Refusing Solid Foods

Suggestions for 11 month old who won't eat solids...


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A PSP member asks...


"My 11-month-old son will NOT eat solid food. We've been trying since 6 months of age w/ a range of tastes, textures and techniques and if he gets the littlest bit of food in his mouth he'll gag very dramatically and a couple times has vomited. He jams his mouth closed, shakes his heads, and eventually screams if we insist. He WILL happily mouth toys, his hands, leaves at the playground, etc., so I know he CAN and will put things in his mouth. He'll also grab at food that we're eating, but only wants to touch it.
He's managed maybe 5 bites of food in 5 months. Once a tiny bit of yogurt, a spoonful of rice cereal, and one cheerio.
He's being fed breastmilk exclusively at this point-- by breast and bottle. He's growing nicely and is hitting all the developmental milestones just fine, so on some level I'm not terribly worried about this. Still, his pediatrician is NOT happy and wants us to see a swallowing disorder specialist. (Earliest appt I could get is in July, a couple weeks shy of my son's 1st b-day.) I'm fine w/ doing that, but am wondering if any parents on the list have experience with this kind of thing.
We've tried just about every food in about every form possible.  Purees, finger foods, homemade, commercially prepared, grown up table food, etc. We've tried feeding him w/ other babies. We've made a game out of eating. We've let him watch us eat. We've tried in his high chair, on the floor, in our laps, etc. We've tried letting him play w/ an empty spoon and bowl. I've tried giving him a very soupy rice cereal w/ breastmilk. No luck.
He did have great difficulty breastfeeding for the first 4.5 months of his life-- was diagnosed w/ a tongue tie and had a frenotomy, but now feeds beautifully. He babbles normally and makes a range of sounds, so I don't think his tongue is the problem.
We did see an early intervention specialist about the nursing early on, but it was determined that he wasn't eligible for care. We might approach them again to see if they've be willing to reassess him.
My gut says that the answer is simply: He's not ready! He loves nursing and since he doesn't read calendars, doesn't know he's supposed to eat solids. He won't still be subsisting on breast milk in college. (I hope!) If we give it time, he'll eventually start eating solid foods...
Any thoughts, words of wisdom or encouragement? I'm curious to hear how others resolved this, when the turning point happened, etc.


Here are the replies...


"Your son sounds just like my daughter at that age. She had sensory issues mostly in her mouth making eating painful and oral motor issues. Such that she could not move food around in her mouth and had to be taught how to chew.  As you say, he may not be developmentally ready, or it could be something he needs help with.
I highly reccomend you call 311 for another eval by early intervention. Make sure they send a speech/feeding therapist not just a speech therapist to evaluate him. Not all speech therapists know about feeding issues, also specify you want him evaluated for sensory issues."


"We went through the exact same thing with my daughter. She gagged and threw up everything we tried to give her to eat, and my gut told me there was something wrong. (everyone told me she wasn't ready to eat) I consulted doctors, a neurologist, pediatric nutritionist, etc., and then went to an osteopath on the suggestion of my friend- took me a month to get an appt, but we went when she was 11 months old.
The osteopath spent 1 1/2 hrs with her, and (I am simplifying here) told me that the bones in her head did not return to their normal position after birth, and that because of this eating made her uncomfortable. He said she couldn't curl her tongue, and a few other things as well. He made various adjustments on her, and immediately afterward, she nursed differently. (and I had been to a lactation consultant a few times to correct the latch!). She got home that night and ate for the first time, and hasn't stopped eating since! No more gagging, no more throwing up. Honestly, I couldn't believe it worked. I went every few weeks to make sure the corrections stayed, and then spaced out the appointments every 3-4 months until she was 3.
When my son was born, I made sure one of the first appointments was to my osteopath! I continue to take both kids a few times a year for maintenance. I can't recommend osteopathy high enough!"
For a comprehensive list of recommended osteopaths by Park Slope Parents Members, go HERE.


"He may have an oral aversion. My nephew did - there are great speech therapists in the area that can help you with that. The thing is, if it really is an aversion, it will take him a loooong time to get over it. So, your doc is right, it's best to work on it now."


