Transitioning to solid foods is an exciting time during your baby’s growth and development as they learn to discover new tastes and textures. But for some parents and their babies, this time can be stressful as the transition from breast or formula feeding is anything but smooth sailing.
Although the introduction of solid foods is important to meet your baby’s changing nutritional needs, this is also a time of discovery and experimentation and it is important to remember that babies will progress at different rates.
Common reasons as to your baby may be refusing solids:
- It is too early
The introduction of solid foods should begin when your baby is approximately 6 months old as their digestive and immune systems, and ability to chew has developed to allow for the transition from liquids to solids. However, it is important to recognise cues that indicate your baby is ready to begin solids. Cues your baby might give may include showing curiosity in new foods, an increased appetite, opening their mouth when you bring food near them and watching you eat. If your baby is not at this stage yet, then it may be too early.
- Your baby is unsure of the new tastes and textures
When a baby is presented with new foods, it is common for them to make faces before or after the food has been tasted as well as spitting the food out right away. This is commonly perceived by parents as an instant dislike to solid foods, but this is not the case! These expressions or reactions are most likely your baby reacting to a foreign taste or texture, just like an adult would. Therefore, it may take a few tries for your baby to accept the new flavours and textures.
- Your baby isn’t in the right mood
Babies are very sensitive to their environment and mealtime experience. Ensure your baby is well rested, relaxed and happy before starting a meal. If your baby is tired, over-hungry, distracted or stressed during mealtimes, it will be unlikely that your baby will tolerate new foods.
- Your baby has an allergy or food sensitivity
Many babies have an incredible ability to know and avoid foods that they have a sensitivity to. If your baby is avoiding solid foods, it may be an early indication that your baby has a food allergy or sensitivity. Try a variety of other foods, and see if your baby is happier to try them. It can also be beneficial to look for other indicators of allergies such as rashes, loose bowel motions and/or excessive crying. Document as much information as possible and make an appointment to see a health care professional.
What to do
One of the most important things is to not pressure your baby to begin solid foods too early. This will only create stress for yourself and your baby, resulting in a negative experience around mealtimes. The key for a successful transition to solid foods is patience and gentle persistence by:
- Introducing solid foods when your baby shows interest in food you’re eating, has an increased appetite and has physical maturity such as the ability to sit upright with limited assistance.
- Repeatedly offering tastes and textures that were rejected at first. It may more than 10 exposures for your baby to finally accept a particular flavour or texture!
- Remaining calm and relaxed during mealtimes. It is important to remember that your baby’s stomach is quite small and will only be able to tolerate a small amount of solid foods at a time. During this discovery phase, babies may also play with their food and get messy! It is normal for babies to only eat small amounts to begin with and get more of the food on themselves than in their mouths. Encourage this curiosity instead of forcing your baby to eat more.
- Be sure to limit distractions and create a calm environment around mealtimes.
What happens if these strategies don’t work?
Firstly, it is important to reassure yourself that every baby’s transition to solid foods is different and some are less natural than others. However, if you are concerned that your baby is persistently refusing solid foods, a consultation with a dietitian can help identify and develop personalised strategies to help you and your baby get through the bumps and lumps!