Feeding FAQ: 9-12 months – General Food Refusal

Eva is eleven months old, refusing to eat and very clingy

I have been following the Contented Baby routines with my daughter Eva since she was 6 weeks old. She is now eleven months. At the end of December 2004 Evie became ill. She stopped eating solids completely for two weeks, was put on antibiotics and suffered from teething and colds until recently. During this time she has become extremely clingy and whingey – enough so that Dad now wants her to go to nursery!! I believe she is suffering greatly from separation anxiety – she screams and cries when I refuse to pick her up (even if I am right there making food, sitting on a chair or on the ground next to her). I have been trying to go through ‘controlled crying’ during the day – pick her up only for very good reasons, then praise her for playing on her own, etc. I am trying to walk slowly so she can crawl after me instead of insisting on being picked up all the time. I tend to get down to her level so she can come to me for comfort, instead of running over and picking her up. This is a very slow process – some days okay, some days terrible, crying non-stop.
She has just started accepting food again in the last two days – she drank enough milk to get her through the night in the past six weeks though. She has always slept from 7.30pm to 9.00am every night (one nap at 1.00 pm for 1 ½ hrs), but now she wakes frequently at night crying. When I don’t go in she stops after 10-15 minutes. When I go in to console her (or if I need to check she is okay), she goes ballistic when I leave. I now wake her at 8 am every morning, so she sleeps a total of about 13-14 hours daily.
For at least 6 weeks she refused most foods altogether, whether it was finger foods or food I tried to feed her. When visitors come over she becomes inconsolable and clingy, crying non-stop, even after a long period of settling in quietly.
I think the main problem occurred during her illness and lack of food – she is content when she gets enough to eat. Her refusal to eat after months of loving her food was very strange. I tried every fun finger food and different combination possible.
When I put her down at night she sometimes cries for 5-10 minutes before falling asleep, and I do not go in to comfort her. I wonder whether this crying down then and late at night when I don’t go in is having a negative effect on the separation anxiety, ie. her thinking that I don’t come when she cries. My older daughter never had any problems in respect of eating/drinking, however, Evie has never really liked her bottles. She has always insisted on drinking her milk whilst lying down (even as a newborn!) and only will drink from the bottle when I hold it when she is sitting in her highchair (even though it has handles). She will often attempt to hold it for a while then throw it away, so if I don’t hold the bottle she won’t drink it. She is a bit of a wilful little thing.
I am sure this is just a phase, but it is worrying and I Iook forward to your reply.

Eva obviously has had a series of events happening to her which have resulted in this extreme behaviour. As you say it is a phase, which will pass in time. Once she is more mobile, i.e. walking, you may find that she is less clingy as she will have the means to follow you better. It can be trying to have a clingy child but their needs must be met with sensitivity.
As Eva was on antibiotics I presume she had an infection of some kind. Babies of this age cannot tell us where it hurts and can become frightened by the pain they are in if ears, throat or any other area is infected. Their response is to cling to you. She may still associate eating with pain and take a while before she is back to her old appetite.
I notice from your diary that Eva is still having formula at lunchtime. Have you tried offering her a beaker of water at this time? Drinking 8oz of formula alongside her solids will certainly diminish her appetite. Also giving milk when protein is also offered reduces the iron absorption from the protein up to 50%.
If you are concerned about her losing that amount of milk, offer it to her when she wakes from her lunchtime nap.
Continue to encourage Eva with finger food as well as feeding her but try to remain calm at mealtimes. If she refuses to eat any more, remove her from her highchair and wait until her next snack or mealtime before offering her more food. Babies of this age can become very aware of their power over food refusal and how it affects the grown-ups caring for them.
Handled with sensitivity I feel sure that Eva will soon pass through this phase and become a little more confident when in company. Meanwhile accept you will have a “shadow” with you for a little while longer.

