Food refusal in babies is something I get asked about quite a lot. It can be super disheartening when you’re cooking meals for your bubba and then all of a sudden they start to refuse them. That’s why I’ve teamed up with Min from Kid Friendly Meals to share a post talking about baby and toddler food refusal.
In this blog post I’ll be covering Food Refusal in Babies and Min will be covering Food Refusal in Toddlers over on her website and Instagram page. I’ve written before about portion sizes for babies, responsive feeding and signs that baby has had enough. But ultimately if baby is getting upset, crying, turning their head away or clamping their mouth shut, it’s a clear sign that they have had enough or don’t want to eat. And it is important to respect those signs!
It’s Quite Normal!
Firstly, please know that it’s very very normal for babies to go through a phase of rejecting or not accepting foods!
It seems to be really common for young babies to do one of two things:
1.) Not really take to solid foods initially during weaning
2.) Initially really take to solid foods. Then at some point (usually when they are 8 months or 11 months, as far as I can tell), decide that they aren’t keen anymore and turn their nose up.
It’s common for babies to take a little while before they actually accept solid foods properly and start getting decent amounts of food down. Check baby’s weight if you’re ever worried about how much they are eating, but a lot of babies just like to go at their own pace.
It often happens as well, that babies accept everything and love certain foods. And then they go off said foods or even decide they are going to refuse everything for a little while. Try not to panic.
I always recommend checking a few things first:
- Are they well in themselves? Could there be an illness/teething etc that’s causing the food refusal?
- Is it just on one or two occasions? If so it’s not necessarily a problem and may just be that they are more distracted on that particular day. Look at whether the behaviour has continued for a week or so first!
- Are they filling up on milk? Sometimes if babies are having milk as replacements to food, or if they are having large milk feeds before solids then they can simply just not be hungry at mealtimes. Milk is still a food and will fill up tiny tummies.
If you are worried…
If you’re ever really worried about your little ones’ eating, growth or weight, always check with your health visitor and GP first.
If your little one was eating well and is all of a sudden refusing foods, there are a few things that really can help with getting them back on track:
- Stick to your normal routine – the more you change what you’re doing and adapt to their refusals, the more you may be more likely to continue the problem
- Don’t stress – although easier said than done, it can really help if you relax a little and know that this behaviour is more likely just a phase.
- Role model – eat with baby as much as possible, show them how much you enjoy foods and let them watch you eating too – even if it’s just little tastes of their own meal
- Avoid overly pressuring baby or coaxing them into eating – the more pressure you put on, the more likely you are to have the opposite effect with getting babies to eat. Instead, I would recommend calming mealtimes down, allowing food play and sitting back, relaxing and feeding yourself. It might go against all your natural instincts to get them to eat, but sometimes less pressure is all they need to feel OK about feeding again.
- Keep offering all the foods that baby is refusing – one of the biggest mistakes I see parents make is that they stop offering foods that are refused and end up with baby often only eating a very limited diet. Getting babies to eat is ALL about exposure, so the more you expose them to veggies and other foods that are refused, the more likely they are to accept and eat them. So keep offering them, even if refused just as you would normally serve them. Try not to alter what you serve just because they are turning their nose up for a few days.
Just as an example, Raffy LOVED broccoli as a baby. It was his first food and he always gobbled it up, no problem. Then one day he just started to refuse it – point blank. And I thought his love for broccoli was lost. But as we eat broccoli a lot at home, I continued to offer it a few times a week. As normal and just ate what he refused myself. After a few weeks (maybe even longer) he started to enjoy it again and to this day it’s still one of his favourites.
As another example, those of you who followed my Instagram in the early days might have seen that Raffy HATED eggs – mainly scrambled egg. But as it’s a pretty simple, quick and nutritious dish, I persevered and, again, that’s now one of his favourite foods.
In either of these scenarios it would have been so easy to have just stopped offering these foods. But perseverance and continually exposing Raffy to these foods really made a difference. I know this is just my experience, but I have had a lot of parents also saying to me that this has worked for them over the years too.
We know from research that the more variety we offer to baby from a young age, the more likely they are to gobble up a variety as they get older. It doesn’t mean that we will 100% prevent fussy eating, but just keep your little one’s diet varied as much as possible. Stay calm through food refusal and always try to practice what you preach when it comes to food. You’ve got a good chance of raising a little one who will love their foods.
I hope you found this helpful. I’ll definitely be writing more about this soon!