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Baby Food Rebellion

Baby Food Rebellion

By Amalah

My 7 month old won’t eat solid food. She used to, at least in a “Well, this is fun and interesting to be sitting in a high chair. Put that in my mouth! Wow, that’s super weird and I’m not sure I like it so I will spit most of it out! Now put more in! Yes, this is still very weird!” kind of way. But then came the ear infection from hell and along with it a couple full runs of antibiotics multiple times per day and a case of Roseola that required Tylenol or Motrin every 3 hours for a couple days. And this kid HATES medicine. Screaming, flailing (and she’s strong!), mouth clamped shut, people a mile from our house probably think we were torturing someone. And when I say “we”, I mean my husband, because I literally could not give her medicine and I ended up in tears even when he did it. It. Was. Awful.

Somewhere along the line with all this medicine, she stopped trusting us with anything that came near her mouth (I’m clearly guessing here, but this is definitely what it seems like). Because for over a month now, any time a spoon of food comes near her mouth, she clamps it shut and screams and flails around, just like when we gave her medicine. It’s now been a couple weeks since her last medicine, so after taking over a week completely off from trying to feed her, I had high hopes that we’d be back to where we were over a month or so ago (that she had forgiven us or forgotten about the medicine, I guess?). But no. No food can get anywhere near her mouth still, and she is clearly miserable about the whole eating thing now. This is really sad and frustrating to me, as I was very much looking forward to this stage of the kid game. I have the adorable frozen cubes of homemade sweet potatoes and peas and green beans in baggies in my freezer to prove it. But now they just taunt me.

Things I’ve tried:
Giving it time off (9 days off seemed to do no good whatsoever)
Trying briefly every day (stopping when she seems upset, which was always before the spoon was within 6 inches of her face)
Giving her a teething biscuit (thought this would at least put her in control, even if the nutrition was questionable, but she wasn’t into it either)
Giving her the food to play with as she sees fit (adorable messes of bananas and then sweet potatoes resulted, but these were the only time she’s ever kept her fingers out of her mouth).

What am I doing wrong? Please tell me there’s something I’m doing wrong so I can fix this. Ugh!! Any suggestions or ideas would be welcome. Should I have daycare try? She starts at a new daycare next week, does that impact the advice at all?

I tried explaining the issue to my typically awesome and understanding pediatrician and her response was “keep trying.” Not super helpful (the alternative being we just don’t ever give her solids and send care packages of breast milk with her to college?).

Sincerely,
Not sending breast milk to college.

First things first: BREATHE. CALM. This is not a harbinger of eating/weaning doom. At seven months, she’s barely a month past the recommended age for introducing solids in the first place. And that “introduction” can be a long-ass drawn-out thing for most kids, full of fits and starts, everything from a complete lack of interest to a full-scale revolt. And no matter how the introduction to solid food goes, breast milk still needs to be the primary source of calories and nutrition until she’s 12 months old.

And really, pureed vegetables hardly even count as true “solid” food. And I say this as a big, big fan of homemade baby food: Spoon-fed purees are basically training wheels for real food.

And purees are a completely, 100% skippable feeding stage.

I’m going to go ahead and disagree slightly with your pediatrician to “keep trying.” Stop trying to spoon feed her. Stop offering the purees. Spend some time today Googling “baby-led weaning” instead. The BLW method basically skips purees and spoon feeding, but instead offers age-appropriate foods in a manner that allow your baby to feed herself. You follow your baby’s cues for interest level, meal timing and portion size, and much like the Division of Responsibility from the Satter method — your job ends when the food is properly cooked/cut/mashed and placed in front of her. You do not put the food in her mouth for her — that’s her job, her learning process.

This is what I WISH I had done with my firstborn, who also had a terrible hatred of the spoon and being spoon-fed. Instead, I “kept trying.” Over and over and over again. I didn’t know what else to offer him, so I went with packaged, processed finger foods that were helpfully labeled for babies because…I don’t know. He was a baby and this says “baby” here on the label so I guess this is a good food for a baby.

I should warn you that some of the more vocal proponents of the baby-led weaning method can be a bit…intense. You might get flashbacks to the breast vs. bottle wars, listening to people who think pureed baby food is A Terrible Awful Stupid Thing and that Their Approach To Feeding Is The Only Correct Way to Feed A Baby. And then the people who can’t even IMAGINE offering a baby anything other than rice cereal as a first food are all, BUT UR BABY IS GOING TO CHOKE AND DIE U NEGLIGENT MONSTER. Around and around it goes. Whatever. I’m too tired to have a rigid philosophy about this stuff anymore. I’m about anything that makes mealtimes less stressful for both parent and child, you know?

