I swear I am not exaggerating when I say that I couldn’t wait to start serving up solids. It’s not that I was eager to stop nursing (though if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t find nursing to be the earth-mama-blissed-out experience I had hoped for). And it’s not that I was trying to race through my daughter’s earliest experiences. I think I was just ready for the next thing to do. Solids seemed like so much fun.
I’m also not exaggerating when I say that I read the “recipe” on the box of rice cereal about 20 times before attempting this feat. Yes, I was nervous. “Mix with breast milk or formula” didn’t seem complicated, but you never know. I wanted to get this right.
So it’s no small wonder that I let out a huge sigh of relief when my daughter not only opened her mouth once, but also did it twice, three times, four times. She didn’t choke. She didn’t turn away. She didn’t do any of the things I had fervently feared. Rather, she ate!
Once we moved on from rice cereal—Squash! Carrots! Peas!—it wasn’t always smooth sailing. And it’s easy to think that when infants turn away from food it’s because they don’t like it. But resist that thought. Really. If it comes into your head, just refuse to believe it.
Children under 5 don’t have what researchers call stable taste preferences. So any reaction your infant has to new foods is most likely based on something else. Let’s take a look at weaning through your infant’s eyes. There’s a lot going on.
- My food used to always be the same, or at least kind of the same. Now it really changes from meal-to-meal in a big way. I never know what to expect.
- I used to snuggle with Mommy while I ate. Now I don’t.
- I used to eat lying down. Now I have to sit up.
- I used to decide how quickly or slowly to eat. Now someone else picks the speed at which food is put in my mouth.
- I used to take big sips or small sips of milk. Now someone else decides how much food is in each bite.
- I used to have a soft nipple in my mouth. Now there’s a hard spoon in there.
- I used to eat whenever I was hungry. Now Mommy often makes me wait for meal- or snack-time.
- Mommy used to be the only one to feed me. Now lots of different people take turns.
- I used to decide how long meals lasted. Now whoever feeds me decides.
- I never could see what was going on in the room before. Now I can check out all the action.
There’s a lot going on here as your child adjusts and develops new habits — it’s not just about the food.
So what can you do?
Unless your child is having trouble swallowing solids or is showing signs of an allergy (in which case consult your pediatrician)…
- Try reducing some of the change. For instance, there’s no law against snuggling while feeding, even if it is solids.
- Jettison the idea that you infant likes or doesn’t like anything. Your infant’s reaction is a reflection of the change. Or the surprise. Or the hundreds of distractions.
- Don’t worry about using the go-slow weaning approach, where you introduce one item for 3-5 days before introducing another item. Exposing your young child to variety is much more important. It’s important to note: Not all other countries recommend this approach. What’s more, not only do fewer than 5% of children under the age of 5 have food allergies, but also, The American Academy of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology no longer recommends delaying even potentially allergenic foods beyond 4-6 months of age. (If you have a particular reason for concern, check with your pediatrician.
- Don’t get hung up on getting your child to accept any single food. If one thing gets rejected, just reach for something else. (But keep everything in the rotation over the course of a few days.)
- Weaning will change from day-to-day because it is an interaction that is always in flux as you and your infant adjust your behavior in reaction to each other. Remember, how well you cope matters too.