It’s pretty normal for your child to be off their food when they’re not feeling themselves. And as a parent, it’s pretty normal to worry. While you should always consult a doctor with any concerns, here are a few tips for feeding and hydrating your little one to help their recovery.
1. Encourage them to drink
If your child is suffering from a respiratory infection, fever or a gastrointestinal illness with diarrhoea, keeping them hydrated is a priority. If your child is under 1 and still on breast milk or formula, keep feeding them in the same way (unless your doctor states otherwise). Babies on solids and older children should consume clear liquids – things like soups, herbal teas and diluted fruit juices. Small portions of food such as bananas, rice and toast can also help their body absorb water. If your child is experiencing lots of diarrhoea or vomiting, your doctor might recommend giving them a rehydration fluid.
2. Give them their favourite foods
When your little one is under the weather, it’s likely they’ll have a hankering for particular foods while others suddenly won’t be appealing. Try to be mindful of this when they seem like they’re being fussy. If your child just wants cheese on toast, let them have it. It’s better to make sure they get some form of nutrients versus none at all. When your little one doesn’t feel their best, there’s also no harm in treating them to their favorite snack or treat to brighten their spirits.
3. Don’t pressure them to eat
When you’re ill and off your food, having a well-meaning loved one try and force you to eat isn’t especially helpful. The same goes for your child. It might go against your best instincts, but if they really don’t want to eat, don’t force them. Even if they don’t eat a great deal for a day or two, they’ll be fine as long as they keep drinking and stay hydrated. Rest assured, they’ll get their appetite back soon enough. And when they do, kids have a tendency to power eat to get their energy levels back.
4. Soothe a sore throat
A sore throat can suddenly make every gulp and mouthful feel extremely painful. So to make sure your child keeps eating and drinking, it’s important to give them solids and liquids that are as soothing as possible. Warm and very cold liquids such as chilled juices, hot chocolate and ice pops are a good option, and a warming bowl of chicken soup can be an especially effective remedy. In fact, studies have found that chicken soup actually contains anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Keep them cool during a fever
If your child is burning up, food is probably the last thing on their (and your) minds. Along with meds, you could try giving them a lukewarm bath or use a washcloth to try and make them feel cooler; cooling gel forehead patches can help too. Keeping them in light and breathable clothes is also recommended to ensure they’re as comfortable as possible. Newborns require particularly close attention – call the doctor immediately if their fever reaches 38 degrees Celsius (100.5 degrees Fahrenheit) or greater.