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For the first 18 months to two years of your child's life, you've diligently fed your child by either breast, bottle or spoon with everything being eaten quite agreeably. Then, suddenly, your toddler begins to refuse food. Of course, you worry. "Why won't my child eat? Have I done something wrong?" As a mother of three and a certified Integrative Nutrition Coach and the founder of Yummy Spoonfuls, I'm well aware of the challenges of picky eating.

Understanding that we all are quite literally what we eat, my two-sided approach to overcoming this particular toddler issue will help you provide your little one with the proper nutrition they need to fully thrive.


Why your toddler has become picky

If you have a picky toddler, you are not alone. The reasons for this sudden food aversion are both simple and complex:

  1. They're becoming more independent. Now that your child has started walking and is beginning to speak, they are developing a sense of independence and have the consciousness to act upon it. Whether your child likes a particular food or not, they can refuse to open their mouth, run away, cry in protest, throw a tantrum or do all of the above.
  2. They're becoming more intuitive. Toddlers can begin to notice a pattern with eating: most "good" foods are sweet and most unsweet foods are green. The vast majority of baby food products combine vegetables with sweet foods like apples, bananas or pears. A baby who has grown accustomed to eating such products develops a palate for sweet foods. When attempting to introduce a non-sweet green vegetable, that toddler will inevitably notice the difference and refuse it. Parents also tend to impose their own food hang-ups on children. For example, parents who do not like okra or brown rice do not cook those foods for themselves and therefore do not give them to their children. It's important for parents to remember that eating is a learned behavior beginning with the very first spoonful and reinforced with each and every meal.
  3. They're learning what they do and don't like. Your child may not be a fan of certain textures. Because eating is as much about tactile sensation as it is about taste, your child may not like foods that are too crunchy, slimy, soft, grainy, chewy and so on. If this is the case then your child's pickiness should be consistent across different flavors. For example, if they don't like crunchy foods, they'll refuse a sweet, juicy crisp green apple as quickly as they'd turn down fresh, crisp celery. The problem is not the pickiness but rather the way that pickiness is managed.

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when expanding your child's palate.

1. Don't stop trying to introduce new foods too soon.

Many parents aren't aware of the lengthy yet normal course of food acceptance in children. A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Diet Association revealed that 25% of mothers with toddlers offered foods only once or twice before deciding if the child liked it. Approximately half of mothers made similar judgments after serving new foods only three to five times.

Touching, smelling, playing with and spitting out food are all normal exploratory behaviors that happen before acceptance—and some kids simply take longer to try new food and develop a taste or affinity for it. Keep trying and eventually, your child will come around. Be consistent, don't give up and remember, this stage in your child's life is critical as the foods they eat now are key building blocks for healthy growth and development.

2. Bring home the food items you want your child to eat.

Your child can only be as picky as the food options that are made available to them. If you want them to eat more healthful foods, fill your refrigerator and pantry with what you believe are healthy, nutritious food options. You can also make life easy for yourself by stocking your freezer with convenient foods that don't skimp on taste and nutrition.

3. Expose kids to all varieties of foods.

Introduce your child to an array of food flavors and textures no matter what your own personal preferences or aversions may be. Your child may very well love some of the foods you dislike.

4. Don't provide too many food options.

Often parents of multiple children will make a variety of dishes for a meal in order to appease each child's individual tastes. This kind of short-order cooking habit is tiring, unsustainable and only serves to foster the habit you are trying to correct. There's no reason for any child to stop being picky if other options are always readily available. Unless your child has an allergy or sensory issue, then they should learn to try whatever you serve.

5. Don't supplement missed meals with junk.

Every parent living with a toddler understands the practice of "picking one's battles" but setting up healthy nutrition practices is a battle that should be fought to win. If your child refuses to eat a meal because they don't like the options available, try not to give your child junk food just to fill their belly. In time, those empty calories can become lifelong unhealthy choices. Your child depends on you to choose a balanced diet that is developmentally appropriate and fuels good health and happiness.

6. Treat every meal and snack time as an opportunity to nourish your child with good food.

Instead of viewing snack time as "treat" time, consider snack time a mini meal and feed your child accordingly. Again, give your child every opportunity to get acquainted with new foods. Avoid crackers and other convenience foods and try giving your child sliced carrots or bell peppers instead.

7. Make every eating experience enjoyable.

As many studies have shown, children who help with meal preparation are more likely to eat food they helped make, so let your child pitch in! Make cooking each meal a family activity by allowing your child to help. This is a great way to show your child that delicious food and healthy food aren't mutually exclusive. Prepare foods in their most delicious and visually-appealing form and be sure to take into account your child's texture preferences. For example, don't overcook string beans for a child who likes their veggies firm.

8. Don't force a "clean plate."

While you may be anxious about your child getting the necessary nutrients they need for growth and development, avoid forcing them to eat every bite you serve. Your child is not trying to frustrate you, they're simply learning as everything is still new and different to them.

Remember that for many kids, food acceptance takes time and this important stage in your toddler's life is absolutely normal. Also, forcing them to clean their plate causes a child to lose their natural sense of knowing when they are full, which can lead to overeating. Building healthy eating habits means respecting when your child is full even when you may think they've not had enough. After all, you can always serve any leftovers as a mini meal for snack time.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.

Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"

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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)


Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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