Refusing Solids at 6-9 Months

Parent Q&A

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  • 9mo is self-weaning but won't eat solids

    (10 replies)

    My partner and I are looking for some advice and recommendations to help us address some issues our 9-month-old daughter has been experiencing. At her most recent well check, she had fallen significantly in her growth curves, and the pediatrician recommended that we increase her solid food intake. But we're not entirely sure how to do that. We had been doing baby-led weaning, which she enjoyed but didn't really result in much food being eaten. After we saw the pediatrician we tried to start spoon feeding, but our daughter will basically refuse eating after a couple bites - she'll close her mouth, turn away, and eventually get upset. We've tried various strategies and different foods over the last few days but have seen no change. She clearly would prefer to self-feed - and we would prefer that too - but we're worried if we leave it at that she won't eat enough. I should add that she's always been a somewhat fussy eater - she breastfeeds okay but is averse to taking a bottle (and even when she does, takes a really long time to drink it).

    We're wondering if anyone has any recommendations for occupational therapists or other practitioners in the East Bay who specialize in feeding issues? The pediatrician also observed that our daughter seems to have low muscle tone - we're not sure if that could play a part in the feeding issues? The doctor referred us to physical therapy at Kaiser, but if anyone has recommendations for other good pediatric physical therapists in the area (regardless of health plan), we'd appreciate it. Thank you!

    While it is absolutely worthwhile to follow up on your pediatrician's concerns around low muscle tone, I would say on the food front that your daughter's experience is consistent with my kids'. The mantra at the time was "solids before one are just for fun!" and our older child didn't really eat much actual food until he was 13 or 14 months. (He did continue to nurse twice a day, and we introduced cow's milk in a cup at one, since he wouldn't take a bottle at daycare; as a tween he is still a picky eater who sometimes opts out of meals.) Both of my kids settled onto their long-term growth curves around 9-12 months, and these were not the same as their early curves--both are now right around 30th percentile for height and lower for weight, while one was down in the single digits as a baby and the other was up at the 60th percentile till close to a year. (Their percentiles have remained pretty consistent for the years since, though--they are now 7 and 10, and 30th percentile is in keeping with parental genes). So I would not necessarily worry about the food intake unless your daughter is underweight or there are other specific medical concerns. In your shoes, I'd focus on continuing to offer new foods without stressing too much about how much is being eaten and meet with the physical therapist to get muscle tone assessed, but otherwise wait to see how things look at the 12-month checkup. Also be mindful of her physical development--for instance, it's not uncommon for 9-month-olds to drop down the growth curve if they've recently started crawling (or are about to crawl). Other developmental milestones can affect that too since they burn calories that might otherwise fuel growth.

    My son had low muscle tone around his lips and was a very picky eater. He also drooled a lot. At that age, he only ate mush. We did not do baby led weaning. For a long time he preferred very soft and slippery food like yogurt, udon noodles, tofu, and fruit purees. We thought he was just picky but on hindsight it was probably because he had a hard time chewing the other foods. So maybe you can offer food that just goes down easier? Also we spaced out the solids away from his bottle, so we would give him his bottle in the morning, wait a few hours before serving him solids, or else we would serve him solids and then offer him a bottle later. Nobody likes to eat when they are already full, and I'd bet your baby would be more willing to try more solids if she sat down hungry.

    We went through a similar weight drop when mine was around 9 months. We were doing baby led weaning and I thought it was going great! He clearly enjoyed it and I loved that he was getting exposed to so many fruits and veggies -- though like you said, he was mostly gnawing, so it didn't really result in much food being consumed. I was shocked to learn that he had stopped putting on weight, because he was still breastfeeding and as another commenter noted, my understanding was that "solids before one are just for fun." I was really viewing it as an activity more than nourishment. 

    Once we learned he was dropping weight, I took a step back and realized that pretty much everything I put in front of him was low in fat and calories -- I remember lots of cucumber and bell peppers, because he liked them and they were so easy to chop up. What helped us was simple recipes you cook in mini muffin tins, which are easy for them to hold but you can pack in heftier ingredients, like greek yogurt for instance.   
    Our go-tos were egg cups and oatmeal cups. There are endless ways to change up the ingredients, and they freeze really well so you can make a big batch and thaw as you go. 
    Here are two examples:

    Btw, he's almost 4 now, and it still takes a ton of food to keep up with him! He's still a bit of a stringbean, but it seems like his body just burns through food really quickly and needs to eat often, and amply :) Good luck to you guys!