(The recipe/feeding website Wholesome Baby Food has a nice, non-insane overview of BLW.)

But I do think a baby-led approach will be better for you — it’ll take the stress off of you trying-trying-trying, and give your daughter time to put the medicine trauma behind her. You had the right idea with the teething biscuit and the banana. You just need to not give up after a couple attempts, and continue to think outside the Boxed Food With A Picture Of A Baby on it. It’s ABSOLUTELY FINE if the food doesn’t make it to her mouth and she simply squishes chunks of steamed sweet potatoes into oblivion. (Soft chunks, yes, a nice grabbable size — NOT pureed or super-tiny, since she’s probably not master the thumb/index finger pincher grasp yet.) Breast milk is her proper, primary source of nutrition right now. Solid foods are simply a learning process right now, and it’s a process that can’t be rushed.

Give her time to feel comfortable in her high chair again, to understand that you really and truly won’t be trying to shove a spoon near her face anymore. Put her in her highchair during YOUR mealtimes, so she can watch you eat. Offer foods that she can feed herself, size- and texture-wise, that don’t pose a big choking hazard risk. (Think bigger foods for her to gnaw/gum on, not tiny/chopped-up things that she can swallow a few of at a time and get lodged in her throat.) BLW websites will give you more ideas on what you can offer (and how to best cut/cook/present) it, but always use your best instincts when it comes to choking hazards. Do not ever turn your back when there is food in front of her, even if it’s not going into her mouth. Stay very attentive. (Editor: and, for peace of mind and confidence please be up-to-date on how to help a baby that is choking and infant CPR).

If she remains uninterested, THAT’S OKAY. She is still very, very young. Sure, she had a pretty rough go of it with the medicine, but that will fade with enough time.  You don’t mention anything about her expressing the “classic” signs of being ready/interested (intensely watching you eat, mimicking chewing, grabbing for your plate or food, etc.), which means she might not have been super into it even when you guys did have a couple positive experiences pre-illness. Again, BLW will help you relax and wait for her signals that she’s interested.  And she WILL get interested, eventually. Even the pickiest, tiniest, latest eater alive won’t go to college needing breast milk care packages. Who knows! Daycare might be a whole new “thing” and the highchair/feeding experience there will be completely separate for her from the medicine force-feeding, and watching her peers get fed might spark an interest you haven’t seen at home yet. Take it day by day and FOLLOW HER LEAD.

She may never eat those frozen cubes of vegetables, honestly, and that’s also okay. Lots of babies skip the puree stage, either on-purpose for cultural or BLW reasons…or just sort-of because they just aren’t that into the whole spoon-feeding thing and would rather skip right to the food off your plate. I mean, let’s be honest, I’d rather eat a nice real dinner than pureed green beans too.

(Pro-tip: Save the purees for later, when you can hide them in pasta sauces or homemade nuggets and stuff.)

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Amy

    Just a note, since it happened to us, my son nursed ok, and did fine with bottles, but had a minor tongue tie that really only became an issue with food. We did not figure this out until I ignored my pediatrician’s advice to ‘just keep trying’ when my 15 month old was still gagging/throwing up anything more than a puree. Getting the tongue tie snipped and some serious oral motor therapy is helping, but he still has an aversion to some foods/textures that we’re working through.

  • Jordan

    Oh, this sounds familiar. My first child LOVED him some purées, so when child #2 showed up I set to work with my trusty food processor, and he DID NOT LIKE. My pediatrician (who I normally like) was singularly unhelpful–she seemed to think that I wasn’t trying hard enough. One day I said to hell with it and gave him (at 9 months) some of his brother’s scrambled eggs, and holy moly, he turned into the family garbage disposal! He loves everything, including salmon and crab cakes–just last week he demolished a plate-ful of traditional Thanksgiving food, out-eating his 4 year old brother by a large margin. (He’s 14 months now)
    So, yes! Give the BLW a shot–it might be just what your daughter is looking for.

  • Ali

    I 110% agree with the wise Amalah. My oldest ate basically no solids for a long, long time. At a year old, he would only eat bananas, yogurt, and pieces of clementines. He wouldn’t even touch his birthday cake. Around 15 months, he turned a corner and decided he LOVES food. Now he will eat almost anything. So there is hope! I read several places “food before one is just for fun,” so I say don’t worry about it at all for quite a while. Good luck!

