Why Won’t My Baby Eat Solid Food?

You’re not sure exactly why, but your little one’s mealtime is not going as smoothly as you would like it to be. Whether your baby is rejecting certain food or refusing to feed at a certain time in the day, it’s common for babies to refuse food from time to time. 

The first few weeks of starting solid foods are often a series of hit-and-miss for most parents and babies, so try not to worry too much. That said, if your baby refuses to eat all types of food altogether over a prolonged period, it’s time to get professional advice from your paediatrician as soon as possible.

Generally, your baby could reject solid foods for a few common reasons. But you must first see whether they are ready for their first solid food. We have put together a few general guidelines for you to get a better idea!

Why does the right time matter?

Most babies are generally ready for solid foods between 4 and 6 months. That said, every baby is unique and grows at their own pace, so your baby’s individual development is definitely the most important factor you should consider when deciding whether or not to introduce solids in their diet. Most importantly, be sure to get your paediatrician involved in the process.

So why does introducing solids to your little one at the right time so important? This is because giving solids to your baby too early or too late might have consequences.

First, if you introduce solid foods too early to your baby, his digestive system might not be developed enough to handle food other than breast milk. Also, feeding your baby solids when he is not ready for it may lead him to reject them later due to parental pushing in the earlier stage.

On the contrary, if your baby starts having solids too late — for instance, somewhere near his first birthday — he might resist solids more and face delay in mastering some key developmental skills. This includes chewing and swallowing solids and accepting foods with different textures and flavours. Not to mention, self-feeding also offers your little one a whole new set of hand-eye coordination skills.

What are signs your baby is ready for solid food? 

To tell whether your baby is ready to have solid food in his diet, there are a few signs you can look for and consult your paediatrician about it.

Meanwhile, it is also important for you to note that having your baby display only one of these signs doesn’t mean he is ready for solid food. Your baby’s readiness for solid food is determined by a collective of signs — and, of course, the green light from your doctor.

  • Your baby can sit up straight on his own and hold his head up steadily.

Before your baby is able to do this, you should only feed him breast milk. To prevent the risk of choking, you shouldn’t offer strained baby food until then.

  • Your baby shows an interest in food or reaches for your food

During meal time, if you notice your little one watching you eat, trying to reach for your food, or even opening his mouth when you place the food near him, it could mean your baby is ready for solid food. 

  • Your baby’s tongue reflex has disappeared

What does tongue reflex mean, and how do you know if your baby still has it? Here’s how you can find out: Mix a minimal amount of baby-safe food with breast milk until it is thinned out. Then, place a tiny bit of the liquid in your baby’s mouth using your finger or the tip of a baby spoon.

Try this several times, and if the food comes right back out again from your baby’s tongue, it means that your baby still has the tongue reflex and isn’t ready for spoon-feeding and solid food yet. When your baby is ready for solid food, he should be able to move his tongue back and forth and up and down.

  • Your baby’s mouth is able to open wide

Yes, this might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s also important for your baby’s tiny mouth to open wide enough to fit the tip of a baby spoon so you can spoon-feed him properly.

But Why Won’t My Baby Eat Solid Food?

See if any of these sounds familiar to you and observe if your baby’s appetite improves after you make the changes:

  • Your baby is not hungry or too hungry

While these are two completely opposite situations, they tend to bring you the same outcome — a fussy baby who is refusing to eat solids. Babies who just get started with solids need breast milk to complement their diet, but how much milk you feed your baby and when you feed them can all affect their appetite for solid foods.

For instance, if you offer your baby solids right after breastfeeding or bottle-feeding them, they might still be full from the milk. So, after you feed your baby milk, give them some time to develop an appetite for solids; 30 to 60 minutes is generally a good time to fill the gap.

On the other hand, try to make sure your baby is not too hungry when you offer them solid foods, as the hunger might cause them to be too impatient and fussy to try new foods.

  • Your baby is too tired to eat

The right timing also matters when introducing solids to your baby. If you offer your baby solids when they are tired, they are likely to be disinterested or fussy. So it’s a good idea to feed them solids after their nap or when they are feeling alert and happy.

Also, try to keep your baby’s mealtime within 20 minutes, as long mealtimes might make your baby feel bored and impatient.

