I believe most mothers are excited to introduce solid food to their small babies but I think I was over excited. I had a countdown for the last three weeks. When the long awaited day finally arrived, she started feeding well from the spoon and the priceless facial expressions were saved on pictures and videos. After three months of blissful feeding time, with her gulping anything that was offered, the excitement was replaced with frustration when she mastered the art of clamping her lips shut and batting the spoon away for any solid food except yogurt and sweet fruits. She was on a full solid food strike for more than three days and that was really stressful. I soon learnt that children can refuse solid food for various reasons between 6 to 12 months and it requires great observation to find out why and get a solution.
Chewing and swallowing solid food is a lot of work for a mouth that was used to milk only for the past six months. I learnt to make it easier for baby’s palate by making purees and adding your breast milk or formula for a familiar taste. Then I gradually moved to mashed food and finely chopped food. Often times, the consistency can be the reason for the hunger strike. Babies can get tired of mashed food and might like a different texture of food. Don’t be afraid of gagging as it is a natural reflexive action of the throat as long as it is not choking, which is life threatening.
Another reason for the refusal can be the baby getting tired of the spoon feeding. If the baby tries to grab the spoon from your hands, offer a spoon and bowl which the baby can use to grab some food. There will be mess but your baby will be eating something. You can also offer finger foods cut in a way for your baby to grab and put in the mouth. Teething can also be another culprit for the food strike as well as any other illness or tiredness. You will have to be patient and wait for the clouds to clear to continue with the feeding.
Whenever you observe resistance to feeding, rethink your whole feeding style. Observe the time she eats well, keep in mind her sleeping pattern because a tired baby doesn’t make a good feeder and also think about someone else feeding her. My daughter usually feeds better when I am away. You will need to be patient because even after doing this and more, your child might still refuse food. But as you try out different solutions, you need to make sure that they get the necessary amount of nutrients in a day. Breastfeed more or offer more formula milk as well as other healthy foods that have more fat such as yogurt and avocados.
This first appeared on The Standard on 26 March 2017