Feeding FAQ: 9-12 months – General Food Refusal

My 11.5 month daughter has always enjoyed a wide range of home cooked food, finger food and the occasional jar of dessert. For the past two weeks she has started to refuse almost all food, both cooked and finger food. I find it to hard to let her eat nothing so end up giving her the things I know she will take. She is breast feeding as normal.

My 11.5 month daughter has always enjoyed a wide range of home cooked food, finger food and the occasional jar of dessert. For the past two weeks she has started to refuse almost all food, both cooked and finger food. I find it to hard to let her eat nothing so end up giving her the things I know she will take. She is breastfeeding as normal.

The only food she seems to eat is cheese, fruit and some puddings such as jelly and yogurt. I have tried letting her feed herself but she is not interested unless it is jelly or something she loves. I have tried introducing new foods such as cheese on toast and eggy bread but she refuses these. She seems happy and content otherwise and is sleeping as usual. She is definitely hungry and asking to be fed before it is time but we try to wait until her mealtime. Even if she has not eaten for several hours and is asking for food, she still refuses the food that we put in front of her. I am finding this very stressful as I had feeding issues with her 2.5yr old brother, but he now eats well if a somewhat limited diet.

At first I thought it may be due to teething but now feel it must be something more.

Her breast feeding pattern has remained unchanged. The length of feed seems to depend on how much she has eaten at the meal preceding it.

Feeding details

7.30am: a few cheerios, 1-2 mouthfuls of toast, 1 strawberry, 5 grapes, and 3 tsps yoghurt
9.30am: breast feeds from one side 10-15minutes
12.00: 1-2 strawberries, 5 grapes, 1 packet Dairylea cheese strips or grated cheddar, jelly or yoghurt, 1-2ozs water towards end of meal
1.00pm: breast feeds from one side 5-10minutes
5.00pm: 1-2 strawberries, 5 grapes, 1 packet Dairylea cheese strips or grated cheese, 1 yoghurt or similar pudding 1-2ozs water towards end of meal
7.00pm: Breast feeds from both breasts for 10-15minutes
3.30am: Breast feeds from one breast 5-10minutes

Daily milk intake:4 breastfeeds over 24 hours

My daughter naps at 9.30-10am, 1-3pm and is settled by 7.15pm

Towards the end of the first year a baby’s growth rate begins to slow down, so the amount she eats will also reduce. It is easy to become worried and concerned over your baby who appears to suddenly stop eating most foods for no real reason. Having unrealistic expectations of how much your baby should eat at this age may increase the problem and meal times can easily turn into a battle of wills.

Rather than looking at each day’s intake of food, keep a diary for a whole week. This will give you a clearer picture as to what your daughter eats and how much it may vary from day to day.

By now your baby will be really aware of different textures and colours. As well as giving her finger food she needs to have her main meals offered to her separated out so she can see what she is being given. Serving food on a dish which has divisions can be useful at this age. For example, if you are serving shepherd’s pie and mixed vegetables separate out each item rather than mashing them altogether in bowl. All her food should now be chopped or diced into small pieces to encourage her to feed herself. Until her food intake increases again offer her very small amounts of food but with plenty of variety.

Babies of this age can become very independent, wanting to feed themselves rather than being spoon fed. Self feeding can be a messy business but, if you place a small amount of food in front of your daughter then let her get on with it, you may find she will be more inclined to try some of the foods she was willing to eat a few weeks ago.  If she finds it easier to use her hands rather than a spoon let her do so. Providing she is making an attempt to eat the food rather than just throwing it on the floor then allow her to carry on feeding herself. If she becomes very interested in feeding herself she may allow you to put one or two spoonfuls in but don’t push her if she resists. Stay within sight of her but try not to hover over her encouraging her to eat some more. Trying to coax her too much will probably be met with refusal so remain matter of fact and calm. Once she has lost interest and is no longer eating any of her meal clear it away. If you are eating at the same time as your children keep chatting with your son as you enjoy your meal together.

