How does babby eat?
November 19, 2012 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Baby feeding edition: my almost 1-year old is not eating solids, should I be concerned?

Baby mooselini is turning 1 in a few weeks and with our pediatrician appointment coming up, I am not sure if her not eating solids should be a source of worry at this age.

We started attempting "solids" at 5.5 months of age, oatmeal mixed with breastmilk. She was not at all interested. I have tried to offer her different foods, both fruit and vegetables every couple of weeks since then. I have made my own, store-bought, etc. I thought that maybe baby-led would be more appropriate for her, and while she eagerly picks food off her tray and tries to eat it, she frequently gags and even throws up all of it and then some. Her weight gain has slowed since she became an incredibly active little baby (she was breastfed until 9 months and now she is formula fed).

I do not want to push her to eat because I do not want eating be associated with any negative emotions. So I offer her a little here and there during the day, sometimes she has half a spoonful of yogurt and then loses interest, sometimes she refuses all together or even gags. I looked into oral/tactile sensitivity, but she doesn't seem to avoid textures at all, she never has had problems eating breastmilk or formula, not a colicky baby, great sleeper, takes water from sippy, hitting all her milestones on time.

At her 9 month appointment her pedi suggested withholding food in the hope that if she is hungry she will eat. While I haven't tried starving her (seems extreme), she still seems not to be interested in solids if she is hungry if I offer them before her bottle.

I am a bit at a loss finding a balance between waiting for her to accept solids when she is ready and finding a specialist (my gut feeling is telling me I should just wait for at least a couple of months). Any hive-mind advice/anecdata would be appreciated.
posted by mooselini to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Our son had the same issue with feeding; he'd WANT to pick something up and shove it in his mouth, but would gag on it. We did the same thing your pediatrician suggested: we'd withhold his bottle and offer him water & food, and then when he was done trying we'd whip out the bottle. If he KNEW the bottle was there (could see it from his highchair), eating didn't happen; if he thought it was just water and applesauce, he'd try the applesauce. And as he tried day after day, meal after meal, his palate began to accept the food and he decided he liked eating after all.

Now, at 20 months, he has a hollow leg and eats dang near everything (or at least will make an attempt).

If she's hitting her milestones and her pediatrician isn't worried, and you trust her pediatrician to know their business and be paying attention (if you DON'T trust them, bolt now and find one you do), I'd wait on a specialist and see how her 12 month appt goes.

Hang in there and let us know how it goes with her. :)
posted by tigerjade at 6:32 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

The fact that she is gagging when she does try the foods tips my opinion to the side that this may be worth getting checked out sooner rather than later. Kids definitely do move forward at their own rate in terms of how quickly they take to solids, but if she's gagging it might mean that she's having trouble swallowing or coordinating the movements of her mouth to handle the food correctly. It could also be a sensitivity to different sensory input that might be associated with something else. Of course it could be nothing at all too (and this is probably most likely). Consulting with a speech/language pathologist who specializes with feeding or a feeding clinic could just check it out for you and make sure that there is nothing that needs work. The benefit of not waiting is that it 's often easier to address these issues early. They can become more serious food avoidance later if it's so unpleasant for her to eat.
posted by goggie at 6:35 AM on November 19, 2012

She was not at all interested. I have tried to offer her different foods, both fruit and vegetables every couple of weeks since then.
Normal. Offer, offer, offer, then offer again.

She frequently gags and even throws up all of it and then some.
Normal. Her gag-reflex is still developing, which is the point of having to offer 100 times before she will eat anything. Also, does she shove her fingers into the back of her throat often? If so, let her do it--don't stop her--that is how she works on her gag-reflex, too.

I do not want to push her to eat because I do not want eating be associated with any negative emotions.
Well, offering and pushing her a little bit isn't going to lead to eating disorders here...

Sometimes she has half a spoonful of yogurt and then loses interest, sometimes she refuses all together or even gags.
Normal and part of the process.

Despite my use of "normal" several times in this post, "normal" here is referring to the process; I am not sure if this is "normal" for her age, though. It is definitely something to talk to the ped about at the 1-year appointment, for sure, but I am not sure if it's something to lose sleep over. And not worth worrying about a specialist unless the ped brings it up at the appointment (that being said, you really, really need to advocate for yourself, though, and can't rely on the doctor to suggest everything).
posted by TinWhistle at 6:35 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is your doctor saying it is a problem, or is it you feeling it is? If your doctor isn't concerned then I would maybe let it ride a bit.

However, if I were in your position I would follow through with your doctor's suggestion. It isn't "starving her", and because you phrased it that way I'm betting you didn't make her wait very long before you gave in and provided her with a bottle.