    When my son fell off the weight chart, his Kaiser pediatrician referred us to a nutritionist. He's currently a teen, so baby led weaning wasn't really a thing then. We added fats into his food - lots of avocado, olive oil, and butter. We also had to make a fortified milk with condensed milk (we didn't have a lot of success with that). But she gave us a lot of good ideas to try. Maybe along with OT, consulting a nutritionist about how to feed her good fats might help as well. It helped us. But in the end, I just have a very very slender child. 

    I didn't have this exact issue with my son, but he ONLY wanted to be nursed at your child's age and also refused to be fed. He was a big guy and I was suffering. What worked was 1) allowing him to feed himself, 2) trying many many different foods. Eventually lamb babyfood turned him into a kid who'd sometimes allow himself to be fed by spoon. Also, feeding while sitting in my lap. While his dad joked around, etc. Give her those baby biscuits, peas, cut up pasta, whatever. Just try everything. Put a sheet under her chair and let her make a mess. If it's FUN she may be more inclined. Make sure she's actually eating. Try small pieces banana. There's a lot of info about this online - check youtube etc. Clever ideas. As my pediatrician said at the time, "babies are not suicidal - they will eventually eat."  You might also have someone other than mom feed her - while you're away. 

    It’s great that your pediatrician is being cautious and keeping an eye on things but I’ll echo that I wouldn’t get too worried as different babies have very different curves with solid food intake. We also love BLW as a fun, exploratory process but my 11 month old was very slow to actually ingest much and while we began at 6 months, eating significant amounts has really only just taken off and is incredibly variable. If you want to try to encourage more you could offer the spoon or pre-chewed bites on your finger without forcing— our daughter finds that fun too! Remember how small their stomachs actually are, however, and respect that she’s done when she turns her face away— you want to try to avoid any coercion around feeding if you can  

    Breastfed babies also have slightly different growth curves and will often seem to plateau at the 9 month mark. You might also increase the number of times you offer the breast right now as well to help with calories. Sometimes babies at this age are distracted by all their new skills and aren’t asking to nurse or nursing as long as they need. We’re in it too— good luck and LMK if you would like to chat more about any of this! 

    Give your LO time to explore and enjoy and trust that it will pick up as she’s ready! 

    I would recommend getting a referral to Kaiser pediatric occupational therapy. Our son had difficulty transferring milk through breast feeding and we were referred to Kaiser pediatric physical therapy to evaluate him when he was a newborn for low muscle tone. They were great and gave us helpful exercises. We had to advocate many times with our pediatrician that we would like to be referred to occupational therapy in addition to physical therapy. We did get a referral to a Kaiser occupational feeding and speech therapist and she has been very helpful in guiding us to make sure our son is gaining strength he needs to feed more efficiently. Pumping, bottle feeding, and doing the OT exercises has resulted in him growing much more rapidly than before. I feel much more empowered with the resources we get through the occupational therapy appointments. I know that Kaiser's occupational therapists work with babies and kids of all ages and specialize in feeding issues.

    Take the PT referral and you could call  the regional center. Likely no big deal but low tone can impact other development as well

    So, first, I would ask your doctor for a referral to early intervention based on the low muscle tone thing.  This is a free state program for kids 0-3.  I haven't done it in California, but when we arranged it in CO they were incredibly helpful and offered to do stuff like pay for swim lessons.  (Then we moved and it seemed like a lot of hassle when our kid is just meeting milestones like 3-4 weeks late. But it really is an excellent program!)

    Second, think about whether you're offering foods that are calorie-rich.  A lot of times people start with like, carrot puree, or cooked sweet potato, or other vegetables, and the foods just don't have much in the way of calories. Calorie dense foods: risotto with meat broth/parm/butter; avocado; oatmeal but with a lot of heavy cream or coconut milk; meat (my kid absolutely LOVES feeding herself little shreds of meat).  My kid also won't really take a spoon, but there are a lot of delicious high calorie foods that work for self-feeding.  

    Third, think about whether you think your pediatrician is right.  I found this article about growth curves super helpful. Some kids just bounce around growth  charts and that's normal. Obviously your ped has more information than I do, but outdated ideas about growth do persist in all kinds of places.

    Just wanted to share a super helpful resource:

    This has been my go to for all things baby feeding. They have lots of helpful webinar and blogs on picky eating, food refusal, you name it. I also follow them on instagram. 

