7 to 15 Months: Feeding Your Almost-toddler

The almost-toddler – the child just getting started with finger-feeding – cares deeply about feeding himself and is enthusiastic about eating almost everything you put before him. The problem is the suddenness of his transition from being spoon-fed. One day he happily lets you feed him. The very next day – or the very next meal – he refuses to eat from the spoon, grabs at it, and puts up a fuss when you try to feed him. Many parents become alarmed and force or play games to get their child to eat. Don’t. His eating will be worse, not better, and you will introduce feeding struggles that can go on for years. Instead, let him feed himself. Get started with family meals, if you aren't having them already, and eat with him, don't just feed him.

To address sudden meal refusal

  • Offer your child safe food to pick up, chew and swallow: soft or easily chewed table food. Be considerate without catering with meal-planning. 
  • Let him eat his way-fingers or spoon, much or little, fast or slowly, and in any order - even if he eats dessert first.
  • Offer breastmilk or formula in a cup, not a bottle. He may have whole milk when he is eating family food at mealtime and is a year or more old. 
  • Give him about a tablespoon of each food. Let him eat or not. Let him have more if he wants.
  • Give him lots of chances to try new food and learn to like it.

Get started with sit-down snacks

Offer your child sit-down snacks every two or three hours between meals so he can arrive at mealtime hungry (but not starved) and ready to eat the food there. Offer any nipple-fed breastmilk or formula as a structured, sit-down snack. Don't offer anything else between times except water. You are establishing the meals-plus-snacks routine of the division of responsibility for older children: Parents do the what, when and where of feeding, children do the how much and whether of eating.

For more about feeding your child

See Ellyn Satter’s Feeding with Love and Good Sense: The First Two Years. Also see www.EllynSatterInstitute.org/store to purchase books and to review comprehensive educational materials that teach stage-related feeding and solve feeding problems.

See also: Division of Responsibility in Feeding and Division of Responsibility in Activity

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©2016 by Ellyn Satter published at www.EllynSatterInstitute.org. You may reproduce this article if you don't charge for it or change it in any way and if you do include the for more about and copyright statements.