  • Liz

    Deep breaths! It’ll be okay!

    I’m a mama of two mostly BLW’d kids who occasionally spoon-fed (mostly at daycare or w/grandparents). Daughter was raring to go by six months, but my son took longer to “get” solid food–not a lot actually made it into his stomach until about 8 months, then one day it clicked and he’s been enthusiastically eating ever since.

    BLW plus Satter’s Division of Responsibility really helped me and my husband relax and enjoy family mealtimes–and it’s amazing & fun to see what the little ones can feed themselves! 

  • Sam

    Oh man. I feel you. My daughter is 14 months old and she was not interested in purees. I agree with the stepping back and just giving the baby something they might like to gnaw on with some flavor. My daughter really loved pizza crusts. It’s hard and she could gum it. 

    I did want to comment on the daycare question: you know my daycare gave me a lot of pressure about my baby not being into food enough. I think they do a great job now that she can eat, but they weren’t really the best when it came to being patient with her learning to eat.

    However, I’ve noticed that my daughter eats a lot better at school than at home. She sees other babies eating and sees it as normal. Also, when I’m around she knows I’m available for milk (we’re working on it!) You might have a serious discussion with them about maybe just offering the baby purees when they offer them to other babies. Make sure they know not to pressure the baby and to not push if she freaks out. But it doesn’t sound like a horrible idea if you really are concerned about the baby eating. 

  • Brooke

    Our problem was slightly different. #2 son got the stomach flu at just about the time we started feeding him real food. After a big dinner of applesauce, he yucked it all up and refused to eat anything off a spoon for a month. So….I gave him things he could feed himself- mostly thoroughly-cooked peas and freeze-dried fruit (Target and Trader Joe’s, basically melts in the mouth). He got practice eating and I didn’t feel like a terrible parent. I just stuck him in the highchair, gave him the food, and eventually he got over it.

  • Olivia

    Food before one is just for fun. 🙂 My daughter had very little interest in solids before she was 14 months and never liked purees. 

  • Elle

    Definitely BLW. Normally I’d say, eh, whatever works. But since baby’s stressing & you’re stressing at eating times, seriously,
    BLW will take the stress out of the situation. Like Amy said, plop baby in a highchair to watch you eat your food, maybe put a sample of it on the tray but then just don’t even worry if it’s eater. Sooner than later, before you know it, baby will be begging for you to share everything, every single time you try to put any kind of morsel into your own mouth. And then you will look back wistfully on this current stage of non-interest that is driving you so bonkers.

  • Maree

    I decided long ago that.my kids get nutrition by osmosis I’m sure nothing goes in their mouth 😉

  • Claire

    My daughter skipped purees pretty much. I spent ages fretting over babyrice and milk because I wasn’t expressing after the issues I had with it with my son. We did some fruit. Then she noticed her brother was eating something totally different and no thank you, she was eating the same as you him and we’ve not looked back. To the point where for a while if it looked like mush she wouldn’t touch it (soup was a no no for a while). She was late getting teeth but this kid could still eat an apple without one.
    Go with BLW and Satter, it works. And we used toast fingers for ages because they’re not as soft as bread and are easier to hold and chew. Division of responsibility has saved my sanity more than once.

  • Alexa

    We lived – especially during teething – with one of those net food teethers. They are a pain to feed but such an easy way to give a baby something to snack on on their own terms and not worry about choking. This is what I’m talking about: http://www.amazon.com/Munchkin-Pack-Fresh-Feeder-Colors/dp/B000GK5XY2

  • Sheryl

    Totally agree with this advice.  At 7 months, my daughter hadn’t had any sort of traumatic antibiotic situation and still wouldn’t eat a thing!  We moved to BLW and it was a great introduction for her.

    Now, at 22 months, she does best eating what we are eating, at the table with us.  That’s something else to try – have dinner with your husband, and put her in her chair at the table, and hand her (e.g.) a greenbean to play with.

    Just want to comment, thought, that Amalah’s comment that breast milk is the key way babies get nutrition until they are one – breast milk OR formula should be their key source of nutrition.  Not solids, but formula or breastmllk are fine.

  • Autumn

    I addition to BLW, I would suggest just setting her spoon on her tray.  Let her explore it on her own or not.  

    We didn’t start solids/purees with my daughter until 7 months due to a family vacation (easier just to pack my boobs!) so for a week or so before we started, I just gave her the spoon to explore so she was familiar with it when it was time to give food a try.  And when we did start, she preferred her purees thicker.

    Good luck!