    Hope it helps! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

6-month-old no longer interested in solids

November 2002

I started my daughter on solids at about 4 months because she was so interested and seemed not to get enough from nursing. She would eat about 4+ ounces of food twice a day. Now, she is 6 months old and has completely lost interest in eating. She has never taken a bottle so I nurse her exclusively. But she only seems to want to nurse for about 5 minutes a sitting. I'm concerned she is not getting enough of the ''fat'' in my hindmilk. She has already lost 8 ounces in 2 weeks. My doctor says try beefing her up with formula in her cereal and other foods but how do I do that when she won't even open her mouth? I've tried using the spoon, the bottle, my finger, her fingers, singing, laughing, etc. but she would clench her lips and turn her head. Today, I noticed/felt a tooth sprouting. Could this be the cause of all her eating disinterest? And when will it go away? Jackie

I have an eight-month-old who has been going through the same thing since she was about six months. She has five teeth now. Every time a tooth was coming near she lost a lot of her appetite for awhile, and got cranky. The good news is that she is finding each successive tooth just a bit easier. The bad news is they seemed (in her case, at least) to come in bang, bang, bang - one after the other.

I find that at moments of crisis with the teeth, Tylenol does wonders. It helps relieve some of her stress and as soon as it kicks in she nurses like a trooper, sleeps well, etc. To tell the truth it relieves some of my stress too! I don't do it a lot, maybe once a day during the ''crisis period'' of each tooth, but it helps me feel she is getting some food and sleep.

My friends also swear by Hyland's homeopathic teething tablets. You can get them at Whole Foods or most health food/vitamin type places. I have had some luck with them, but others have done very well.

Another thing that started happening with my daughter at around 6 1/2 - 7 months (very different from her older sister) was that she really wanted to start eating textured foods, wanted to feed herself - she didn't want to eat the mushy baby food all the time. I started giving her cheerios (very good first finger food: easy to pick up and chew) and small chunks of fruit (bananas and ripe pear cut to cheerio size - harder to pick up). You may find that the excitement of feeding herself will help. Also, she may want a different flavor of food. Try sweet vegetable flavors (sweet potato, squash, corn, etc).

YoBaby yogurt is a popular teething food because it's cold, and it has plenty of fat on top which you can feed her first off. Keep an eye out for dairy problems, though my daughter has not had any. I have heard that yogurt is less of a problem than other dairy, but I wouldn't swear to it.

Some other favorite ''texture foods'':
- lentils well-cooked in vegetable broth (she lets me feed them to her because they are so interesting to chew up)
-Whole wheat toast, cut into ''fingers'' (I started at 7 months)
-Rice cakes (7 months)
-Raspberries (organic)
-Any other easy to chew fruit, cut in small chunks. If you aren't sure, put a piece between your lips and see if it falls apart when you bite down. If the juice comes out but the rest stays together in a lump, don't give it to your baby!

Good luck! Been there

Will baby breastfeed less when I introduce solids?

February 2002

Due to a low milk supply I have had to both breast feed and give supplemental formula to my son practically since birth. Early on I consulted with a lactation consultant and went to great efforts to increase my milk supply, but it still was not enough to sustain adequate weight gain for my son. Balancing breast feeding with giving formula has been difficult, but we've managed to do it without too much more of a loss of milk supply. However, my son is increasingly needing more, and my doctor has recommended beginning solids. I am enthusiastic about doing this, however I worry about how to coordinate breast feeding, with formula, and solids and not reduce my milk supply even further.

I'd like to hear from others who have faced this same challenge. I realize that at a certain point my breast feeding will be more for comfort and that he will be getting most of his nutrition from formula and solids, but I'm not ready to give up breast feeding all together. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

My hunch is this varies by baby. I introduced solids b/c my daughter wouldn't take a bottle and we were starting w/ a care giver at 5 mos. I have not experienced a reduction in nursing demand. With the care giver she eats mostly solids and 'washes' them down w/ breast milk from abottle. With us, most of her meals are very small and are either book ended by breast feeding or come as snacks between big nursings. It may be a good idea to have your child sip water after solids and before breastfeeding. I mix in breast milk to cereal and sometimes the pureed food too. You could do the same w/ formual or both. Some days she wants to breastfeed exclusively w/ me. Some days she likes the variety of foods. I let it be her call. Good luck.

I recently went back to work and have been pumping but have needed to supplement with formula. I b/f before I leave for work and again when I get home but during the day, baby gets bottles w/ 1/2 formula and 1/2 breastmilk. Her ped. recommended starting solids about 3 weeks ago (4 months) since she seemed so interested in food and was gaining weight well. She has done great. Loves eating! I am still pumping and b/f and my milk productions seems to have remained the same. It's only been 3 weeks, but I haven't noticed any change. At her age, she will start nursing less frequently anyhow. Hope this helps. Nicole

It's funny, but the baby books don't really tell you how to juggle breastfeeding and solids, do they? Fortunately, I had some good friends who told me what they did, and I worked out our own method, based on that information. As all the books will tell you, though, initially there won't be a significant drop-off in your baby's need for breastmilk or formula. But you'll find that in a couple of weeks or months, as your baby takes in more and more solid food, he will need and want less liquid.