When your daughter has refused the meal you have prepared for her it is very hard to not give in and offer food you know she will eat. Keep offering different foods and menus. A baby may reject a certain food one week and then accept it a week or so later.  It does not take a baby long to realize that if she makes enough fuss she will be given what she likes best. This is how fussy eating develops. If your daughter is offered a very small portion of the meal and plays around with it but does not really attempt to eat it then remove her from her high chair. Knowing she will be hungry is very difficult to cope with but you could offer her a small snack such as one or two slices of apple or pear at a suitable time midway between meals.

Your attitude towards her eating is very important. It is disheartening to throw away meal after meal when you have spent time preparing it but you need to remain calm about her refusing food. Your baby will quickly pick up on your anxiety and this may make the problem worse. You are doing well by trying to stick with her set mealtimes even when she seems hungry before them. When it is time for her food use an encouraging upbeat voice when presenting it to her: “Scrummy, yummy fish pie today, hooray” is a positive statement rather than “I hope you are going to eat something today” which sends out a negative message.

The breast feed your daughter receives at 9.30am may well knock the edge off her appetite for lunch so offer this to her straight after her breakfast. Also, as she is still having a feed in the night this could affect her appetite for breakfast.

Feeding FAQ: 6-9 months – General Food Refusal

Since having a cold my daughter of almost 7 months is refusing most solids

I started weaning Olivia at about 41/2 months, strictly following the CLB Book of Weaning. She took solids with no problems and seemed happy on them. About 4 weeks ago she got a slight cold. Since then she refuses to take her solids and is only happy with milk and water. Sometimes she will eat solids (rice cereal and pureed apple or pear) at the 6pm feed. We were at the end of the first stage of weaning when she got the cold.
Olivia is now almost 7 months and weighs 8kg. She has 4 milk feeds a day: 7.30am 240mls, 11.30am 180mls, 2.30pm 180mls, 6.00pm 240mls and 60ml of water at 4.15pm.
She doesn’t seem hungry as she is not looking for feeds earlier or waking in the night. She sleeps well from 7pm to 7am.

It can take a while for babies to recover from illness. Olivia probably found it easier and more comforting to suck rather than eat when poorly. You now need to get her taking more solid food. By this age she really needs to have some protein.
To help her have more of an appetite for her solids, begin to cut back a little on her milk. It would seem that she is filling herself up with milk and just isn’t hungry.
Feed Olivia her milk at 7am, and then offer her a small serving of cereal at about 7.30-7.45am. If she accepts this, then push her lunch forward towards 11.45am.
At 11.45am offer Olivia just 2ozs of milk before offering her some solids. If Olivia refuses the vegetables she was accepting before she was ill, try her with baby rice mixed with courgette puree. This is more like the solids she has been accepting at 6pm. Once she accepts this, replace the rice with sweet potato and gradually reintroduce the vegetables she enjoyed before her illness.
If Olivia still won’t accept solids at 11.45 after a small amount of milk, try giving her 2ozs of milk at 11.15am then a break until 11.45am, when you offer her solids. If she feels hungry, Olivia should be more willing to eat again. Once she is accepting solids at this feed, begin to introduce some protein, as the weaning book explains. Once protein is established at this meal, you can cut back on Olivia’s milk feed and then offer her water to replace it.
Milk can prevent the absorption of protein by up to fifty percent. As Olivia is formula fed she will be receiving some iron from her milk but all babies’ iron supplies run low by six months and they need to be given iron-rich solids.

Feeding FAQ: 6-9 months – General Food Refusal

How can I get my daughter of almost 8 months to take any solid food?

