My baby won't eat solids! My baby has started throwing up after every meal. My baby will not touch any food, no matter how much I try and get them to do so. These are all common scenarios that parents find themselves in when dealing with babies who refuse to eat solids or have an aversion to eating different kinds of foods.
The most important thing for a parent to remember is that this behaviour is natural and should be expected from time to time during the process of trying new foods. There are many reasons why your little one may not want what you're offering; in this post, we will cover some of the common causes as well as share some tips to help get your baby eating solids again.
What to Do When Your Baby Doesn't Eat Solids
It can be concerning when your baby does not want to eat, particularly if they have been happy to eat solids previously and suddenly start refusing them. However, this refusal to begin eating solids or sudden rejection of solids is rarely a cause for significant concern.
Learning to eat solids is a process and does take time. During this time, there will be ‘regressions' as there will be with other milestones in your baby's life.
If your baby has been eating solids and suddenly starts rejecting them:
Be patient and don't give up
Eating solids is a developmental milestone for babies. Babies need time to adjust after introduced to new foods.
Focus on the textures of the food you're offering, not just how it tastes.
Your baby may not like something that's too mushy, runny or lumpy. Whilst it is essential to offer a range of foods and different textures, some babies struggle more with food texture than other babies. If they were eating solids previously and then suddenly stop, ask yourself, “what were they eating before? What was the texture like?” Try different textures to see if that helps, or go back to the tried and tested textures your baby had been eating previously. This is a bit of trial and error and lots of patience.
Make sure that you're not introducing too many new foods too quickly.
Your baby may need to take time to adjust to solids before trying something else new. Your baby's digestive system needs time to adjust as well, so watch for any changes in bowel movements.
In our Baby's First Food by Age article, we provide some suggestions on which foods may be winners for your little one.
Don't be afraid of finger foods.
If your baby is older than seven months, don't be afraid of finger foods! Babies want to explore and feel different textures in their diet, so offering finger foods may be just what they need to get them eating solids again.
Common Reasons Why Babies Refuse Solid Foods
Reason 1: Your Baby is Constipated
Constipation can occur when babies transition from a liquid diet to solid foods. Liquids such as breast milk or infant formula are very easy to digest and absorb in the intestines.
Solid food, on the other hand, adds another layer of complexity to this already complicated process. The gastrointestinal tract must now do more work because of it.
You can help your baby if he's constipated using home treatments like diluted prune juice, but only if they're suitable based on your baby’s age. If you're concerned, see your paediatrician.
Reason 2: Your Baby is Bored
Your baby may be bored with bland or plain foods as baby food tends to be more flavourless and less textured.
After seven months, most babies should handle more textural, taste, and food experiences. Babies and young toddlers want to explore and try new foods.
According to one research, kids who were not offered more textured foods such as finger food by nine months showed more signs of picky eating by seven years old.
So if you suspect your baby may be bored with the food you are offering, introduce more crunch, flavour, and independence when feeding herself.
Reason 3: Your Baby is Teething
Teething is a typical cause of a baby not eating. Their mouth hurts. However, other factors might be contributing to your child's refusal to eat.
A sudden illness causing a sore throat or ear discomfort might result in food refusal for a short period.
Reflux (a condition in which stomach acids migrate into the oesophagus) might be uncomfortable and stifle a baby's appetite. If this is continuous, your baby may link pain with eating and establish a habit of avoiding food.
Colic and various digestive issues such as gas, cramping, or other symptoms can all be uncomfortable and the cause of your baby's refusal to eat solids.
Sickness such as a cold can make any infant unwilling to eat. When the condition has passed, most infants will resume eating.
If you think your baby's refusal to eat is due to a more complicated, underlying medical problem, see your doctor.
Reason 4: Your Baby is Not Yet Ready
Babies are distinct and have their personalities, yet they all follow a similar path of development. The various milestones in childhood are reached at varying ages, and this is known as developmental readiness.
Babies are generally ready to begin solid foods somewhere between 4 – 6 months, some even later. Look for the signs of readiness, and if your little one is not quite ready, wait a couple of weeks.
Some children have difficulty chewing and manipulating food in their mouths. They require more practice. Some babies struggle more with the different textures, and they need additional time and experience with them before tolerating them.
Allow your baby to experience food in different ways by placing a spoonful of mashed or chopped food onto their highchair tray for them to touch and feel. Make sure the food is safe for your baby to eat as you may find they start to put the food into their mouths.
Reason 5: Your Baby is Tired
If your baby is refusing to eat, they may be tired, particularly if their refusal is more decisive towards the end of the day.
Babies are naturally drawn to simpler things, and eating food is more complex than simply drinking formula or breastmilk. Keep this in mind when preparing dinner and try to keep the meal simple. Consider giving your baby a larger meal for breakfast and lunch, as this will take some of the pressure off of dinnertime.
Tips for Getting Your Baby to Eat Solids
Tip 1: Try Baby-Led Weaning
Baby-led weaning is also referred to as Baby-led solids introduction or Baby-led weaning introduction process.
Baby-led weaning is a type of feeding in which the baby controls the pace and the kinds of food given, with parents playing a secondary role.
Your baby controls when they want to feed, how much they want to eat, and what they eat. This helps them develop their feeding skills while developing an understanding of their wants and desires.
Babies can be weaned via baby-led weaning by allowing them to pick up the food and feed themselves, with minimal adult supervision.
Tip 2: Offer More Variety at Each Meal
Keep your baby interested by offering a variety of different foods, rotating the types you offer. Babies are drawn towards what they are familiar with, so if they are constantly fed the same food, it becomes less appealing over time.
Offer your baby vegetables along with fruits, proteins in combination with carbohydrates, desserts in addition to snacks. That way, they are more likely to try something new when you are offering it. Remember to keep a balance, yes, your little one may love the sweet things, but if you feed them too many sweet as opposed to savoury options, they could start to reject the savoury tasting food.
Tip 3: Let Your Baby Play and Touch the Food
You can get your baby interested in food again by placing a spoonful of mashed or chopped food on their highchair tray and let them play and touch the food. You may even find they start to put the food into their mouths without you even prompting them. Avoid choking by ensuring that the food you place in front of them is safe.
Tip 4: Keep Mealtimes Relaxed
It's essential to keep mealtimes light-hearted and stress-free. Longer mealtimes may make your baby bored and restless. If your baby is hungry, they will likely finish their meal in approximately 20 minutes.
Tip 5: Keep Persevering but Never Force Your Baby to Eat
If your baby refuses food at mealtime, stop and try again at the next meal. Although it can be frustrating, perseverance is vital. Continue to offer your little one a variety of food but never force them to eat as this will be counterproductive and can result in your little one resisting solid foods for a more extended period.
If your baby is refusing solid food, don't panic; many babies go through this phase of refusing solid food. Provided they are still getting sufficient nutrients; there is no need to be concerned. The best way to determine if your baby is getting enough nourishment is to see whether they are growing and gaining weight.
Remember that although solid foods will eventually take precedence over breast milk or infant formula during the early transition to solids, lots of nutrition still comes from them.
If you are concerned, see your paediatrician to rule out any underlying conditions.