My first baby hated solid food. I mean, he hated it. The first time he tried it, it was like we’d fed him poison or rancid wine. He pulled away from the spoon, contorted his little baby face in disgust, winced, and shook.
I have photographic evidence.
I wasn’t really expecting it to turn out that way. He was a pretty happy baby — healthy, chunky, a good breastfeeder. Starting at about 5 months, he started reaching for our food, and I’d let him lick my banana or suck on an apple slice (supervised, of course).
He loved sucking on apples so much, in fact, that we decided to feed him applesauce as his first food at 6 months old.
Applesauce was probably not the best idea, given the fact it can be a little sour, but his reaction was the same a week later when I fed him mashed up banana. He wanted nothing to do with food and had no problem expressing that.
Luckily, a few months later, at about 9 months, he finally started to like food, although he remained a very picky eater for many years. At almost 10 years old, he’s finally starting to branch out a little!
But I will always remember how stressed out I was when he was 6 months, 7 months, 8 months and still rejecting anything that came near his lips. I was getting advice left and right. And even though my instincts told me he would eat when he was ready, I couldn’t help but doubt myself and wonder if something was wrong with him — or me.
So to any mom out there struggling to feed your baby, I offer you what I learned from when I was in it, and some wisdom from having gotten to the other side, knowing that it all works out in the end.
1. There’s a BIG range in terms of solid food readiness.
There is no one magic age when your baby will like solids. The Academy of American Pediatrics recommends babies start around 6 months, but those are estimates. They admit that starting solids is a gradual process — a learning process — and if your baby turns away or seems uninterested, it may just not be the right time yet. And that’s okay.
2. Try different textures and flavors.
Some babies reject the mush. Some want to grab the spoon from you and feed themselves. Others only want to eat once finger foods are introduced. Different babies have different likes and dislikes. By experimenting with different flavors and textures, and introducing them slowly to watch out for any food allergies, you’re helping babies learn what they like, working on their gag reflex, and figuring this whole new phase out yourself. Try to go with it and accept your kid’s preferences and tastes for what they are.
3. Don’t listen to the books, the internet, your grandma, or maybe even your pediatrician. Listen to your baby.
Everyone’s going to tell you different things about when your baby should eat. But guess who knows best? Your baby! Truly. It’s hard to think of your baby as someone with that kind of wisdom, but usually, if they don’t want to eat, there’s a reason, and it’s best to trust them on that. Would you want to be forced to eat if you didn’t like something for whatever reason? Treat your baby with the same respect.
So if you notice a preference for fruit purees and the peas are just not cutting it, it’s fine. Your baby won’t go to college not eating veggies, you know? It’s fine.
4. There is almost never a real feeding issue, but if your gut tells you there is, investigate.
Sometimes babies have actual feeding issues. Maybe they have swallowing problems or anatomical differences that make eating difficult. Maybe they have food allergies you didn’t know about or digestive difficulties. Never hesitate to ask a medical professional for advice. If they brush you off, get a second opinion. We moms and dads know our babies best, and our instincts are very powerful indeed.
5. Ditch the comparison game. All kids are different.
Some babies walk at 9 months. Some don’t walk until 18 months. When they’re 8 years old, do you think you’ll be able to tell which ones walked early and which didn’t? Probably not. Same goes for eating. Almost all babies are going to start eating solids by the time they’re 9 to 12 months, so try not to freak if your baby is on the later side.
6. Keep breastfeeding or bottle feeding to fill in the gaps.
There’s a reason why health organizations like the Academy of American Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding for a year (or more) and formula feeding for that long as well even after solids are introduced. It’s because those milks have more dense nutritional value than a couple of bites of baby food here and there might. Let breastmilk or formula fill in the gaps if your baby isn’t eating a lot of food yet. (If you’re breastfeeding, iron could be an issue at some point if your baby doesn’t get iron from food sources, but there is evidence that breast milk has enough iron stores to last 6 to 12 months. Follow up with your doctor or lactation consultant for more information.)
7. Choose solid foods that pack a punch in terms of nutrition.
If your baby eats like a bird, try to feed them solid foods that have good nutritional value. Go with healthy fats and iron-rich foods. Rice cereal, for example, doesn’t have as much nutritional density as avocado or sweet potato, so go with those. Aim for all the colors in the rainbow (or at least any color your baby will tolerate!).
8. Give it time.
Whenever your child isn’t doing something as fast as other kids, it is so hard to be patient. It’s hard not to draw comparisons or think the worst. But I pinkie promise that 99% of babies eat eventually. It may not be a lot at first, but give it time. Let your baby explore the foods. Stop offering if your baby gets really offended. Keep it relaxed, take a breath, and wait it out.
Let me tell you, if my shaking, wincing, pissed off baby eventually took to solid foods, your baby will too. A kid’s got to eat eventually, so try to keep that in perspective. And before you know it, your kid will be eating you out of house and home, and your grocery bill will rival your mortgage.