Introducing solid foods to your baby is such an exciting time and one that I remember well. But what happens if your baby is not interested in solids or baby-led weaning?
There are a number of tips and strategies that you can use to keep the journey to solids a fun one while making sure that your baby is well-nourished and meeting their milestones as they should.
Remember that babies don’t develop at the same pace
The World Health Organization recently published an article, investigating the “windows” of milestone achievement. Basically, babies achieve milestones within a certain period or window of time, not at specific times.
For example, it is commonly accepted that babies learn to sit at around 6 months. But, there is huge variation in that and if your baby is not sitting by 6 months, does not mean that your baby is delayed in reaching that milestone.
The below image, from WHO, shows the windows of milestone achievement for 6 major milestones.
Looking at the example of sitting, if your baby were to start sitting at 8 or 9 months, that is still within the “window” and would not be cause for concern.
So, how does this relate to baby-led weaning?
Well, just like the major milestones are met within a window of time, so does weaning happen in a window. Just because your little one is not interested in weaning right now, does not mean that they won’t be interested in food in a week or two’s time.
Also, if your baby is not sitting at 6 months, they are not developmentally ready to start solids or baby-led weaning. This means that your little one is not likely to be interested in foods either.
So, waiting until you see more signs of developmental readiness including an increasing interest in food, will help smooth the journey to starting solids for you and your little one.
Keep Offering Food, Even if Baby Doesn’t Eat It
There is so much more to eating than simply ingesting food. It is a whole multisensory experience.
Even if your baby isn’t interested in foods, it is still important to keep offering it. Placing some of your food on your baby’s high chair tray can be a wonderful experience for your little one.
As you introduce your little one to solids, you are exposing them to a whole new world of sensations, from touch to sight to smell and even hearing as they explore the food on their high chair tray.
If your baby is starting to mouth objects and is bringing EVERYTHING to their mouths, they will get a pleasant surprise when they start bringing the food you have offered to their mouth.
They have probably never experienced the sweetness of carrots, the slight bitterness of broccoli, or the squishiness of bananas.
The more your baby happens to bring food to their mouth, the more they will associate their high chair with food and the fun that it brings and the more your baby’s interest in food and solids will grow.
Make Sure your Baby Keeps Up with Milk Feeds
The WHO suggests that babies continue to be breastfed (or bottle fed) up until one and beyond and that the introduction of solids should complement breastfeeding. This means that it is important to keep up with milk feeds as you introduce foods to your little one.
More than half of your baby’s nutritional and energy needs will continue to be supplied by breast or bottle feeding.
Image from KellyMom
So, even if your little one is not interested in starting solids or baby-led weaning just yet, you can rest assured that they are still getting adequate nutrition.
Try not to put too much pressure on you or your baby
Since becoming a mom, I am sure that you have become aware of a pervasive feeling of mom-guilt. We tend to second guess ourselves as moms, wondering if we should cry-it-out, co-sleep, or use cloth nappies.
It feels like we are constantly bombarded with feelings of uncertainty and guilt when it comes to parenting. If only each baby came with a manual!
All of this can lead us to feel the need to get our little ones starting solids sooner rather than later. You probably have friends whose babies started eating cereals at 4 or 5 months and you could be feeling a lot of pressure to get your baby starting solids.
But I really want to encourage you to take a step back and not put so much pressure on yourself. You know your baby better than anyone else in the whole world and you will know when they are ready for solids.
Starting solids is an exciting, oftentimes frustrating, and fun-filled adventure. Allowing your child to start solids when they are ready will make the transition to solids that much easier.
Look for signs of readiness to start solids
Just because your little one has turned 6 months does not mean that they are developmentally ready. Remember the window of milestone achievement that we spoke about earlier? That comes in to play here too.
Some of the signs to look out for include:
- Sitting independently
- Control or integration of the tongue-thrust reflex
- Being able to bring food to their mouths
- Showing an interest in foods
Did you catch that last one?
If your little one is not showing an interest in starting solids just yet, they are probably not developmentally ready to start baby-led weaning.
Include your baby in your family mealtimes
As adults, we realize that mealtimes are not just for eating. They are also a time for connecting, catching up on the day’s events, and having some family time.
So, even if your baby is not interested in solids just yet, you could definitely still include them in family mealtimes. Eating together as a family will encourage connection and may well pique your baby’s interest in food as they watch all of the other members of your family tucking into a meal.
Remember, at this age, your baby is copying you and learning so much just from being around you. Just by allowing your little one to enjoy a meal time with you, they are picking up so many cues and their interest in food is likely to develop in no time.
Keep in mind other factors like teething or a growth spurt
There are a lot of other factors that impact your little one’s interest and willingness to start solids, apart from just developmental readiness.
Other factors such as teething, illness, or even a growth spurt will impact how eager or interested your baby is in solids.
Teething in particular can affect your baby’s appetite. As new teeth emerge, the gums will be swollen and sore. This can make your baby a bit more hesitant to bring food to their mouths.
Having said that, cold can often soothe a swollen and inflamed gum. So, offering cold carrots, sliced peppers, sugar snap peas, or green beans may actually help with teething and pique their interest in solid foods.
Make sure your baby has the right high chair for eating solids
One of the most important aspects of your baby’s high chair is making sure that it has adequate foot support. I know that this seems an odd thing to say and you may be wondering how lack of foot support will impact your baby’s interest in eat.
Well, without proper foot support, your baby needs to focus a lot of attention on sitting upright in their high chair. They may be held in by the chest strap but if they are slumped over or hanging by the seat strap, they cannot use their hands effectively.
So, they may be spending a lot of their physical and mental energy just trying to stay upright and not even realize that there is food in front of them.
Another way to think of this is that their high chair is like the foundation of a house. If the foundation is not solid, the whole structure will be rickety and flimsy.
Likewise, if your baby’s high chair is not supportive enough, your baby won’t have a stable base of support that they need to be able to use their hands effectively to even begin to show interest in foods.
Wait a week or two before offering food again
If you have tried a lot of these tips and strategies and your baby is still not interested in food, don’t be afraid to wait a week and try again. At this age, babies are growing and developing so quickly. Chances are an extra week will help them consolidate some of the skills they need to start showing an interest in foods.
Consult a professional if you are Worried about Weaning
If your baby continues to show little interest in solid foods or weaning, in spite of trying all of the things in this article, you may want to consider consulting a health visitor or nurse.
They may have some insight or suggestions as to how you can further encourage your baby to start solids.