Here's what I did. I introduced solids with the powdered cereal, not the premixed cereal. That way, I could control the amount of liquid in the cereal. I mixed the cereal with formula; your baby will get a certain amount of his liquid from the formula mixed with the cereal. By the time my baby was on solids, he was feeding on a fairly regular schedule. For his breakfast feeding, I initially nursed him first and then put him into his high chair for his solids. I started solids with the breakfast feeding, because my son was in daycare and this way I could introduce his solids myself. My girlfriend began solids with the lunch feeding. Everyone is different. In any case, as I introduced solids at each meal, I initially began by nursing first and then fed my baby solids. Follow your pediatrician's instructions for solids: introduce all the cereals gradually (only start a new type after your baby has had three consecutive days of the previous type without any allergic reaction ); then introduce fruit/vegetables and finally meats. If you're supplementing with formula and your baby is able to hold a bottle himself, you can actually set down a bottle with formula on his tray table and intersperse drinking with feeding cereal. As your baby is able to eat more and more solid food, you can switch. Begin the meal with the solid food and then nurse him afterward. You'll gradually drop the nursing until you have just a few nursing sessions (snacks) in between the three meals of the day. Those snacks will turn into solid-food snacks as your baby becomes a toddler. It's hard to get too detailed in these replies, so please feel free to e-mail me with questions. Gwynne

If you are concerned about a reduction in your breast milk when you introduce solids, why not nurse your son before you offer solid food? In this way, the breast milk remains his primary nutrition, and the solid food tops him up and keeps him full and satisfied. When my daughter (now 18 mos.) started on solid food at 5 months, I did this, and it worked well. She loved eating, but didn't lose her desire to nurse at all, and is still doing so avidly, but less frequently, which works well for both of us. Good luck.

Keeping up milk production after baby starts on solids

December 2002

I would like to breastfeed my infant for his first year. He is now 6 months and has started solids. When I pump, I can tell that my milk production is declining. My milk production has not been in the high range, but I would like to continue pumping to provide a good frozen supply to make it through the first year. As the milk production will continue to diminish, does anyone have suggestions as to how I can keep the production up and going to the end of the first year? Thank you, in advance, for your time and help.

(1) How much you can pump is NOT a valid indicator of your overall milk supply. Your baby is much more efficient than the pump. Plus, if you have pumped regularly for several months, you are probably just experiencing ''pump resistance.'' That's annoying if you need to pump at work, but it doesn't actually mean your milk supply is in trouble.
(2) If your baby is nursing substantially less since starting solids, it's time to cut down on the amount of solids he's getting. Not until at least 9 months or so should solid foods be anything like a substantial part of his diet; until then food is mostly a learning and social experience, not nutritional.
(3) You mention needing a frozen supply to last you through the first year, which makes me wonder if you are exclusively pumping or for some other reason can't simply nurse and/or use freshly pumped milk. If there isn't any real reason that you must freeze milk, then don't! The more you nurse your baby, the more milk your body will make. Having a freezer stash is comforting, but not strictly necessary for most moms.
(4) If after considering all this you still think you have a supply problem, or if you really need to get your pump output back up, there are a number of things you can do to help (and they certainly won't hurt in any case). The simplest is just to nurse more frequently! Especially at night, or in the early a.m., if you can. Also make sure you are drinking lots of water, getting as much rest as you can, and using a good quality pump (NOT an Evenflo or Gerber!). Other than that, you can try eating oatmeal (cookies count!) and taking fenugreek capsules.
(5) Check out the usenet group and the website (they're my favorite resources for all breastfeeding related questions). Holly (still successfully nursing her 22-month-old)

It is natural that your milk production will go down if the baby is eating solid food because the baby won't be needing as much! But there shouldn't be any need to worry about it--you should still be making just the right amount for the baby's reduced needs.

