A baby’s eating habits vary widely for a variety of reasons. Some are simply finicky when it comes to eating while others will eat anything and everything on their plates. Babies that have a prolonged loss of appetite, however, require help in getting the nutrients necessary to grow and flourish. In these instances, parents may opt to give a child suppress appetite.
Reasons for Loss of Appetite
Babies, and children in general, refuse to eat for a variety of reasons. Some children simply do not like solid foods since they’ve been drinking milk or formula for most of their life up to a year. Others are just too busy to eat. Once babies learn to walk, all they want to do is move around and explore the unseen world around them. Babies can can also experience a loss of appetite due to a vitamin deficiency or an illness. If the baby seems to simply not have an appetite and does not seem to be ill, appetite stimulants can encourage healthy eating habits and help the child regain any weight he may have lost.
Loss of appetite in babies is difficult for parents because most do not like to give a baby medication at such a young age. For this reason, parents can resort to herbal remedies prior to using prescription medication to treat the symptoms. Seeds such as fennel, anise, dill, cardamom, caraway seed and coriander can help restore a baby’s appetite. Dr. Jenny Tylee suggests making a tea using any of these seeds and serving it approximately one hour before meal time. Half a cup to one cup should be sufficient for a baby less than one year of age. The tea can be given in a bottle and sweetened with a small amount of sugar or mixed with milk. Parents can expect to notice an improvement in their child’s appetite within one week of using the tea. Parents opting for herbal remedies may also use alfalfa to restore their baby’s appetite. Alfalfa can be chopped finely, pureed and mixed with other vegetables or baby foods in a food processor. According to Dr. Daniel Mowery, alfalfa is an excellent source of nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin A, fiber, calcium and protein. Alfalfa will also increase vitality and appetite and promote healthy liver and digestive function.
Vitamins and Supplements
Since vitamin deficiencies can be a reason for lack of appetite, incorporating zinc and folic acid into a baby’s diet may also help. Zinc and folic acid have many benefits such as promoting nutritional balance, boosting energy and strengthening immunity in babies and adults. Zinc and folic acid are also known to improve taste and smell and may encourage healthy and diverse eating habits in babies. Multivitamins, including zinc and folic acid, are also helpful since they supplement a baby’s diet when he is not getting the nutrients necessary for growth. Since babies may have a difficult time swallowing vitamins, parents can opt for vitamin supplementation in liquid form.
Periactin is commonly prescribed as an appetite stimulant. It is an antihistamine also known as cyproheptadine that is commonly used in the treatment of AIDS. Some of the major side effects of Periactin are drowsiness and fatigue, however, some babies become more active and excited while taking it. It is also known to cause immediate hunger, at times causing hunger pangs and an almost painful feeling of hunger. While it is not recommended for children under the age of two, in cases of severe weight loss and when other methods have not worked, babies may be prescribed a small dose
Foods containing fat can be an appetite stimulant as well since, the more fat a person eats, the more fat the body craves. While eating large amounts of fat is not suggested in an every day diet, a baby that needs to gain weight due to malnutrition may benefit from added fat in his diet. If parents opt for more nutritious ways of improving their baby’s appetite, they may try adding bananas, mangoes, papaya and berries to their baby’s diet. These foods all contain enzymes that are known to promote healthy eating and are an excellent source of vitamins as well. Parents of finicky eaters may try freezing the fruits as a summer treat or cutting them into various shapes to encourage their baby to eat them. Another option is to make fruit flavored gelatin with small pieces of fruit in it.
If parents have tried everything they can think of in order to encourage healthy appetite in a baby and it still doesn’t work, they may want to consider changing the baby’s diet completely. A baby may be suffering from gastrointestinal problems and may become extremely uncomfortable when he eats. If this is the case, a simple change in diet may stimulate the appetite once again. Sometimes simply cutting back on formula will increase a baby’s appetite for solid foods. While formula contains many of the nutrients a baby needs, it is also not a natural food and causes many digestive problems for babies. Instead of formula, parents can substitute one or two of the daily feedings with pureed vegetables and lean poultry. Parents can also give their baby fortified rice cereal, which contains many of the same nutrients that formula does.