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Look I can Walk! Now I'm scared of new foods!

Posted by felicity Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Initially, when you start weaning your baby at around 6 months they will probably be happy to eat and taste most things you serve. However, many parents report a "fussy period" around 10-18 months and it is no coincidence that it happens when your little one starts to learn to cruise / walk.

"I don't know what happened - he used to eat everything!"

This protective mechanism termed Neophobia kicks-in which turns your once happy eater in to a suspicious child, fearful of new foods and textures. Neophobia is the fear of new things and  this is likely to be a throwback to our ancestors. 
If you imagine your baby is a little "cave baby" born at a time when we lived in the soil , hunted for meat and crawled around in caves. Your baby would have been toddling around picking berries and leaves from trees which could be potentially poisonous. So this fear of new foods and the keenness to look to a caregiver (you) to show it is safe to eat before putting it in the mouth is one of the ways the human race has survived. 

"Brussels spouts - bleugh"

Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli are common foods children don't "like". There is a good reason for this - research has shown that neophobia is more commonly directed at this family of plants which contain poisonous compounds that are difficult to digest. So, it isn't your child being difficult, this is an evolutionary element within the human race which you are battling with.
It is more important than ever during this time that you sit and eat the same foods with your child to reassure them the food is safe to eat. This will help reassure your child through this "fussy time" that these new foods are nothing to fear.
References: Glander, K, 'The impact of plant secondary compounds on primate feeding behavior', American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 1982, pp.1-18

Read more about neophobia and techniques to manage eating through this difficult time in the chapter "Weaning worries" in our latest book Worry-free Weaning.

Dr Anna Walton is a chartered counselling psychologist and Felicity Bertin is a registered paediatric osteopath. They work together supporting families with children who have fussy eating habits.