7-month-old refuses to eat solids

We have been trying for the past two months to feed solids to our 7 month old. We started with rice cereal mixed with applesauce. Then, we tried introducing carrots and squash. He still does not willingly eat. He clenches his jaw when we put the spoon to his lips. Sometimes he even cries when we try to feed him. We are looking for suggestions and words of encouragement. Thank you. Debarerob

10-month-old won't eat solids

My ten month old daughter still won't eat any food at all! We have tried about 25 different foods but she just closes her mouth and turns her head away. She weighs 22lbs so she is plenty heavy but the doctor said if she doesn't start eating foods soon we will have to give her a multi-vitamin because she won't be getting enough vitamins from breast milk. She nurses every two to three hours and still wakes up several times a night which is very annoying. I am curious to hear from other parents who have had a baby like this. Any advice would be much appreciated. Madeleine

Regarding the food/feeding issues...My daughter refused most food until she was nearing 11 months. (She's now one of the least picky preschoolers I know.) She also nursed every two or three hours for the first year. Our pediatrician did not recommend vitamins, in fact, did not even seem concerned. Both of my children refused baby food and really began eating when they could feed themselves soft foods that they could pick up. My understanding is that delaying solids is actually better if there are any concerns about allergies. Good Luck. Susan

Neither of my children ate any significant amounts of food until 14 months or so. And neither of them would touch pureed foods and only showed interest in eating when presented with finger foods. Both were breastfed, and it is my understanding that breastmilk does indeed provide all necessary nutrients. Kids will eat eventually- I'd say just keep offering choices and not worry too much. Gayle

My daughter didn't eat any food until she was 14 months. Until then, she would only take breast milk, and she steadfastly refused the varied menu I faithfully offered her at each meal. My pediatrician was pretty concerned about both her weight and the long food strike; my primary worries were connected to my pediatrician being so concerned. Sure enough, she finally started eating (Greek olives were among her first food choices) and now, at 2-1/2, she enjoys a wide range of foods (though she'll never be mistaken for a big eater!) In my experience, the biggest problem with a kid who won't eat is all of the unsolicited advice and judgments from other people who are convinced that they could get the kid to eat given half a chance (I've got to confess; it was my secret pleasure to let some of these smug folks have a crack at it, and watch my tiny daughter send them packing!) Feel free to email me if you want to discuss this further. And good luck. Janet

If I may put it bluntly, your doctor is full of it. Breastmilk is a complete food. What little nibbles of applesauce your baby will eat is just not comparable to the nourishment breastmilk can offer. Your doctor may be concerned about iron deficiency; it's an easy enough test (pinprick) that can be done in the office. Otherwise you shouldn't need to supplement with vitamins. Your daughter will probably start munching on foods pretty soon. Just make it real interesting, fun, and messy as possible (give her yogurt to squish through her fingers, for example) and she'll learn to love it. You can probably bypass the pureed baby food altogether. Just think of all the money you're saving!! Laurel

I have a 3yr old who was a very picky eater. He wouldn't eat for anything. And I would talk to his doctor about it and he says he'll eat when he gets ready. Don't force him. Kids go through growth sprouts. Sometimes they don't want to eat and sometimes they want to eat the whole refrigator. So I just fed him when he got hungry. And if he rejected he just did. I know I did my part as a parent. Even now he sometimes eats only 1 meal a day and snacks in between. He's just not hungry. But when he actually tells me he's hungry I run and get him something to eat! Nia

If you're baby is healthy and at an appropriate weight (for your baby's growth pattern, not only based on those weight-gaining charts), just relax! We didn't even really try to push the solids until about 10 months, and even then it often seemed futile. We had begun offering rice cereal and other foods at around 7 months, but our son just didn't seem interested at all. By about 10 months, I began to feel pressure to at least offer foods a couple of times every day. I will admit it was -- and still sometimes is -- frustrating to thoughtfully prepare food that only ended up all over the kitchen floor. He is nearly 15 months now and I would say has really shown an appetite for solids only within the last month. Until then, he was nursing every 2-4 hours, and yes, many times during the night. I have noticed a decrease in the daytime nursing, but, to the mom who complained about her babe's frequent night nursing, I'm sorry to say that hasn't eased up (if you're feeling overwhelmed, please get connected with La Leche League or check out the Sears duo's Nightime Parenting or Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, which is published by LLL). He also seems to have days where he shows more appetite than others. He was a quick gainer; if I recall correctly, he hit 16 pounds by four months. He's hovered under 25 pounds for probably six months; even though he's beginning to eat more, he's so much more active. He's lengthened out, seeming longer and skinnier. But he still has fat in the appropriate places: around his wrists and on his knuckles, etc. He's very healthy and happy. I really try to monitor my attitude, so that I'm not so goal-oriented at meal time. I'm sure that if I'm stressed about his eating, or not eating, he picks up on that. So many experts focus on what your child should be eating by a certain age. I think we need to keep in mind that in addition to nutrition, we are laying down our children's attitudes about food and eating. I can't say that this has been my favorite part of mothering so far, though. Like all parenting challenges, the best I can offer is that you're not the only one, and this, too, shall pass. Erin