"My daughter wouldn't eat solids until she was almost a year too. Same thing - gagging and total rejection of pretty much everything. Except toys or any other inappropriate object she could chew on.
One of the first things she ever ate with joy was a teething biscuit and then more foods followed. Our ped was concerned but wanted to wait till she was a year old. She also had trouble breastfeeding, she never really latched well and was diagnosed with an uncoordinated suck. She did fine on bottles but breastfeeding was always a problem.
Fast forward to 3.5 she is a pretty decent eater and doing very well.  I say go with your gut, he just might not be ready and I think giving him some more time, as long as he's gaining weight well, is the right thing to do. Kids are rushed into everything these days. Some kids are grabbing food off of mom's plate at 5 months and others are happy with their bottles and breasts. And I'm sure he'll be done in time for college :) ."


"Below is what i sent to the mom of a 9 month old not eating solids who posted last week.  We went through absolutely everything you did, including difficulty breastfeeding (but we never managed the breastfeeding and i pumped for 4 months). our kid is fine. he's 23 months, eats solids like broccoli and peas and pasta and cheese and dried fruit, but wouldn't touch any of it until i forcibly weaned him from bottles during the day - see below:
fwiw - our kid didn't really eat solids of any kind, including purees, until 16mos. he occasionally ate rice cereal, but much more frequently refused it. unlike your son he didn't gag or puke, he just wouldn't
take any of it at all. we tried everything - nothing worked. we kept him on baby formula until he was 16 months because we didn't feel he
was getting sufficient nutrition otherwise. all the doctors we asked (3 pediatricians and an ENT), plus the early intervention evaluators (yes, we did that too), said he was absolutely fine. and they all gave us the same advice - if you take away his bottle and give him no choice, he'll eat solids. now, i never would have done that at 9 months old, since at that point solids are really a cultural preference and there's no reason for them, but by 16mos i was ready to and of course, before i was willing to do it, i got him fully
evaluated to make sure there was no physical problem. the weaning sucked for a few days, it took him a month to really eat the solids in any kind of reasonable quantity, and now at 22mos he's a great eater.
i guess you could call it a "sensory issue" but that strikes me as a diagnosis that can be applied to anyone at any time and makes you worry for no reason. yeah, my formerly colicky, orally-obsessed, late-eating, non-boob-latching kid probably has some "sensory issues", but he's 100% healthy, so whatever.  point being, your kid doesn't have to have something wrong with him to not want to eat a wide variety of solids. some just don't take to it right away. and it really is an american thing born of a time when women needed to get back to work and it became culturally inappropriate to breastfeed for years at a time and there weren't great baby formulas out there. which is why your ped keeps telling you it doesn't matter. but yes, we also were really worried it might be  something physical and did get him checked out at some point. some of the tests are pretty invasive though, so you might want to wait until he's older and you're ready to wean him and see if that works before you go for any really bad tests just to rule something out."


"I can understand your frustration, but I say, go with your gut. It really sounds like he's just not ready. One of the first criteria for being ready is that they lose the tongue-thrust reflex which it doesn't sound like your little one has done yet. I have a 5 month old
and started reasearching when I can and should start him on solids and I've found to have the most informative site about it. It is actually encouraged to wait longer than 6 months to start solids. Especially since you're breastfeeding (and even if you weren't actually) your baby is getting all the nutrients he needs. I wouldn't jump into a specialist just yet. Every baby is different and some take longer than others to do things and there's nothing wrong with that.
They're human beings! Doctors can be alarmists and although it can be a good thing, it could also be bad. You just have to trust your instincts and do what you think is right. If your doctor is pressuring you rather than reassuring you, maybe you should find another dr who is more open to listening to parents (let me know when/if you find one!) Check out these links (if you haven't found them on your own already!)
Just keep following your babies lead and keep trying every so often.  Don't force it too much b/c then he'll associate it with negative feelings. Just give him room and time. He'll certainly get there.  Unless you're really concerned, I would wait on the specialist another couple of months. But do go for your peace of mind if need be. As a new mom, I know the hell it is to stress over all this stuff!! Good luck and breath :)"


"I just wanted to share that my Ollie, who just turned 1, has had very similar challenges. He still is extremely resistant to eating almost everything. The only thing he really eats are teething biscuits and the baby puffs that dissolve in his mouth. I've tried the full spectrum of options as well.  He went through a very short phase (maybe 9 days) where he ate some homemade purees but then he went on strike again. I had a very casual attitude toward his lack of eating for the first six months but it is def getting old and a bit worrisome now.  My pediatrician suggested we stop giving him milk via a bottle and only give it to him in a cup and occasionally nurse. The idea is that he will drink less via a sippy cup than a bottle and be less full and slowly become more interested in food. If I could get him to successfully drink from a sippy cup this would be plausible."


