It’s not unusual for babies to make a slow start with weaning. It’s all a bit new and unfamiliar and they are taking their time getting to grips with solid food. This is perfectly normal and not all babies will start shovelling in handfuls of food the moment you start the weaning journey. But what happens if your baby is still a reluctant eater several months later?
This is not uncommon either. All babies are different and although, as parents, we try not to compare our baby with their peers it can be utterly disheartening to see some babies eating bowls full of food whilst yours will barely eat a few mouthfuls.
My advice is not to worry. All babies have different appetites and, at this stage, are usually very good and feeding to meet the demands of their own appetite and growth.
5 THINGS TO HELP A RELUCTANT EATER:
THINK ABOUT THEIR FEEDING ROUTINE
Routine is important during weaning and it’s a good idea to space out mealtimes and milk feeds. Offering solid foods too close to a milk feed may mean that your baby is not hungry enough to show an interest in the food. Try to allow roughly 2 hours between milk feeds and meals to ensure your baby has had a chance to build up some appetite before offering the food. Remember that every baby is different and some babies will want food or milk more often than every 2 hours but some may need a bigger gap between meals/feeds. Recording your baby’s usual feeding routine and the timings (including night feeds) will help you to identify what is normal for him/her and allow you to gradually extend the gaps between meals to see if it helps.
REASSURE YOURSELF THAT APPETITE CAN BE AFFECTED BY MANY THINGS
Appetite will vary from day to day and week to week and can be affected by many things e.g. teething, illness, feeling too tired, too full or having a developmental leap. Babies will usually eat when they need to, so if their appetite is reduced for a few weeks rest assured they will usually make up for it when they are feeling better.
Embrace the sensory journey of weaning: Weaning is a sensory journey and babies learn about food with all their senses. If your baby is not hugely adventurous and reluctant to take food, try putting the focus on playing with the food for now. When babies are given the chance to play, explore, touch, squish and mush their food they will gradually become more comfortable and familiar with it. Seeing, smelling and touching the foods is just as important as tasting and it may be that your baby
wants to spend more time exploring the foods with their other sense before they taste it. Try to be patient and allow your baby to have fun with their food.
FOCUS ON REPEATED EXPOSURE
Repeated exposure is key and there are many studies that demonstrate how trying again (and again, and again!) is the best way to increase the acceptance of a food. If a food is refused one day don’t be put off trying it again a few days later and then a few days later again. The more exposures the more acceptance in the long term.
TWEAK THE MEALTIME ENVIRONMENT
Babies need to feel comfortable, relaxed and reassured when eating. Sitting down in a familiar environment, in a supported position with a familiar person around
them can help to create a positive eating environment. Try to make eye contact, smile and relax when feeding your baby. He/she may look for reassurance and encouragement from you if they are feeling unsure about a food. Eating together can help with this. Smiling and making yummy noises as you eat together will demonstrate that food is fun and enjoyable.
Phases of reluctant eating will usually pass but if you are concerned about your baby’s food intake after trying all of these tips please do get in touch with registered nutritionist and weaning expert Catherine Lippe (via her profile at the top of the page).