My 17-month-old who normally loses his mind over clementines and apple slices is currently throwing them from his high chair. For the past three weeks, he has been waking up randomly at night, refusing to nap, crying to be held all day, and worst of all, incredibly difficult to feed. If this were my first rodeo I would be in and out of my pediatrician’s office, but this is my third kid so I’m 98% sure he’s pushing out some new teeth. The teething phase can last anywhere from a week to a few months and can be incredibly frustrating. Lucky for you, I have a few tips that may help you survive this phase and learn to win mealtime when your tiny human is teething.
Stick to Regular Mealtimes
In my household, we do four meals a day: breakfast, lunch, a light snack, and dinner. When my baby was between six months and a year, I also offered milk before nap and bedtime. It’s very tempting to offer snacks between meals when they are barely eating because we are worried they are not getting enough nutrition. The problem is, they are filling up on less nutrient-dense foods and never getting hungry enough for a meal. They may ask for extra snacks, but they are not hungry, just looking for comfort. If they are fussy, distract them with an activity, teething toy, or plain old cuddles until it’s time to eat.
Offer Foods They Like
Now is not the time to be adventurous with their food. Their mouths hurt, they are cranky, and they just want what they like. Offer them healthy choices you know they enjoy. Now is not the time to introduce new foods.
Choose Softer Foods
It hurts to eat, so stick to soft foods, purees, smoothies, and homemade juices. My baby loves baked yams, avocados, scrambled eggs, and green smoothies packed with spinach, kale bananas, flax seed, and pineapple.
Offer a Variety of Healthy Foods
My baby is a pretty good eater, but there are a lot of foods he doesn’t want when he is teething. During this time, I will offer a few choices of fruits and vegetables with each meal. Whatever he doesn’t eat, I pack up and save for the next meal to avoid waste. For example, when my babies were on purees, I would take out two to three varieties and let them try all of them, sticking with the one they liked. Now that they are on finger foods, I will roast or steam a few vegetables and offer a sample. Whatever they like, let them fill up on it.
Don’t Be Alarmed If They Are Not Eating Much
I remember with my first baby, I rushed to the pediatrician every time she started teething to keep an eye on her weight. Their tiny mouths hurt, and they really don’t feel like eating. They will lose weight and put it back on once the phase is done. If you are worried, check in with your pediatrician.
They May Drink More Milk Than Normal
Whether nursing, on formula, or regular milk, all of my kids drank considerably more during their teething phases. It stressed me out because I knew milk does not provide enough nutrients. My pediatrician reassured me and said milk will hydrate them and provide calories until they can eat again. Remember, they are achy and want comfort. Once the phase is over, they will go back to their old appetite. My kids always do.
Remember to Breath
Your baby is healthy and growing and that is something to be grateful for. If you are feeling frustrated or stressed, just breath and remind yourself that this phase will pass.
Written by Linda Niazi, NASM, ACE, and nutrition coach