my son was nearly a 10-pounder at birth and nursed EXCLUSIVELY for MORE THAN 1 YEAR. he had only 1, 1-day illness in his first year and generally thrived, including normal weight gain and growth (not to mention the positive effect of helping me lose MY baby fat!). we had not planned to wait this long to supplement his diet, but when he refused being fed by spoon and showed no real interest in other food even when it was presented to him (around 8 mos), i asked around. what i found out, from my LLL group, another friend with the same experience, and my pediatrician was that there was NO CAUSE FOR ALARM! if your child is thriving, growing, nursing regularly, and if YOU are eating well (including getting the right vitamins), drinking lots of water and getting enough rest, YOU WILL BOTH BE FINE! watch your baby, not the calendar, for signs that he or she is ready (by the way, grabbing for food is not necessairily a sign of readiness! as my friend ann says, you could place a plate full of cigarette butts in front of my baby and she would grab at it). if your child is not being breastfed exclusively, is exclusively formula fed, lives in a place where they are not able to get a few minutes of sunshine every day (or if you are living off a diet of fast food and diet coke!) it may make sense to give them vitamin supplements. from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 6th Revised Edition: If the nursing mother gets an adequate supply of vitamins from her diet, her milk will have an adequate supply of vitamins, in just the right proportions for her baby. Research continues to bear this out...Vitamin supplements for babies got their impetus as a supplement to formula, which is still not the perfect food for your baby. As long as you baby is thriving on your milk alone, he has no need for additional vitamins, iron, fuloride, or other supplements in the early months. if your baby refuses to be fed by spoon, try giving them some control! give them things they can mainiplate themselves: soft fruits (peaches, banans), tofu (if your baby is prone to allergies, wait unttil 1 yr), peas, meat, brown rice, whole grain bread--anything you can offer that is soft enough to chew and not a choking hazard. we went pretty much straight for the table food, which helped us eat better! it will be messier, but really no less convenient if you if you keep simple, whole foods on hand. not to mention you won't need to buy any special cereals or foods for baby, which will save you a lot of $$$. Don't worry, eat well, and enjoy! -Rachel

Try distracting her like putting a mirror in front of her, or playing her favorite musical toy or having her sit in your lap instead of a high-chair, or even try feeding her at a park where there is always enough to distract babies, maybe then she will not be concentrating so much on refusing food, and you may manage to get her to start getting using to it.

Have you tried home made food? I know the problem here is that she simply does not allow anything except breastmilk into her mouth but if you could, say, puree a peeled apple, and sit in front of her and eat some and she sees that you're enjoying it, she may want to taste some. Good luck! Richa

We have been trying to get our daughter to eat solid food since she was six months old; she is now 11 months old. We've pretty much given up trying to get her to eat from a spoon. From almost the very start, she would seal her lips and turn her head away and quickly start crying. She's never taken a bottle, either.

We have had better luck, especially recently, with foods she can pick up and feed herself. We offer her what we're eating, if it's in (or can be made into) a safe form -- bits of chicken, salmon, rice, pasta, melon, cooked peas, chicken tamales, pinto beans, etc. We also have been offering her slices of fresh fruits and vegetables -- (peeled) carrot sticks, (peeled and sliced) cucumber sticks, apple wedges, steamed sweet potato chunks, etc. She'll gnaw on most of these things, or at least play with them. (She has had two bottom teeth since she was eight months old, and her top front teeth are just now coming in.) The only food she REALLY seems to like is zwieback biscuits.

Our doctor suggested: (1) having her watch other kids eat and (2) having her source of breastmilk leave for a day. Neither of these has worked (she doesn't seem to eat much more solid food during the 2 1/2 days I work than when I'm home with her). At her recent checkup, the doctor tested her blood for anemia, which she did not have. I'm still taking prenatal vitamins, in part to keep my iron level up.

It is very frustrating, especially when we see other babies who are super eaters. We've resigned ourselves to being patient. We keep offering her the same foods and new ones, with no pressure to eat, and gradually she seems to be getting more interested in feeding herself. We try to offer her food regularly twice a day (lunch and dinner). I still breastfeed frequently on the days when I'm home with her and every morning and evening. She still wakes up and I nurse her (at least) 1-2 times during the 11-12 hours of her night; whether she's hungry or just wants comforting, I don't know.

