Baby Food Rebellion
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?).
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.)