It can be frustrating and sometimes concerning when your baby won’t eat. You often won’t know the reasons for a baby refusing food and you may worry that if they continue, they could become dehydrated. However it is not uncommon to have a tough-to-feed baby, and there are ways to get through this phase.
Here are our 10 top tips for getting your baby to eat:
1. Consult a pro
The number one thing to do is ask an expert. Proper nutrition is vital for your child’s healthy development. If your baby won’t eat, you need to know if there’s a real problem or if it’s just a temporary (and normal) phase. Start with your baby’s paediatrician. If the doctor doesn’t know, they may refer you to a paediatric feeding specialist.
2. Don’t start too soon
Forty percent of parents introduce solid foods before their babies are 4 months old. If your baby is less than 6 months old, they may simply not be developmentally ready for solids. Make sure you wait until they’re ready to swallow solids before starting.
When you do introduce solids, changing the textures that a baby eats is one way to help a challenging eater. If they aren’t ready to start chomping on the chunky foods that you’ve been making, puree them in the blender for now. You can slowly reintroduce a chewable texture as they get the hang of it.
3. Make a mess
Allow your baby to play with their food. Sometimes, the first step to learning to eat a new food is simply exploring it. Allowing your little one to smash, smell and squish their food will make a mess, but it may satisfy their curiosity and make them feel more comfortable eating.
4. Give a sample
When starting new foods, give your baby a very small amount so that they can learn the taste. This introduces the taste of new food in a way that is more manageable for your baby.
5. Don’t give in to tantrums
It’s tempting to give in to your baby’s crying or other unwanted feeding behaviours. However, if you pretend that everything is fine, keeping a pleasant smile on your face and continuing to introduce the food like nothing’s going on, your baby may calm down.
6. Tune out distractions
If your baby won’t eat, it may be due to being distracted by other things going on in their environment. Allow them to focus solely on their food by reducing noisy or moving distractions: turn off the TV or radio and feed your baby in a quiet place.
7. Have fun
Turn meal time into a party for your baby. You could smile and clap to encourage your little one to eat. You can try tickling your baby’s lips with the empty spoon and see if they giggle. Don’t forget the classic “flying” spoon with airplane noises!
8. Bring on self-feeding
Between 8 and 9 months, your baby can start feeding themselves. Sometimes handing over the reins to your little one can get them to eat. Of course, be very watchful of how much they’re eating with each spoonful.
9. Smell first, taste later
When trying to figure out how to feed a baby who buttons up their lips or squirms away, let your little one use their sense of smell. Put the spoon in front of your baby’s nose and let them take a whiff before you try to get it into their mouth.
10. Eat together
You’re your baby’s first role model, and as such they’re constantly learning from you. It’s never too early to start family mealtimes. Watching you enjoy your meal may make your baby more willing to eat their own.
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