Feeding Your Toddler

Dr. Ram, Meriter Middleton

Dr. Sumita Ram, Meriter Middleton Pediatrics

In contrast to infancy (0-1 year), the toddler years (1-3 years) are a much slower period of physical growth. As growth rates decrease, your child’s appetite decreases and food intake may seem erratic and unpredictable. Parental concern about the limited variety and quantity of food eaten is very common. 

Toddlers, on average need to eat 5-7 times a day including nutritious snacks. Toddlers tend to eat sporadically. Over a period of a week or so, however, their nutrient and energy intake generally balances out. So continue to offer a variety of nutritious foods at mealtimes while allowing the child to regulate his own intake at each meal based on his own innate ability to regulate his energy intake.

Most toddlers are capable of self-feeding firmer table foods and drinking from a sippy cup. Your toddler should wean from the bottle by 12-15 months and bedtime bottles should particularly be discouraged because it promotes the development of cavities. The older toddler (usually by 2 years) may be able to use a spoon and is ready to eat most of the same foods offered to the rest of the family with some extra precautions for foods which may be a choking hazard. Foods such nuts, raw carrots, popcorn, hot dogs, grapes, and round candy are particular choking hazards because they are hard to control in the mouth and may be easily lodged in the esophagus or trachea. Caregivers should be present during feeds and children should be seated at mealtimes and free of a lot of distractions to prevent choking.

Many toddlers are quite resistant to consuming new foods and sometimes dietary variety diminishes to 4 or 5 accepted favorites. This change in acceptance of foods is developmentally typical. You should know that acceptance of a new food may only occur only after 8-10 exposures to a new food so don’t decide whether a toddler “likes” a food after only offering it once or twice. Remember, touching, smelling, and playing with foods are normal exploratory behaviors that may precede acceptance and even willingness to taste and swallow foods. 

Dr. Sumita Ram
Pediatrician
Meriter Middleton Pediatrics
meriterkids.com

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3 Responses to Feeding Your Toddler

  1. Cynthia says:

    This very much explains why my niece only wanted chips, chicken nuggats, and cheese for a long time but didn’t gain much weight. She is 5 years old and now that I have an infant, I’m researching these things. Good information, Dr. Ram!

  2. Shoug says:

    Dear Dr.,

    Your advise on the below mentioned situation will be highly appreciated.

    My 3 years old daughter eats blended food only and even with this blended food she would gag and vomit sometimes. She has sensitivity to texture and the gag reflex will start once the food touches her tongue. She only eats chips and biscuits and knows how to chew them very well but when it comes to rice, pasta, chicken …etc she well vomit. The food should be blended otherwise she will gag and vomit.

    Please help me we can’t go out or travel because it’s hard to feed her anywhere other than home.

    Thank you in advance

    Shoug

    Ps: we do not have occupational therapist in Kuwait to help in this regards.

  3. Dr. Ram, Meriter Medical Group Pediatrician says:

    You should definitely check with your pediatrician to make sure that he/she does not feel that your daughter has any neurologic or developmental issues first.

    I spoke with our speech therapist who deals with feeding issues at our hospital. Since your daughter eats chips and biscuits without any problem, it seems unlikely that she has any neurologic problem with her oromotor coordination and that she likely has some sensory processing issues which are fairly common in children. (i.e. she over responds to certain textures and tastes of foods).

    A few suggestions to help her develop more tolerance :
    • allow her to explore and chew on teething toys with her mouth
    • use a vibrating toothbrush when brushing her teeth
    • allow her to different foods at times other than meal times; this will allow her explore the different foods without any expectation of eating at that time
    • under supervision, allow her to chew and explore some hard foods such as jerky or a carrot
    • gradually change the types of foods that she does eat; for example, if she likes a certain type of chip or biscuit, gradually introduce a different flavor of chip
    • try distraction at meal times such as conversation, soothing music, having her hold a toy that she can squeeze to take her mind off of the food and give her a lot of praise when she is willing to taste or explore a new texture or food

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