I tried to introduce solids at 5.5 months and things went well for a few days. Then she became ill with rotavirus and the doctor told me to stop weaning until the sickness and diarrhoea cleared up. This took just over 4 weeks. I tried to start weaning again when she was better but now she just clamps her mouth shut and refuses to eat anything. I have tried all sorts of foods, but when I manage to get any food in her mouth she just gags and refuses even more vigorously. I have tried some of the suggestions sent to me via the message boards, but all to no avail. She is 8 months next week and still not weaned.
I have tried solids before, during or after bottles. If I feed her formula first, she throws all her milk back up when she gags.
At present her feeds are 07.15 6ozs, 11.00 8ozs, 14.30 6ozs, 18.30 8ozs giving a total of 28ozs.
She is not putting on any weight and has dropped from the 50th to 25th percentile on her weight chart. At present she weighs 16lbs 2ozs. I am really worried and running out of things to try. She also refuses water. Apart from this issue, she is a perfect contented little baby.

The last few weeks must have been distressing for you, as well as frustrating. There are several more ideas to try to help your daughter become more accepting again of solid food. Firstly, go back to your doctor and ask him to give her a thorough medical examination. Tell him of your worries and concerns about her weight. Ask him to refer to you a speech therapist if her refusal of spoon feeding continues. A speech therapist is trained to understand all the mechanics of swallowing, and can be very useful in cases like this, when a baby has never really had any practise with taking food off a spoon. She should be able to give you some guidelines and exercises to help your daughter accept a spoon more readily.
Whilst waiting for an appointment with a therapist go right back to the beginning of feeding and offer your daughter very smooth, runny baby rice. The consistency needs to be as near to milk as possible, to see if she is more accepting. Offer it mid-feed at 11am. Try to remain calm and detached, although you are so desperate for her to accept food. She will pick up on your tension and resist the spoon. Place her in a baby chair if she has one and keep a happy, encouraging commentary up whilst you offer her the spoon. Keep smiling! Make sure that the rice is warm; it should be the same temperature as her milk feeds are. Even if she accepts just one or two spoons, it is a beginning. Don’t try to make her eat any more, but offer her the same thing again at 5/6pm.
If she begins to accept this really runny rice, add some pear or apple puree to it, but only 1/2 a teaspoon at first. When you have had a problem such as this, it is easy to get carried away and trying to make up for lost time but don’t rush her in these early days. Really advance things very slowly at first, gradually introducing the sweeter vegetables along with rice and fruit puree.
When offering her food on a spoon, make sure you use one with a smallish end; there are special “weaning” spoons available. Don’t place the spoon too far into her mouth as this will make her gag. She needs to learn how to suck off the spoon. Try with very small amounts at first and be prepared for some being dribbled out again. Scoop it up and place the spoon back on her lips for another try. The spoon needs to be angled up towards the roof of her mouth. It is her upper gums which will “suck” the food off.
Sometimes offering a small amount of food from your finger can help. Just dip a clean finger into the rice and see if she will suck on that and then offer it from a spoon.
Another idea is to get someone else, like Grandma to try. As feeding and food refusal is such an emotional thing, sometimes someone who is not so upset and tense about the whole situation is better at starting the process off. Does anyone at your daughter’s nursery try to feed her?

At the same time try to get your daughter interested in finger foods. Try her with bread which you could spread with a puree she accepts. Give her small pieces to gum on, staying with her the whole time. Finding finger foods which are attractive to her will help encourage her to pick things up and put them in her mouth. She may not eat much this way, but it is a good way to get her used to the different textures of food. Offer small cereal pieces such as Cheerio’s, which are very tempting to pick up, as are cooked frozen mixed vegetables. The more involved she is with feeding, the more likely she will accept you feeding her. Let her have a spoon to hold and show her how to dig into her bowl. At first she won’t get much but this is all part of her learning.
Obviously a baby who has gagged a lot can be worrying when they first start with finger food. Gagging is a protective reflex which helps food back to the front of the mouth where she can spit it out or reposition it. It usually happens in babies because they have been given too large a mouthful, or the texture is thicker than that they are used too.
Keep offering her water from a beaker. This can take quite a while for a baby to learn how to do. Have a try with the simplest of beakers. The ones which contain a valve are usually quite hard work and a reluctant baby is better starting with a simple spouted beaker.
Once your daughter is more accepting of a spoon and eating a little more, you can speed up the introduction of protein as she needs this at her age. If she begins to wake in the night through hunger, you may have to re-introduce the 10pm feed temporarily until her solid intake has increased enough to supply her needs in the day.