  • MR

    Just another to chime in and say it is ok! Amy’s advice is spot on. Just let her keep playing with food. She will try tasting it when she is ready. In the meantime, don’t worry. My first was READY for solids at 4 months. I thought it was too young at first, but she would lunge for my food, so we started giving her some and she loved it. But, my second showed absolutely NO interest until she was almost 9 months old. And that was ok too. We didn’t try, because she wasn’t interested. When we did start trying, she wanted nothing to do with purees or a spoon, so we skipped that stuff. She is 3.5 now, and a very healthy eater. So, I promise, your daughter won’t still be on a breastmilk diet come college time. 🙂

  • Kim too

    Huge non-activist proponent of BLW here.  My youngest has a incredibly strong gag reflex, and she hated the spoon.  (Huh, come to think of it, she had a hard time nursing at first too – I ended up going to an OT with her.  Hadn’t really put the two together before.  Different story, though.)
    Anyhoo, my Little cried every time we fed her.  I had poo-pooed BLW as another fad, but man – it was fantastic for her.  I handed her a banana – she went to town. Avocados, mangos, steamed or whole apples-fantastic.  Big ol’ broccoli trees, then slices of steak (“how can she eat steak?  She has no teeth!” my hubs would say, as the baby happily gummed away)  I could put something in her mouth – she would spit it out, look at it, and put it back in.  She wanted to be in control.
    Seriously, give it a shot. “Foods for fun before you’re one” and all that, but giving her a chance to explore textures on her own is really valuable.  And those little cubes work great in smoothies (I had a ton of them, too!)

  • Michelle

    My son’s gag reflex didn’t move back until 8months, so while I offered him food, he only started eating at8 months. We did BLW, he started finally eating strawberries and I breathed a sigh of relief. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t pressured him or myself to get him to eat. They will when they are ready. Breast milk and formula have enough for them, so stop stressing! We now do I mix of BLW and spoon feeding (the grandparents weren’t big on BLW,  but it took me until he was 10months to get him to eat comfortably from a spoon). Just relax, offer food but don’t pressure, your kid is getting enough nutrients, they will eat when ready!

  • Kim too

    Oh, and the guideline I always give newbies when they look at me like I’m crazy – if you can smash it up against the roof of your mouth with your tongue, it’s safe to give her.  She may gag a few times, but that is different than choking, and part of the learning process.  Good luck!

  • S

    Don’t worry. My daughter went from breast milk to soft foods. She did not like purée baby food, it was a texture issue. She still doesn’t eat purée consistency like mashed potatoes. You are going to have to ignore the comments. We fed her like Amy said, just present and let her try. Knowing her personality now that was the best way. She doesn’t want help with anything dressing, toile ting,  getting in the car seat before I strap her in. Feeding her with a spoon would not work out. My son had a terrible gag reflex. It was a swallowing issue we had testing for. I was luckily to be in the medical field so the dr. Listened to me. I worked with kids with feeding issues. Hide the cubes. Just keep trying she will eat. Relax and follow her lead. My kids still don’t eat meat!Good luck.
    S

  • Letter Writer

    Original Letter Writer, here.

    Oh my god, you guys are all making me feel so much better! I’m so ridiculously happy you picked my question to answer, Amy! I am somehow surrounded by (amazing and good intentioned!!) people with kids whose food “troubles” consisted of them spitting out a little bit of food at 6 months.

    I will take a breath now about this eating thing, I promise. 🙂
    And baby led weaning, it is! If it makes it into her mouth, great. If not, oh well. Interestingly, having read most (all?) of these columns, I already had the Satter book bookmarked as something to get “in the future”. I had no idea parts of it may be relevant already. It’s ordered and on the way to my house as we speak.

    Thank you all so much!!!!

    • Traci

      There is a book called Baby Led Weaning that’s great. My guy is also 7 months. He is still working on his pincer grip so I cut his foods in stick shapes a little longer than his hand. Some things he eats: sweet potato, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, banana, apple, pear, chicken, steak, pork, homemade fish sticks, toast and pita dipped in tomato sauce, pancakes (pumpkin, blueberry). I also bought a set each  of appetizer spoons and forks (onieda) that he uses to feed himself mushy foods and cut up meat  (I load it and set it in front of him; cut the meat against the grain so it shreds and they can gum it or even just swallow). He also likes dal (lentils) and chili.

      I did a lot of research on this and blw fits within the current research and the who and aap guidelines. Even so, I did have a little doubt in the back of my head that I really could skip spoonfeeding, but it has worked spectacularly! keep in mind there will be some gagging as she gets to know how things work. Don’t freak out, it’s part of the learning process and safe. Gagging is different from choking.

