For the first 4-6 months of a baby’s life, he or she is on a strict diet of breast milk or formula. My Tiny Dancer totally rejected a bottle so her pediatrician suggested starting her out on a sippy cup and solids at four months. It was a bit early, but we had to try to free me (and my boobs) up a little bit.
When we first introduced solids it took a while for the Tiny Dancer to get the hang of it. It’s a totally new experience and sensation for babies and eating is a new skill so it can take some time for babies to learn how to eat. The Tiny Dancer slowly got the hang of it and was eating ok and then suddenly, she just stopped. She would seal her lips shut and look at me defiantly and would not budge! After a few weeks of this the pediatrician suggested seeing an occupational therapist to make sure there weren’t any physical issues impeding the Tiny Dancer’s ability to take a bottle or eat solids.
At my first meeting with the occupational therapist, I had to replicate the problem I was having at home. I prepared the usual meal and braced myself for the food that I was sure to be spit back at me. I started feeding the Tiny Dancer and instead of sealed lips I found a mouth wide open. Not only did she eat, she was chasing my hand around with a mouth gaping open, waiting for the next spoon full. She never did that at home! The therapist was shocked and happy because most of the kids she sees will eat dirt and not food so we were happy that the Tiny Dancer didn’t have any issues – she was just stubborn (I knew this when I found out she would be a Taurus – the teenage years should be quite fun).
The meeting with the occupational therapist wasn’t for nothing – I did get some good tips. They apply to most babies so I thought I would share.
1. Make sure the baby is hungry to start out – Not crying hysterical hungry, but don’t feed the baby earlier than their next feeding otherwise they won’t eat that much (or at all).
2. Don’t overfill the spoon - Make sure there’s just enough for the baby to handle.
3. Don’t wipe after every spoon full - Yes, let your baby have food all over their face. They hate getting their face wiped constantly and it breaks the rhythm of the feeding. If you’re on a roll, go with it!
4. Let the baby explore – This is a new experience – let the baby learn and touch their food. It may look like playing with food, but it’s their way of exploring new things around them.
5. Don’t chase the baby around with the spoon – Just keep the spoon in place – if they keep turning their head, just stay put.
6. Distract with toys – but only one at a time. Don’t have 10 toys on the baby’s tray table – distract with one toy at a time. When they get tired of one toy, swap with another.
7. Positive Reinforcement! When they take a spoonfool, cheerlead! Yay! Woohoo! Applause!
8. Watch your expression. When baby is experiencing something new, they look to you to know whether it’s good or bad. As unappetizing as baby food is to us, if you are offering something that is good for them, make sure your face shows it. No scowling, or making eww faces – because then the baby will think it’s not good for them and that they should do the same.
9. Bad Behavior – The best way to not encourage behavior is by keeping a blank expression and not saying anything. At this age, the kids are so young that any expression (even if it’s a “No!” or sad face) will seem like encouragement because they are getting a reaction out of you. If they get no reaction, they will stop doing the bad behavior (ie, spitting food all over you!). If the no expression routine doesn’t work, step away for a second.
10. Reboot – Sometimes a feeding is going well and then all of a sudden the baby doesn’t want to eat anymore. But you know he/she’s hungry. Step away for a minute and start anew.
11. Be Patient - This is all new for the baby so be patient, and give them the time they need to learn. If you have a meltdown, the baby will have a meltdown. Stay calm and keep it fun and the baby will get the hang of it.
Of course all kids are unique and may have different needs. You should always get the ok from your baby’s pediatrician before starting on solids. These tips are just a guideline but you need to do what’s right (and what works) for your baby.