All this to say, essentially, that you are not alone.... robin

Feeding babies/children can be very difficult because you have in your head what you want them to eat, and the child has their own idea about it. I can't recommend too highly the books by Ellen Satter, she is both a dietitian and a therapist and talks a lot about the feeding relationship. Her book on infant/toddler feeding is called Child of Mine. It is important to recognize the division of responsibility in feeding. The parent is responsible for providing healthy food and the child is responsible for how much to eat and even whether or not to eat.

To prevent feeding problems, first it is a good idea to offer solids by 6 months, because there is a window of time when the child is receptive to learning about eating. There are those who may not agree with this, and of course, every child is different. Second, continue to offer disliked and refused foods. For a 7 month old, I would say, offer solids every 3 hours during the day. Some babies are more receptive if they have an empty stomach, but some are too frantic in that situation, so it is better if they have maybe half of a milk feeding to take the edge of their hunger. The amount of food your child eats is not important, one bite is ok. You can spoonfeed, let him have a spoon; offer table foods, let her hold a chicken leg, a banana; chew some of your food then offer it on a finger to your baby. Some children have very sensitive palates or are slow to warm up to new things, so food can be difficult for them. Third, Let go of the control around the food: your job is to offer food, and your child is in charge after that. I sometimes have to look the other way when my kids are eating, to not focus on the amounts. Sometimes play with food is the first goal instead of actually eating it. As much as you can, help your child to not be stressed by mealtime. Jennifer

I was glad to read of all the good experiences families have had with the continued nursing and no solids in the older baby. I do feel that I need to state the possible problems with this scenario that health professionals are hoping to prevent. The following is from a pediatric nutrition newsletter.

Another form of failure to thrive experienced duing breastfeeding may appear in the second half of the first year of life. In this form, the infant was formerly thriving, demonstrating good weight gain the first 5-6 months of life, and then experiences poor growth or weight loss after 8 or 9 months. This child typically breastfeeds very frequently throughout the day and night and refuses solids. Often the child has simply not learned to eat and will spit out food. Usually healthy, bright, alert, and active, the child may be difficult to control. In the majority of these situations there are numerous household stressors present and the mother feels a need to keep the child close or maintain control of breastfeeding. Parental misconceptions about avoiding obesity and heart disease in the child may be present. Mothers may not be aware of what constitutes a normal diet for a child. Exclusive breastfeeding after 6 months is unlikely to meet the macro- and micronutrient needs of the child, and continued breastfeeding should be combined with other foods and fluids.

Reference is made to: Lawrence, R. Breastfeeding, a guide for the medical profession. 5th ed. St Louis: Mosby; 1999. Jennifer

8-month-old wants only breastmilk and Cheerios

April 2006

My little girl is refusing to eat any babyfood, jarred, homemade, pretty much anything, just wants to breastfeed and eat cheerios? We introduced cheerios and now that's all she wants?? Up till now (past week) she was eating, and happily, everything from squash to greenbeans to yogurt. We have tried cottage cheese, and little bits of regular cheese, we tried hiding bits of food in the cheerio and she refuses to eat them unless they are pure unaltered cheerios? Anyone else with a similar problem? Sarah

My son wasn't ever interested in baby food. it took me until he was 10 months old to realize he just wasn't interested in being fed. he would only eat stuff he could put in his own mouth - cheerios. so we gave him raisins that had been soaked in water overnight, crackers, pieces of banana, plain pasta, anything he could pick up and eat independently that was soft enough to eat without molars. Maybe your daughter is discovering her independent streak. anon

As long as your baby is still breastfeeding s/he does not need any solid food at all nutritionally for the first year. At this age food is more about exploration, and it is completely normal for a baby to be interested in food at one stage and not at all for quite some time. My son was eating enormous meals by 10 months, whereas my daughter is 13 months and has gone back and forth between some interest to no food whatsoever. Both are completely healthy. Your little one will come back to solid food when s/he is ready and meantime you can rest assured that breastmilk is all the food s/he needs. maya

Hi - I also had a similar problem when my daughter was about 9 1/2 months. After trying all possible combinations of foods, I finally gave up and let her eat her Cheerios and breastmilk. It lessened the stress on the both of us and she decided to eat normally again after about a week or so.