  • Gabbi

    Yes! My son would not take food off of a spoon- at all. Spit it out every time- I tried every consistency and had been trying homemade, but even tried store bought – no go. We tried for a couple of months and as he was approaching 8 months we finally gave him real finger food and he has been a huge eater since. The downside is that it’s a bit messier (no simple spoon and wipe!)- but it encourages independence!

  • S

    My daughter’s experiences left me jumpy on baby eating. If you’re worried, don’t listen to the “don’t worries” and the “wait and sees.” While there has been excellent, non-alarmist advice given here, if this continues despite trying waiting and baby led weaning or whatever all else, and results in failure to thrive and a hatred of all things mouth-related and does indeed worry you, then worry! Skip the crap and get an OT referral from the pediatrician and self-refer to early intervention for some serious feeding therapy. Most of the time all is well, fun before one, still gaining is all that matters, etc. But not always. Sometimes babies need help eating and it’s not something your mom friends and Internet strangers can pep talk you out of needing.

  • S

    I agree with the ot referral if continues. I called birth to three with the above mentioned gagging boy with the swallowing test. We worked with a pedi gi and an speech pathologist for swallowing. I had to give medicine daily to the above mentioned strong willed daughter and it was tough getting it In so it did affect the spoon feeding. She now doesn’t resist taking it. My kids had underlying health issues affecting feeding. Both pieces of advice are right, relax but also keep in the back of your mind to listen to your inner mom sense. I was lucky to have access to feeding resources as I sometimes had to problem solve with the doctors. The dr. viewpoints are different based on their specialties and are different than ot and speech. The American speech language hearing association has resources for feeding for parents. Good job gettiing the book.
    wait until she shows what she likes like olives and an entire kid box of healthy cereal! 
    S

  • Both of my kids skipped the puree stage. With my first, I made all the adorable cubes of everything and he wouldn’t eat any of them, and eventually just started screaming when he saw the spoon. I stopped trying purees. Instead, I gave him little cubes of cheese, or little squares of buttered toast, or steamed apple chunks, or quartered grapes. (Hmm, this is sounding like he was a bit older than 7 months when I started giving him those. I can’t remember because he’s 8.5 years old now!)  He was completely interested in food but ONLY if he could feed himself. Also, the food had to pass what we called The Squish Test. He’d squeeze the pieces of whatever we’d offer and only eat things of a certain texture. Or maybe colour. Who knows! Babies are weird.

    My daughter was completely the same. One week of gobbling up purees and then a complete and utter refusal to touch them. She didn’t eat anything other than the odd Cheerio for 2.5 months and then one day, grabbed a dill pickle out of my hand and sucked/gummed it to death (making adorable sour faces the whole time). Then a week after many dill pickles, she decided a chunk of beet was pretty darn tasty. And she just started exploring from there. 

    But basically, neither of my kids ever let me feed them purees or anything from a spoon. Both kids liked yogurt, but they did it themselves. Messy, sure, but they ate it. (This was at 9-10 months though.) Both kids didn’t start getting really serious about eating solid foods until 10-11 months. 

    Anyway, my point here, and I do have one, is that you shouldn’t give up. Like Amalah said, sit her at the table with you in the high chair, toss a few Cheerios on the tray at dinner time and she’ll start eating. Eventually. The caloric intake from purees at this stage is tiny; most of her nutrition still comes from breast milk, so just breathe deep and relax. It will all work out. I promise!

  • Just a note on the letting-the-baby-explore-self-feeding thing… With my son, we’d throw a few Cheerios or small pieces of food on the tray and let him try, and he kept looking at me like, “Mom, this is a choking hazard, what are you doing?” Or he’d pick them up and they’d miss his mouth more often than not. We just weren’t having a lot of luck.

    Until.

    We were out to lunch one day, and he was merrily throwing Cheerios on the floor, until my sandwich and fries arrived. At which point he started SNATCHING FRIES FROM MY PLATE and gumming them. Oh. Light bulb. He needs something more in the stick-shaped family. 

    After that it was: those veggie straws you get in the organic foods aisle (they dissolve), pancakes and toast cut into strips and smeared with a little applesauce… and once he got good with those, we went back to Cheerios. And THEN we could start fruits, veggies, scrambled eggs, etc. Now he’s 14 months and self-feeds pretty much anything he can hold in his hands, and will occasionally try to use a spoon himself.