When Your Baby Won’t Eat

When Your Baby Won't EatAt some point in baby’s young eating life (between 8 months and 2 years generally), a regression, “pickiness,” or outright refusal of food may temporarily take place.

One innocent reason behind the recent strike your kiddo has placed on food may involve his or her growing independence. Why sit still to eat when you can crawl, toddle, or walk about and discover the world around you?! As baby becomes more independent in these ways, he or she may find security in the old days of just the breast or bottle. Food becomes yet another new thing in a quickly expanding world and the safe nuzzle in your arms to eat may be what your child seeks.

First, rule out underlying issues that might be causing food aversion symptoms. Visit your pediatrician if you have concerns.  Your doctor may want to know information like how often does child eat, how much, and what? Are there particular things your child does or does not like or is it all food? What have you noticed about your child’s digestive system? Are there also instances of spitting up, vomiting, gas, or constipation? Is this new or consistent with baby’s food and digestive history? These sorts of observations can help a doctor determine a young one is just “going through a phase” or has an underlying issue that needs further evaluation.

Also ensure your baby is ready for food. Baby-led weaning encourages letting baby set the pace on the introduction of solid foods. If baby is younger than or close to six months, it may not be food refusal—he or she simply may not be ready yet. If you’re kiddo struggles with food refusal, consider a few options you may have:

  • When you do offer food, make it the most bang for baby’s buck. Filler foods have their place sometimes, but nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, and eggs/dairy (if age-appropriate) offer big bites of nutrition, even in small portions. Continue to offer milk or formula if baby is willing. Breast milk, formula, and milk in and of themselves offer a variety of nutrients to sustain baby.
  • Try new foods or old foods in a new way. Depending on your babe’s age and feeding abilities, maybe that smooshed banana or avocado can now be offered in small solid slivers. Add new flavors as you are able to give a variety of options. Perhaps baby wants to eat, but the same old peas and carrots just aren’t jiving with him or her anymore.
  • On the other hand, try going back to basics. Again, with all those changes in the world around him or her, a new texture or taste of food may be too much. Go back to old favorites or add a side of something new along with the tried and true. Refrain from using favorite foods as a reward for eating things they don’t like. This quickly adds stress to the eating experience for you both, among other things. Respecting baby’s food preferences, fears, and aversions during this age of food discovery will help build a bridge of trust between baby and both you and food.
  • Give it time, meal time that is. This phase may be quickly or slowly outgrown, but even in the midst of it time is important. Offer plenty of time for your child to eat. Rushing a baby to eat can create pressure to preform, even increased risk of choking. Perhaps your young one needs to touch and even play with food to feel comfortable with eating it at first. This also offers babe a sense of agency, whether he or she decides to eat or not.
  • Eat together. This may mean separate plates but with your babe on your lap; you may prefer to just share a plate and fork. Sometimes baby doesn’t want something until he or she sees you want it too. You are your child’s guide and inspiration often times, so take it as a compliment and share in your meal together. This doesn’t have to become a habit of every meal or every day—I know sometimes my meal is the only thing that feels like mine during my day with young ones around! This practice can help create a secure environment for baby to explore new tastes though.
  • Consider other behavior modifications. Evaluate how the whole eating process happens in your home. Is the TV on? Are you tense, with raised voice and high demands? Is everyone else sitting or moving around while your child is attempting to eat? Perhaps sitting together or going into a quiet room, just you and babe, can offer a more soothing and inviting atmosphere for your child to eat.

Lynette Moran shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 1 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

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