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Food, clothing, and shelter – that’s pretty much what babies need at the very basic level, along with good sleep and a loving environment. But despite that, you may be upset that your child is not eating properly. He may not be communicating his hunger as frequently as needed, or not eating the portion he should have at the scheduled meal times. This could affect his weight gain and cause even more worry to you regarding his growth. So if you’re wondering how to increase baby appetite naturally, here are some things you could definitely try out.
Causes of Low Appetite in Babies?
Some of the common causes of low appetite in infants are,
1. Recovering From an Illness
If your baby usually eats well and has been showing poor eating habits off late, it could possibly be due to the fact that he isn’t feeling well or is just recovering from one. When ill, all the bodily processes take a hit, digestion included. This results in a loss of appetite. Even after the illness has disappeared, the medication and after-effects could cause the digestive process to take some more time to return to normal, as well as the food to start tasting better, too.
2. Zinc Deficiency
One of the major constituents that are necessary for the stomach to digest the food is hydrochloric acid. This also helps trigger the feeling of hunger. Zinc is primarily responsible for the production of this acid. So if your child has low appetite, there might be a possibility of him suffering from zinc deficiency. This can be easily set back in balance by tweaking the diet. The inclusion of chicken, cashew nuts, wheat bran, pumpkin seeds, and other items that rich in zinc can help bring the levels back to normal.
3. Improper Digestion Environment
Energy is required to process and digest the food in our stomach. This energy is termed agni (fire) in Ayurveda. This energy undergoes a hit when the stomach suffers from indigestion, gases, flatulence or so. Illnesses, too, can result in an improper digestion environment leading to lowered appetites.
4. An Expected Drop in Appetite
Not every low appetite is a sign of a problem. If your child is an infant, his appetite and feeding might be consistent or on a rise in the initial months. But right after 4-5 months, the growth slows down a bit and the energy required to do so reduces as well. This, inevitably, results in reducing the appetite, which is absolutely fine.
5. Absence of Weight Gain
Typically, over time, as your child grows, his body and weight should be increasing as well. But if he has been constantly ill, having multiple infections, fevers, and so, he will have trouble taking on additional weight or even losing the one that’s there. Such a scenario is termed as ‘failure to thrive’.
6. Feeding Your Child Too Often
Any meal consumed needs to be properly digested and assimilated in the body before the body feels a need for another one. If the gap between meals is less than 4 hours or so, the natural appetite for hunger does not strike and leaves the consumed food to not be digested in an appropriate manner, leading to reduced appetite.
7. Too Much of the Same Thing
All diet needs to be in moderation and ought to be of the right type. If your child has been consuming a lot of food items made of whole grains, these could keep him full for a long time. Whole grains contain fibre and require quite some time to be digested fully. At the same time, if your baby is dependent on cow’s milk or even the feeding formula more than required, this could adversely affect the appetite, leading him to not feel hungry at all.
How to Increase Your Baby’s Appetite?
Here are some ways you could try to improve your baby’s appetite.
1. Give Him a Nice and Filling Breakfast without Fail
The name itself signifies breaking the fast that your body has been on while it was asleep. Therefore, the demand for energy is highest at the start of the day. Having a nutritious and substantial breakfast primes the body into peak metabolic state and kick-starts the day.
2. Change the Meal Structure
We, as adults, might be used to the three-meal structure that gets us through the day without problems. With children, however, since their growth is at a peak, and that uses up quite a lot of energy, their digestive system needs a strong boost. This can be attained by replacing the three-meal structure, and instead, giving them portioned meals every couple of hours or so. This can keep them energised and help them eat the right amount, too.
3. Drinking Water Before a Meal
Be it right after waking up or about half an hour before a meal, water is important in two ways. Firstly, it breaks the fast in the morning and rehydrates the body to replenish the lost water. Secondly, by drinking water, the digestive system prepares itself and expects food to follow it as well. These, together, help in resetting the appetite and make your child hungry again.
4. A Snack Can Be a Meal As Well
The general notion of snacks is random items such as biscuits, chips, and salted mixtures. Instead of snacking on non-nutritious items to kill the hunger, replace them with small sandwiches or nutritional cookies. These take care of the hunger pangs as well as provide the required nutrition, too.
5. Milk is NOT a Meal
A glass of milk is the best breakfast, is actually a myth. It may have good nutrition but simply having milk for breakfast or a meal isn’t enough. Excessive milk consumption reduces the appetite for the following meal, being counterproductive all around. Milk should be kept in moderation and other dairy products can be used as an alternative as well.
6. Peanuts to Increase Appetite
Peanuts are one of those few food items that have properties conducive to supporting the growth of appetite. Fried peanuts are popularly consumed as an appetizer and the same can be useful for your child. If bread and butter snack is one of his favourites, then try replacing the standard butter with peanut butter.