On preview, what tigerjade said.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:35 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is all purely anecdata, but my now-21-year-old son had a hard time transitioning from the bottle and liquid foods like rice cereal to foods with more texture. He would gag and then refuse anything with more body, like yogurt. I just kept working at it, even "bribing" him with things like sweetened yogurt, etc and he finally slowly began eating things with more texture and lumps and bumps. To this day he has a very easy gag reflex, often gagging when he coughs or even sneezes.

I would get your pediatrician's take on things at her upcoming appt, but unless he/she is alarmed, I don't think there's any harm in continuing to work on it with your little one. Not all kids mature in every way right on schedule. I'm a great believer in moms' "gut feelings" though, so if you feel like there is something more serious going on than just a slow to mature issue, seeing a specialist for an opinion couldn't hurt.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 7:22 AM on November 19, 2012

Is she eating actual foods in liquid form (pureed vegetables, soups, etc.), or is it just milk? If the former, and your gut feeling is not to worry too much about it now, then I'd go with that. If the latter, I'd be concerned about her nutrition. Does it matter how you're delivering it to her -- for instance, is she more willing to eat it if you put a puree in front of her and let her chow down with her fingers, than if you try to spoon-feed her? I found that the delivery method made a huge difference with my kids. Same exact thing, rejected on the tray, but then I hand them a utensil, or feed it to them, or put it in a bowl, and they eat it.

(Also, do you know the book Penguin Post by Debi Gliori? It has a baby Mooselini in it too!)
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:49 AM on November 19, 2012

Well, I just want to point out in case you haven't heard this, but a weight-gain slowdown once babies become more mobile is very normal. All of mine were big babies at birth, who gained dramatically fast (breastfed over a year, all of them), and then slowed down dramatically after 6 months old. For instance, my current baby was 10 lb. at birth, ~22 lbs. at 6 months, and ~24 lbs at 12 months.

My first daughter has a speech delay, and did not speak any words until her 3rd birthday; she did not have any teeth until two weeks after her 1st birthday. She was an extremely picky eater - refused to eat vegetables unless they were pureed, ate almost no fruit at all - I mean, she basically ate the same ten things over and over again for two years, pretty much.

And what we were told by the occupational therapist for her is to just keep offering. Just keep putting different foods in front of her, and let her play with them, and let her get used to the idea (we're pretty sure she had some sensory issues). And we did, and she did, and now she is still kind of a picky eater at 5 1/2 years old, but nothing remarkable at all. Also I'd like to point out that she still gained weight and grew just fine even with her quite-limited diet - the doctor told me this is normal with picky toddlers.

So I just want to say - yes, I think you should trust your parent-instinct and have her looked at if it continues to go on like this, but as you've said, wait a couple more months, because babies that young don't get most of their nutrition from solids and she's still getting her milk fine; and she is interested in solids sometimes, so that's on track. If it's a sensory issue, you're already doing what you should be (keep offering). If it's an oversensitive gag reflex, she'll grow past that. Bring it up to your doctor, but I don't see the harm in waiting-and-seeing a little longer before calling a specialist.
posted by flex at 8:49 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

My daughter was similar, she was very much not interested in solid food. She would try a bite of this or that, or play with something that was pleasantly squishy, but she didn't eat any substantial amount of anything until she was well over a year old. She's 11 now and I honestly can't remember exactly when it picked up, but it was around the arrival of her first molars and she went from not eating much to eating "normally" pretty fast. This has been the norm for her with just about every development, do it on the way late end of "normal" and "catch up" quickly.
posted by upatree at 8:57 AM on November 19, 2012

When my boy (now 9m) was starting to want to eat, he struggled to figure out chewing. We used baby rice puffs which melt in his mouth so if he didn't chew it the whole way before he swallowed he wouldn't choke.
"Gagging is good, choking is bad." Their gag reflexes are really far up compared to adults. If she is still able to get air in and out, and is just gagging, don't disturb her, let her learn where and how to wrangle food with her tongue. This was really hard for me but when I stopped interfering with him when he gagged, he learned to work it around to where he could gum it up more before swallowing.

Babies before 1 should be getting the majority of their nutrition from breast milk or formula. "Food before one is just for fun." Let her eat milk/formula before you put her in a high chair and then let her play with the food. Let her explore and touch and taste at her own pace. Since she's full of milk you don't need to worry about a set amount of food getting in her.

Also, have you tried eating while she sits in the high chair and plays with food or a toy? Have dinner while she watches so she can see how it's done.

I would recommend "Baby Led Weaning".
posted by HMSSM at 9:39 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

We are struggling with our one year old at the moment. Arggh! It's infuriating. However, I understand it's completely normal. This book is written by a pediatrician and apparently is good at setting parental expectations. It's only 2.99 here in Australia for me, and I bought it yesterday, I have not read it yet. Best of luck, this too will pass.
posted by smoke at 3:59 PM on November 19, 2012

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