"My son is 11 1/2 months old and until last week, he too wouldn't eat solids. He shuddered and made a face as if we were giving him lemons when we tried baby food (purees), and when we tried the little bites of cereals that dissolve quickly, he would spit them out. BUt one week ago (!) he was suddenly into it, he even ate fairly spicy hummus and some guacamole. And he has been eating RICE RUSKS - I read about them online and randomly found them at a health food store up in Rhode Island near my mom's house. They too dissolve in the mouth. He isn't eating as much as his peers, certainly, but he is starting to eat now.
His Dr. wasn't worried and said it is pretty common actually. And I know from my own personal family Dr who isn't alive anymore, he would be close to 100 years old (ok that's weird, but he was my old DR).  anyway, he said the old time Drs told their patients to breast feed exclusively for 1 year, then start introducing foods at age 1 - NOT 6 months - if you don't have teeth how can you be expected to eat and changing the consistency of the food (as in to cook and puree) doesn't change the fact that with teeth comes digestive enzymes and it is totally bogus to feed a 5 mo old rice cereal, for example, they just can't digest it. So, it depends whom you ask. I am just tired from making so much milk to nurse all the time. And I am hoping my son continues to progress in the eating department now that he will be 1 so soon. So maybe - hang in there?!
When he is ready, he'll let you know. It is hard not to compare when you see what other kids are doing, and I have an older child and think back to when she was this age and all the things she ate ... but every kid is different."


"A little anecdote: I'm not saying this is nutritionally sound, but as of course you know, early eating is about experiencing the texture, etc. more than nutrition. That said, my friend who had similar problem finally resorted to those Bahlsen wafer cookies with chocoate cream filling. Bingo.  Maybe you should smear his chew toys with jam.  pt. 2 from same person:  The reason I called my response an anecdote, not advice, was that what opened the floodgates for my friend's kid was chocolate -- real chocolate layer on the cookie.
Oh, and have you tried putting sweet fruit chunks like pears in one of those little net bags with with a handle on in designed for safely letting little ones chew on? Can't remember what the item is called but it's made by Sassy or Munchkin, I think.  As his refusal is so profound, I personally don't think it hurts to keep the appointment with the specialist as a rule-out. See what the group says. It could be a swallowing or sensory thing, or just his own developmental time line."


"We had the same problem. It turned out he was missing enamel on his teeth and he also had "tongue-tie." He too had a tough time nursing, but it was the only way he could be fed and we did it exclusively, no bottle. He couldn't even do that. We resolved it by
surgery, dental work, and then therapy.
Here is my advice: do not wait and see if things get better. Of course he loves nursing, but he is hardwired to do the eating thing. If he's not doing it, it's probably because he can't. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to fix the problem. If there's a mechanical problem in his mouth or throat, you will have to fix it, but if you let too much time pass, he will miss the milestones that enable normal eating and may require more therapy to get over something that maybe is not such a big deal. And you will be (even more) scared out of your mind."


"Gastroenterologists start at the back of the throat. I had my son evaluated by one of these guys, and the guy didn't even look in his mouth, just his throat, and so of course missed the problem."


"Try to relax. My son's nutritionist explained to me that if I was too frightened, i would communicate that to my son, and then I might bug him too much about eating, and he could develop a "feeding behavior" separate from the real problem."


"The feeding specialists from early intervention were the pits. They gave me a lot of baloney about sensory this and sensory that. That's all they know about. Your son puts stuff in his mouth, so sensory problem sounds off. If course I'm not a doctor! But most of the feeding ladies know only about sensory, and if that's not what's wrong, they don't have a clue.
My son's first solid food was PEPPRIDGE FARM GOLDFISH, at 16 months. Don't let everyone blame you - they always blame the mommy. You will sort this out. Just don't let it go. Call the swallowing specialist and scream bloody murder to get an earlier appointment. Tell them he's losing weight."


"Does [your child] have teeth yet? [My child]  didn't cut his first tooth until he was 11 1/2 months, made eating more interesting to him. he was also exclusively breast fed up until we tried solids at around 8 months, but he didn't really take anything until around 10 months. at that time we did have some success mixing rice cereal with banana and breastmilk - also, that was given to him by a sitter, not me. (we didn't stop nursing completely until he was."


Related PSP reading:

Introducing Solids