Feeding FAQ: 6-9 months – General Food Refusal

At almost 8 months my daughter is refusing nearly all her solid food

Olivia is refusing 95% of her solids. I have tried: self-feeding, spreading veggies on bread fingers, veggie fingers and offering a few ozs of milk then her solids. I have tried to give her a few ozs of milk before solids, but she just grizzles until she gets her bottle (usually after 30-60 minutes of getting her to eat). She has been “teething” for a few months now and I am wondering if that could be the reason, but it could still be months before her first tooth appears. Olivia does not seem to be hungry between meals and is not waking in the night. Mealtimes are becoming quite stressful.
She still has 4 milk feeds a day: 7.30am 240 ml, 11.30am 150 ml, 2.30pm 200 ml and 6pm 240mls. At 4.15pm she has 2-3 ozs water. Her present weight is 7.5 kg.
Her breakfast is: 1tsp yoghurt, 1 mouthful of toast and lunch is 2-3 mouthfuls veggies and /or cheese, chicken or tuna.
She has two naps in the day: 9-9.45am and 12.30-2.30pm and settles at 7pm.

It would appear that Olivia has become rather a “milk addict” which often coincides with a baby who is in some discomfort from teething. Sucking is an easier and more comforting option, but she must begin to have a wider diet and more solid food.
As Olivia is accepting protein, her milk at 11.30am needs to be cut right down so she is absorbing the nutrients from her solid food. Milk can prevent the absorption of protein by up to 50%.
At 11.30am there are two ways to do this: The first way is probably better to suited to Olivia, as she needs to be hungry enough to eat solids. Offer her solids first without her catching sight of her bottle. Babies will clamp their mouths shut if they see that their milk is visible.
Offer her solid food along with some eye-catching finger food. As she should be hungry and accept more, then give her a smaller feed afterwards.
Decrease her milk and begin to replace it with water offered in a beaker.
It is very easy to become tense about rejection of food and a baby will easily sense it. Try to approach mealtimes in light-hearted and happy way, offering her food with a smiling face and words of encouragement.
The other way is, to offer her a feed at 11am, and as she shouldn’t be so hungry she should then take less. Then have a break of 45 minutes and offer solids at 11.45am. This is not such a good option as Olivia needs to cut well back on her milk in order to increase her solids.
At 2.30pm give her a smaller feed and be aware she may be filling herself up with water at 4.15pm which is taking the edge off her appetite at 5pm. Olivia should be eating a vegetarian meal at this time. It can include dishes containing cheese and sauces made with milk which all go towards her daily intake. At her age this needs to be a minimum of 500-600mls a day. As her daily total is 830mls it is easy to see why she is not really hungry at meal times.
In the same way offer her a far smaller feed before breakfast, perhaps having a break between her milk and solids. Give her a couple of different cereals, alternating between oat based and wheat based, so she doesn’t get bored with them. Some milk is used to mix them which again adds into her daily intake.
Introducing solid foods to a reluctant baby, can easily become a difficult issue for all involved. A baby who cries for her milk and refuses a spoon is very difficult and trying. But by structuring the amount and times of Olivia’s feeds, she should be hungrier and more willing to accept a wider variety of food.

