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Baby

What Should I do if my Child is Throwing Food?

Jill Castle, MS, RDN
January 3, 2019 . 10 min read

Once your baby has graduated from a liquid diet at around 6 months, he will graduate to a highchair. While spoon-feeding is the natural next step, eventually your baby may be faced with many bite-size pieces of food. Initially he eats, scooping handfuls of food into his mouth and later, pinching bits of food between his thumb and pointer finger, mastering the pincher grasp.

Then, your compliant baby — who used to enjoy eating — starts to throw food off of the tray. Why is that?

For many babies, throwing food is an exercise in learning. It\’s a way your baby’s brain is learning cause and effect.

If I toss my cup, what noise will it make? If I throw my food, where will it go? What will Mommy do? And is Daddy’s reaction different? 

Throwing food can also be a sign of being finished with eating. Just like turning away from food, pushing it away, or shaking the head “no,” throwing food off of the tray can be synonymous with baby saying “all done.”

Before food throwing drives you crazy, here are a few steps you can take to minimize your frustration.

1. Place small amounts of food on the tray. Four or five bites of food should be sufficient. Be ready to add more once your little one has eaten everything. Avoid loading up the tray with a lot of food. For one, it can be overwhelming to your baby, and it just encourages more mess than necessary and throwing food.

2. Be sure to ask your baby if she wants more food. If she indicates yes, then place more food on the tray. If she shakes her head no, switch gears, and offer a sip of milk. Offer food again, and if it’s rejected a second time, end the meal.

3. Keep your baby minimally dressed while feeding him. It’s faster to clean up a diapered baby over the kitchen sink than to strip his clothes off, clean him up, and don a new outfit (plus, it’s less laundry for you!).

4. Acknowledge what happens to food when it’s dropped (Ex: Oh no, Buster ate your peach. Poor Buster, he might get a tummy ache!). Remind your baby that throwing food is not OK and that food goes in her mouth for eating. Eventually, she will understand.

5. Ditch the emotions, such as anger, frustration, or even laughter about throwing food, and remind baby that food stays on the tray or goes into his tummy.

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