I’m a pediatric nurse and two-time mom and I’m still stumped by this. My second daughter, eight months old, hates, really despises, solid foods. I’m still breastfeeding her every two to three hours, as she still needs her nutrition and hydration. I have been trying her on solids since she was almost six months old: pears, apples, yams, sweet potatoes, rice cereal, oatmeal, bananas, peas, beans, carrots. Nothing. She hates them all, forces them right back out and all over herself. She slams her mouth shut at the sight of the spoon. I have tried distraction and patience. I have switched the consistency up and tried both warm and cold temperatures. I have had her father, my mother and another friend all try feeding her. I have waited a day in-between and tried it everyday. We have moved from the high chair to the table to the outside table. Feeding time usually takes almost an hour, with me taking every opportunity that she opens her mouth to just get a little bit in. She chokes and spits and cries. I do not want her to develop an aversion to food any more than she already has. My pediatrician said just keep trying. Any suggestions? – Feeding Frenzy
Dear Feeding Frenzy,
What you’re experiencing is not that uncommon. Some babies just don’t like starting solids. But it doesn’t mean they won’t like food. Feeding now is very different from what eating will be like as she gets older. For one thing, baby food has little in common with anything big people eat. It’s bland, it’s mushy, it’s rarely fresh. Maybe she likes a little more spice. If allergens aren’t an issue, you might try grinding up a little of what you’re eating and see if the flavors are more interesting to her.
But it’s equally possible that it’s not the content of the spoon that’s turning her off. It might be the spoon itself – or the act of having it shoved in her mouth. Your daughter may be one of the many babies who just won’t go for food until they can feed themselves. At eight months, you’re right around the corner from the self-feeding stage. True, it’s better if a baby has experience gumming total mush before getting into something more, well, solid. There are solutions. They may not be the neatest ones, though. Have you tried letting her scoop her food up with her hands? Or you might be able to give her tiny pieces of those puffed products that have been lately marketed to the self-feeding set. Your doctor might have some ideas about finger foods that could work for an inexperienced baby. There are lots of things to try, including, at some point, small pieces of “real food.” Some kids just want nothing to do with food until they can eat what the grown-ups eat, the way grown-ups eat it.
Your doctor is right, the best thing to do is keep trying, and try to keep the pressure off. If she gets the vibe that you’re desperate for her to do it, she may get more anxious and less interested. Keep the tone as light as possible, and do what you can to make eating a fun part of your daughter’s day. Have you tried feeding her while the rest of the family’s eating? That might help her feel included rather than forced to try something new. Another idea is to let her older sister try feeding, sometimes babies are more receptive to sibling suggestion. And if at first (and fortieth) you don’t succeed, don’t worry. Your daughter will definitely eventually find food she can deal with, and she’ll very likely find food she loves, too.
Your turn: How did you get your breastfeeding baby interested in solids? Tell us in the comments!