When Elvie was in the hospital for her second stay a year ago, one of her doctors suggested that she might be interested in solid food. She was six months old at the time, so we thought we’d give it a whirl. She was on heavy antibiotics, so I figured that brown rice cereal with added probiotics would be an excellent place to start. It was soundly rejected.
“That’s okay,” I thought, “maybe she just prefers fruit or vegetables.” So I bought some pears and some squash, both of which were swiftly rejected as well. Over time, I tried every suggestion and option available to me, but she just wasn’t into it. She didn’t want to eat solid food. We laughed it off, nicknaming her Picky Baby, and figured she would begin to eat solids in her own time.
For a long time, she was on high calorie formula for weight gain, and I figured that the most important thing was that she was getting the calories and nutrients she needed. Still, I wanted to lay a good foundation so that she would feel comfortable eating eventually, so I made a plan. It took just seven simple steps for her to become a voracious eater. These days, she stuffs her favorite foods in by the handful. She is now officially a good eater. Here’s what we did to help her find success with solids.
Got a picky baby?
Don’t worry. We had a picky baby, and now she’s a toddler with a big appetite for a variety of foods.
Because we knew she didn’t like the purees, we simply stopped trying to feed them to her. No stress for her, no stress for us, no more wasted jars of baby food. It felt fantastic to let go of the idea of starting out with certain foods.
Even though we knew she wasn’t ready to eat anything, we started having her sit with us at the table for every meal. We have a restaurant style high chair, so she was pulled right up to the table with the rest of us, able to see what we were eating and participate in meal times.
When she started expressing an interest in what we were eating, we gave her a little bit of everything we were having for the meal, in age appropriate bite sizes. We quickly learned that she wasn’t ready for a plate and just set the food in front of her on the table.
We made a huge deal out of it when she’d try something, even if she just put it in her mouth and took it right back out. Positive reinforcement of even the smallest steps was our goal.
For a long time, she made a mess and didn’t leave any of the food in her mouth. Then she started eating some, but still made a mess with most of it. Gradually, she began eating more than she played with, and now she only makes a normal toddler food mess.
While the ultimate goal is to have Elvie eat a variety of foods at every meal, in the beginning, if she liked something, we gave her more of it, even if she wouldn’t try anything else that we gave her. This was more positive reinforcement, that if she ate something and liked it, she would get more. Now we encourage her to try new things, but we still give her more of the things she likes, even if she hasn’t eaten other things on her plate. (And yes, we can now use a plate.)
What has helped us the most throughout this process is to remember that we cannot force her to eat, and getting stressed out about it isn’t going to help. She picks up on stress, and it would just make it harder. We kept her on formula until we knew she was eating enough to get the calories and nutrients she needed. That way, we didn’t have to worry about the amount she was eating, but just relax and enjoy the process of sharing meals with our daughter. She is now an excellent eater, without us needing to stress or push her. It all worked out; we just had to give her time.