  • Your baby doesn’t like the texture or the taste of the food

Just like adults, babies have a preference for food texture. Some babies prefer soft finger foods, while some prefer purees, so try to offer your baby various textures and observe your baby’s liking.

In terms of taste, babies generally prefer sweet foods, so it may take longer for them to get used to foods with bitter or sour flavours, such as certain vegetables and fruits. 

However, it’s important for your baby to have a well-balanced diet with various foods, so try not just to offer them what they like. Try offering your little one a variety of foods, and keep an open mind to offer them a new food several times before they accept it.

  • Your baby is distracted

Baby Shark during mealtime, anyone? If you can relate, you’re not the only parent doing this. Nowadays, it’s common for parents to use smart devices to keep their babysitting still during mealtime. However, when too many distractions, whether from screens, music, toys, or people, your baby may become too distracted to focus on their food. It might cause your baby to become dependent on certain items to enjoy their food; for example, your baby might become reluctant to eat unless you play his favourite nursery rhyme.

While it requires a bit of time and patience, try to create a healthy eating environment that is free of distractions for your baby. This helps them to stay focused on exploring new tastes and the texture of their food and learn to enjoy them.

  • Your baby is feeling unwell

Last but not least, your baby might refuse to feed because they are not feeling well. Some common reasons might be teething, constipation, and a gassy stomach from having certain foods. Remember to bring your baby to the doctor immediately if your baby’s condition doesn’t improve with home remedies.

Meanwhile, for teething babies, instead of completely leaving out solids in their diet, you can try switching to more soothing foods such as yoghurt, bananas and sweet fruit puree.

Other than illness, other reasons, such as a baby seat that is too tight or a soiled diaper, may cause your baby to feel uncomfortable and lose patience for solid foods. 

Hence, it also helps you to make sure that they are in a comfortable state during their mealtime.

Feeling ready to feed your baby solids again? Here are a few more tips for you before you go:

  • Create a meal routine: Feeding your baby at a fixed time daily helps them prepare for it and get used to it more accessible.
  • Be patient with your baby: Take things slowly, and don’t rush or force your baby when they refuse to eat. A stress-free mealtime helps them to enjoy their food better.
  • Try again later: When your baby refuses to eat solids, give him milk and try giving him solids again for their next meal.

Baby Solid Myths & Facts

Baby Eating Food

We are sure by now you already have a clearer idea of how to tell if your baby is ready for solids. In short, it’s determined by a collective of developmental milestones and the green light from your paediatrician — but just in case you need more reassurance, keep an eye on these myths that might tell you otherwise:

Myth 1: Your baby has reached a certain weight, so he is ready for solid food

Fact: Your baby’s readiness for solid food is not determined by weight. Instead, it is determined by his developmental readiness, as mentioned in the earlier part of this guide, as well as the maturity of the digestive tract, which generally happens around 4 to 6 months. So, just because your baby has achieved a certain weight doesn’t mean he is ready for solids.

Myth 2: Your baby is bigger/smaller than his peers, so he needs to start solids

Fact: Some mothers might be told that since their babies are bigger in size, they won’t be able to produce enough breast milk to satisfy their babies. Hence, they need to give solids to their baby earlier. On the contrary, some might say that since the baby is smaller, it might need more nutrients than just breast milk. These are simply not true.

Your breast milk contains all the essential nutrients that your baby needs to grow. As long as your baby is growing healthily and achieving all the developmental milestones as advised by your paediatrician, you do not have to worry about your baby not getting enough nutrients from your breast milk.

Myth 3: If you offer fruits before vegetables as your baby’s first foods, your baby will have a permanent sweet tooth 

Fruit and vegetable purees are great options as your baby’s first solids, as they support your baby’s development with essential vitamins and minerals. So instead of focusing on which type of fruits and vegetables to feed your baby, it’s more important for you to continuously offer him a well-balanced and wide variety of nutritious foods that help boost his development in the first few years.

All in all, feeding your baby solid foods is a remarkable milestone that you can look forward to. With enough patience and love — which we are pretty sure you have — your baby will be ready to enjoy their daily meals on their own in no time!

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