feels too tired to eat. So keeping a good routine is the key to good appetite.
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It is possible to improve your child’s appetite. There are some simple things that you can do to make this possible:
Foods like pumpkin seeds and chicken can help increase the zinc intake. When zinc is low in the baby’s body, appetite is reduced, as the hydrochloric acid needed for digestion is not produced adequately.
Adding ajwain, basil, asafetida, ginger, cinnamon and mint in your child’s food between the ages of 8-12 months is a great way to improve appetite. These foods improve the digestive process, therefore, making the baby feel hungry.
It takes about three hours for your baby to digest foods completely. If you include meals too frequently, the baby will not eat as well. If you wish to increase the frequency of meals, you must divide them into smaller portions. This means about five small meals. The advantage of choosing this option is that mealtime is over faster, with less fuss.
When you introduce your child to solid foods, try to keep the food choices different. You need to make sure that your child gets ample food from the four major food groups – fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein foods. This gives you many options such as lentils, beans, fish, chicken, fruits, vegetables and dairy products if the child is over 12 months of age. Make sure that you introduce a new food after a gap of 3 days each time. In case your child is allergic to any food, you will be able to tell in three days.
If your child refuses to eat sometime, let it be and try again. It will discourage the child to eat anything at all. This is because you are making mealtime stressful for the child.
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Instead of focusing your energy on foods that your child refuses to eat, try to include foods that your child likes in his or her mealtime. Get creative with the way you present food. By the time, children are about eight months old, they respond to colors and shapes quite well. So, think of including foods that are colorful and make them visually interesting.
Do not have any distractions such as toys or the television around when your child is eating. Let the focus remain on the food. You can talk to the child, encourage him or her when they eat well and just make mealtime all about enjoying the food.
If your child is healthy but is showing a sudden slump in appetite, there is no need to worry. Here are two things that you can do to treat the problem of poor appetite in your child:
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Here are some scenarios which necessitate consulting your pediatrician for opinion:
Loss of appetite is common in babies and toddlers. However, with a little alertness and timely action, it is possible to bring your little one’s appetite back.