7. Physical Exertion is a Necessity
Nothing can replace a good evening of outside play or a nice exercise session in the morning. Spending energy creates the need for energy in the body, which stimulates the digestive system, and makes your stomach ask for more food. You will always notice children who are heavily engaged in sports and other physical activities to rarely have poor eating habits.
8. Cooler Environments Ought to Prevail
The environmental conditions change the appetites of adults as well as children. Generally, the need to eat takes a toll usually around summers. Compared to that, everyone seems to gorge readily on multiple food items during winter. The surrounding temperature is responsible for our body using up the energy to keep us warm. By maintaining a comparatively cooler surrounding, the metabolic processes will be at a normal pace and lead to the right times to be hungry.
9. Zinc is the Ally We All Need
The presence of zinc is essential to carrying out the very process of digestion itself. Once the hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach are normal, the digestion processes realign themselves, too. Apart from consuming zinc food items as mentioned earlier, you can get your paediatrician’s approval in using zinc-based supplements as well.
10. The Secret Weapon of Favourite Food
At times, everything is fine and it’s primarily the mood of your child that’s not right. He might be tired of eating food that tastes the same or just be upset with something else. By making something you know they will love no matter what, you can get them started on eating that a bit. This will stimulate their hunger which will make them have the usual meal.
Foods That Can Help to Increase Appetite in Infants
The following foods can help enhance appetite in babies.
1. Lemon Juice
Lemon has tons of properties. One of the peculiar ones is the ability to cleanse the palate, and the other is to bring back the appetite rather quickly. You can make some lemon water or lemon juice for your child, and give him a glass of it. Soon, his digestive system will start getting activated and he’ll want food.
In fruits, plums is a popular one that is known to boost appetites. The nutrients present in it, combined with the peculiar taste that makes it a hit with children, is the best food item to give your child and boost his appetite.
Acquiring this fruit might have been difficult in the earlier times. Nowadays, chances of finding peaches in the supermarket or a store are comparatively higher, with all the safe packaging. Peaches are tasty and can be given to your kid to increase his appetite.
4. Curd and Methi Seeds
The constitution of curd makes it a good digestive stimulant. Combine that by taking a few methi or fenugreek seeds, crushing them to make a powder, and mixing it with the curd. Give this to your child and you will see his appetite increase in no time.
5. Curd and Pudina
Another possible ingredient instead of methi seeds can be pudina leaves, too. This is mostly recommended if your child likes milk but too much consumption leads to killing the appetite. Take a few pudina leaves, blend them together and add it to the curd with some salt. This helps ramp up the appetite and can be given even to kids about a year old or so.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Yes, these seeds are used to cut down cravings, so it might seem strange to include them here. However, the reason for them affecting the digestive process is the presence of zinc in them. A few pumpkin seeds is all that it takes to affect the appetite.
7. Carrot Juice
The benefits of carrot are countless and its tendency to increase the appetite is yet another jewel in its crown. Quite an age-old technique since generations, having a small bowl of carrot juice around 30 minutes before a meal has been known to pretty much restore the hunger needed to have the meal.
Zinc. The quintessential ingredient that is needed and is present in peanuts in good quantities. Do not give peanuts if your child is less than a year old, because peanut allergies are a thing and your little one could have one, too. Introduce it initially first to check for allergies and make it a part of the diet only if it all seems fine for a week. Peanut in any form, right from butter, to chikki, to a chutney is beneficial.
9. Ajwain Flowers
Also known as thyme, this is pretty good herb to restore appetite in kids. When included in rice or dals, it not only brings out the flavour in it but further compounds they want to have more.
Popularly had in the south, it is also known to be one of the first solids that a baby has. This soup helps streamline the process of digestion as well as boost appetite.
Save those packets you get with your pizza. While adding more flavour, it makes foods appetizing as well.
A popular tonic among the older generation for both adults and kids, it is quite potent in being able to restore lost appetite in everyone.
This multi-purpose multi-valued ingredient can be had with some buttermilk to restore the digestive energy, as mentioned in the Ayurveda.
Treating everything from infections to indigestion, mixing turmeric with some ghee and giving it to your child before meals can steadily bring back the appetite he had.
Any popular one from the market can be used regularly to make your kids start having good eating habits again.
Also known as cinnamon, the presence of hydroxychalcone in its constitution makes it a powerful ingredient to boost appetites by adding it to various food items.
Another remedy that has trickled down generations, having tulsi water or simply the leaves of the basil plant can assist in resetting the hunger of your child.
An octa-herbal ayurvedic powder that is quite popular, can be mixed with rice or ghee and given to young kids for the speedy recovery of their appetites.
Not only does hing get rid of gases and flatulence, but that indirectly affects the appetite and reduces the feeling of fullness in the stomach.
Loss of appetite is not a new thing in children. Restoring the appetite takes only a few techniques. Instilling good eating habits from an early age goes a long way in keeping them healthy.
Also Read: Best Baby Foods