Feeding FAQ: 6-9 months – General Food Refusal

At 7 months my son refuses all solid food and is hungry at night

Samuel is a happy baby and has always eaten well until two weeks ago. Now he refuses everything offered to him regardless of what it is. I have tried finger foods and he just throws them on the floor. I have given him a spoon to hold whilst I feed him; it makes no difference, he just won’t open his mouth. I have tried tricking him by offering water which he will always take and getting a spoon in as he opens his mouth, but he is wise to this now. He is having three milk feeds a day, but because of his lack of food intake is waking once again in the night for feeds.
Last night he woke at 12.15am, I tried not to feed him but he was still crying at 2.15am so I gave in, fed him and he slept to 6.30am. Samuel has been breast fed since birth, he refuses a bottle when offered and has done so for months.
Before this problem began he was sleeping twelve hours a night. Samuel is now grumpy and I am exhausted through lack of sleep.
I have tried teething gel before a feed but that makes no difference. He has had a cold this week but is getting over it, otherwise he is well.
He is taking breast feeds at 7am, 2.30pm, 7.30pm and 2.30am. He takes water at 11.45am. He presently weighs 17lbs 7ozs.
His rejected his breakfast of cereal and fruit puree. He took some pork and apple casserole after being tricked with a feeder cup and the yoghurt. He took some spaghetti and tomatoes with cheese, again eaten by being tricked, along with apples and custard, again taken when tricked into eating. Most of each meal was rejected. He took three cups of water during the day.
He slept from 9-9.30am and 12.30-2.30pm. He settled to sleep at 8pm.

As Samuel had been good about accepting food until his present strike, it would appear that the combination of teething, coming down with a cold and generally a bid for independence have rather affected him.
Teething can cause discomfort whilst eating, and babies usually find it more comfortable to suck.
Giving Samuel a spoon in each hand, may distract him enough for you to feed him. If you place the bowl within his reach, and encourage him to have a go at loading his spoon, he will also be distracted and probably let you spoon more in.
Be aware that filling him up with water at meal times will take his appetite away, especially as it is not that great due to teething and a cold. Try feeding him at least half his meal before you even show him his beaker.
Looking at your notes, it appears that the food he is receiving is ready made although he was weaned on fruit and vegetable purees. When you are exasperated and at your wits end with a reluctant feeder, it is easy to resort to jars as they are quick to prepare and somehow don’t seem such a rejection to you as your own carefully cooked food.
The problem is with commercial food is, that although your baby appears to be eating as much as he would with home-made food, their composition is totally different, so his nutritional needs are not being met in the same way. A lot of prepared food contain sugar, have a high water content and contain starchy fillers to bulk up the ingredients. The protein they contain is much less than a comparable home made meal, and this is what often causes the start of night-time waking again. Samuel is genuinely hungry in the night, as he is just not having enough of the right kinds of nutrients by day.
Now he is over his cold, make up two or three batches of homemade food you know he has enjoyed in the past. A chicken and vegetable casserole and one made with lentil and vegetables would be good to start with. Give Samuel his 7am feed and offer him a small amount of breakfast. As he is still breast fed, you could offer him his breakfast having had one side from you and then see if he wants any more, having taken some solid food. Don’t be in a hurry to increase his cereal too much as you want him to be hungry enough for his lunch.
Make sure he is not too tired to eat at lunchtime. Some babies are ready by 11.30am, especially if eating breakfast at 7am. As stated before, offer him at least half of his solids before he sees his water beaker. Encourage him to help you feed him with his spoons and keep trying with finger food. Make it attractive to look at, so try using cooked frozen mixed veg with its variety of textures and colours. You only need cook a small amount so wont have to feel that all his food is going to waste. Once Samuel is accepting homemade solid food again, begin to spread some of the casserole of pieces of bread roll to encourage him to feed himself.
As Samuel has dropped his milk feed at 11am and is accepting water from a beaker, begin to offer some of his 2.30pm feed in this way too. Having a full breast feed at this time, especially when not eating solids well, will only serve to diminish his appetite at tea, so cutting back on this feed will also help him to eat a good meal later.
Encourage Samuel at meal times even though you may be feeling unhappy about his low food intake. Once he is eating more home prepared food, you can begin to settle him at night with cool boiled water rather than a feed. It may take a few days for him to be eating enough by day to manage to get through the night again. A realistic amount would be about 6-7 cubes at lunchtime, made up of meat/protein and vegetables.
In The Complete Weaning Guide there is a case history on p63 which may help you see how commercial food can affect sleeping through the night.