My advice is to let her be. I called my doctor and explained everything to her because my daughter was already on the small size. I had visions of her shrinking away to nothing! She said kids go through these phases (and yes, she was right as this was one of many of these phases!) and she would not starve. True, when she finally got hungry enough, she did eat. Cheerios are pretty nutritious so I guess be glad it is not something else! Good luck and relax, she will eat again! Jill

Hi, My 2 year old had the same issue, at 6 mths he loved his baby food and then I introduced Cheerios at about 9 mths and he stopped eating all other food. He lived off formula and Cheerios up until about 13 mths, when he decided he liked cheese and smashed pears. Slowly we added new items to his diet like soy hot dogs, goldfish, yogurt, toast etc.. and now he has hit the mark again and will not eat any other new items. So, I came to the conclusion that he'll try new stuff when he's ready and not before. All you can do is just keep trying, sometimes it took 15 or more tries before he would try anything new. I just put it on his plate everyday and eventually he tried it. My pediatrician was not worried and said that formula alone was perfectly adequate until 12mths and that some babies skip baby food altogether. It is trying and frustrating, but in the end your baby will decide what he likes and doesnt like. Its a sign of them becoming more independent, you could try just putting the spoon and dish down for them to do as they please with and hope that he thinks putting it in his mouth is a good idea. If he likes to feed himself the Cheerios he may like to feed himself the baby food. Good luck and just keep trying, my son is a fussy eater but in the end as long as I give him a choice of the healthiest things he likes I know I am doing my best and he is happy with the food he eats. helen

Our daughter did a very similar thing with Cheerios at about 10 months. She loved them so much she even made up her own sign for them! We went through the stages of putting cheerios on top of spoonfuls of baby food to get other things into her, but eventually she refused the spoon and would just grab the cheerios off. After awhile we decided to go cold turkey and hid the cheerios for about 3 or 4 days. She didn't eat much at first, just breastfed and would eat some fruit, but eventually she started eating other things again and stopped asking for cheerios. Then we carefully reintroduced the cheerios and would only give them to her after she had already eaten other foods. Good luck!
Keeping Cheerios in business

8 mth old son refusing solids since teething began

June 2004

My 8 mth old son started out loving baby food at 6 mths, now everything has stopped. He will still take a bottle 2-3 times a day and I have started adding rice cereal for fear of him wasting away on me. At first I started to force feed and I now promise to stop that as it is causing a rift between us. I feel frustrated sometimes because I think ''he has to be hungry''. The advice nurse told me it was teething. He has two bottom teeth and his top gums are swelling up with the intent of pushing more through. Has anyone else had this problem and will things return back to normal when those teeth come in? helen

My little guy, who is usually very enthusiastic about eating, refuses food, too, while teething. The only thing that helps him sleep and allows him to eat comfortably is regular doses of Infant Motrin. Tylenol is not as effective for us, and the dose does not last as long (4 hours, compared to 6-8 for Motrin). Topical pain relief doesn't work well for us, either, especially just before eating. Once the meds kick in, he eats and eats. Good Luck Donna

It is the teething, beleive me. At 8 months and after only 2 months of being on solids, your son is still exploring food. At that age it's about learning how to eat, experiencing the textures and new tastes, it's not about getting complete nourishment (just look at how few calories that rice cereal actually has). He should still be getting most of his nourishment from the bottle. Forcing him to eat will only teach him the bad habit of eating when he's not hungry. I too find it very hard to trust the natural eating instincts our children were born with, but you have to remind yoruself that the bad eating habits they develop later are learned habits. When they get older and start to power trip, they learn fast that not eating is a way to get you riled up or to give in to giving them not so healthy choices. You have to trust that they will eat when they are hungry.

My son is 18 months and is getting in 2 molars and 2 canine teeth at once. A couple of weeks ago he barely ate for 4, almost 5 days, he just wanted milk and nibbled a few things here and there. It was excruciating for me to wait it out, but when the teething subsided, his appetite picked up again and he made up for lost ground. Much to my surprise when we went to the doctor yesterday he was right on track weight-wise. Another thing I've seen w/ my 4 year old and 12 year old is that throughout childhood they go thru phases of eating a lot and getting a bit plump, and then next thing you know they hit a growth spurt and are taller and leaner, then the growing slows down a bit and they eat a lot less for a while.

I learned my lesson about forcing my son to eat the one time I tried it. He was 12 months old and hadn't really eaten much in a couple of days. I was so worried and finally forced a spoon in. He immediately started vomiting - ended up he had stomach flu and instinctivly did the right thing by refusing to eat. The only thing I did by force feeding was put him in risk of dehydration.

The teeth will come in. They can take a long while. Sometimes they pop back down and then pop back out again. Those first ones seem to be the most painful (that is until the molars come in!) anon