There are two extremes of looking at a baby’s food intake. On the one extreme you can take a completely hands off approach and simply place food in front of a baby and allow her to decide if and when to take the food and bring it to her mouth. This extreme believes that all babies know what’s best for them and caregivers should not try to interfere. On the other extreme you can take a more controlling and involved approach. This extreme believes that babies don’t know what they need and the caregiver should decide exactly what and how much the child should eat and when.
In general it’s best to take a more hands-off approach. And yes, this works for most babies. There are benefits to this approach:
- Baby stays in tune with his hunger and fullness cues and eats the amount of food that is right for his growth, development, and energy needs
- Baby is able to take the time she needs to learn how to move food around in her mouth
- Baby becomes more familiar with food as he is able to look, touch, and explore his own food
But what if you keep offering food and your baby NEVER tries any? What if your baby becomes extremely agitated whenever you put her in her highchair?
You’ve heard such wonderful stories of your friend’s child who enjoys mealtime and the food offered to him.
First of all, let’s review how personality comes into play when starting on solids. Some babies are the early adopter, adventurous eaters, some are the slow and steady cautious eaters, and some babies hate change and would rather drink breastmilk or formula forever!
Sometimes it is a matter of changing one aspect of the food:
Texture: the texture might be overly challenging (chunky or hard) or too soft for the baby. Some babies need to start off with purees while other babies scoff at them.
Temperature: sometimes a baby is particular about their food being cold or warm. Just remember to be careful and not serve hot food to a baby. Their mouths are more sensitive to getting burned from the heat.
Taste: they might need to learn to enjoy the actual taste of the food. It can take 15-20 times of tasting a food before a baby will accept it!
Time of day: if a baby is tired, it may not be interested in learning something new, like eating solid foods. Try to schedule feeding times at a time of day when baby is most alert.
If you’ve been offering food to your baby by changing these variables and they continue to refuse solid food, it is time to get an individualized assessment by a feeding time. Speak to a pediatric dietitian, occupational therapist, or doctor.