You made delicious food for your baby, and you’re excited for her to start solids. You make her sit in the high chair with her bib tucked around her neck. You take a spoonful of food, take it near her mouth, and within seconds the spoon is flicked away from your hand, the food splashes on the floor, you end up frustrated, and your little one ends up continuously crying.
This happens every time you try to feed your little one, and you have no idea why? You do everything correctly, the food tastes good, it’s not too hot or too cold, the baby seems hungry too, and from your research, she’s ready for solids. So, why won’t she eat solids? Why is she always crying when you try to feed her?
There can be many reasons why your baby rejects food or ends up crying while feeding her solids. You need to remember that your baby only knows how to drink milk, be it breast milk or formula. She’s only used to one texture for the last 6 months, and now suddenly, during her mealtime, a different texture and a different taste is introduced. No matter how delicious the food is, your baby will take time to get used to the different textures and tastes.
Other reasons why your baby cries while eating solids can be because either she is teething or is too tired or too hungry. Your little one might be sleepy, which makes her cranky and fussy during the mealtime, or she can be already full from the milk she drank before. She could be uncomfortable because of a soiled diaper, or baby can be gassy or constipated, or because you’ve become so anxious during feeding her that she feels too much pressurized to eat the food that she rejects it all.
Is your baby ready for solids?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeed your baby up until she is 6 months old. After which, you can slowly start introducing solids as a complementary food with breastfeeding.
Check these signs before starting solids:
- Your baby has lost her tongue-thrust reflex that pushes the food out of her mouth.
- She has good head control and can sit up on her own at least for 10 seconds. If so, you can place her in the high chair. If she can’t sit on her own, then feed her while keeping her on your lap.
- She is interested in food and reaches for your food or spoon.
- She can draw in her lower lip to take food from a spoon.
Reasons your baby is crying while eating solids
When you start facing all the problems with feeding solids, you’ll soon realize that breastfeeding or bottle feeding her for the past 6 months was way easier than feeding her solids.
Sure, not all babies are cut from the same cloth, some babies are happy to hop on the bandwagon of eating solids, and you’re on for a smooth ride. In contrast, some babies don’t easily accept solids initially and tend to take their own sweet time to get familiar with the texture.
But, there are quite a few reasons why your baby is crying while eating solids, let’s take a look at some now.
Baby is too hungry or is already full
Timing needs to be right, and if you take a long gap between two meals (i.e., if you’ve breastfed your baby and offering her solids after 3 hours), your baby will refuse any solid food.
It’s because your baby is still learning to accept new textures and flavors and is not accustomed to solids, and offering her solids when she’s too hungry makes her fussy because she needs her comfort food right now, which is milk, and is in no mood to try solids.
Your baby may not accept food if she comes to the table already full. There is no hard and fast rule that you should feed milk to your baby before offering solids, but most parents are comfortable doing so.
If you’re feeding her milk, then make sure that there’s an appropriate time gap between when she’s fed milk and offering her solids. If she’s crying, then automatically assume that she doesn’t like the food’s texture and stop offering that particular food for some time. You can come back to it later to see if she’s comfortable with it then.
What you can do: Offer her solids after 1 hour of feeding her milk so that she can develop some appetite after drinking milk. Remember, solid food before the age of 1 is meant to be a complementary food with the usual amount of milk offered. So, don’t try to replace milk with solids after she’s 6 months of age. The essential nutrition for your baby still comes from your breast milk.
Baby is sleepy or tired
If you try to feed your baby when it’s her naptime, she won’t accept anything other than milk. If your baby is awake when she should be sleeping, then she’s going to be quite cranky and fussy. Your baby needs to be in a playful mood, so choose a time between breastfeeding and sleep.
But, if you try to offer her food after she’s done playing, then your timing is way off because right now, she might be too tired from all the tummy time or in her “trying to crawl” phase.
What you can do: Choose a time during the afternoon or in the evening, when it’s been about 40 minutes after she’s fed and she’s playing and in a good mood. Please don’t wait for her to get tired or when it’s time for her next naptime.
Baby is uncomfortable
Treat your baby as you would like to be treated. If you’re uncomfortable for any reason while dinner time, you’d surely not have any food. Similarly, if your baby is constantly crying while eating solids, then check whether she’s comfortable.
Crying is the only way of communication for your little one. So, look out for soiled/full diapers. Check if she’s constipated or gassy or whether her clothes are too tight while sitting in the high chair. If your baby is uncomfortable during mealtime, then you’d have a hard-luck making her taste any solid food.
What you can do: If you suspect that your little one is constipated, then consult your pediatrician and meanwhile offer her lots of liquids like your breast milk or formula or even water. Offer fiber-rich foods like fruits, veggies, lentils, and beans. Make sure to check her diaper before placing her in the high chair and is wearing comfortable clothing.
Baby is teething
This is one of the major reasons that your baby is crying and rejecting solids. For most babies, those precious white pearls can come around 6 months of age. So look out for teething signs.
Your baby’s gums and even their ears irritate them when they’re teething, and this can make them quite fussy all the time, not just while feeding. So, it’s obvious that your baby, if teething, may not be in the mood to taste and discover new food and may resort to comfort food like your breast milk.
What you can do: If your baby is teething, you can offer soft, cold, more soothing foods like yogurt, bananas, cottage cheese, or apple. Try not to stop offering her any solids altogether, as this can deter her from the routine of eating solids, and you’ll have to start from the beginning. Instead, try to offer her soft foods and see if she accepts any.
Baby doesn’t like the texture
This is quite common in babies when they are first introduced to solids. I spent hours researching on foods, then blending single food item and multiple food items into purees so that my baby likes the taste of it, only to find out that he disliked purees completely but would accept finger-length foods.
If your baby is rejecting a particular food, it can be because of the texture of the food and its feel in their mouth. My baby would reject mashed bananas but would happily accept a whole banana and try to bite through his gums.
What you can do: For a baby to accept a particular food, it takes almost 25 times of non-pressured exposure to that particular food, which means you need to repeat the food 2-3 times a week for 2-3 months. If your baby doesn’t like being spoon-fed or eating purees, then try the Baby Led Weaning way. Offer baked apples, avocados rolled in cereal, bakes potatoes or sweet potatoes, oats and bananas pancake, and so on.
Baby feels pressured
As I said before, treat your baby as you want yourself to be treated. If you’re hovering over your kid while feeding him or getting anxious or frustrated when she rejects solids, your baby is going to feel immense pressure from you. Remember that your baby can sense if you’re anxious or angry.
Babies can also feel pressured if you try to feed your baby forcefully; imagine someone forcefully feeding a spoonful of food in your mouth. If you try to feed your baby against her will, then the unwanted pressure can make your kid hate solids and cause growth and development issues like failure to thrive.
What you can do: Remember to smile and be patient with your kid while introducing solids. Even if it’s tempting, don’t hover over her and analyze every bite, whether it’s going in her mouth or falls down. Make mealtimes playful to take off the pressure, and don’t get frustrated if she starts playing with the food because smushing, squeezing, and throwing the food is all part of the feeding process. It is how your baby gets familiar with the texture and the food and slowly warms up to it.
Know that it’s alright if your baby is crying and rejecting food; look out for the reasons I stated above to be the cause. If your little one is crying simply because she doesn’t like the texture, then come up with creative ways of presenting food.
Make mealtimes to be playful but without the distractions of TV or your mobile phone, and as I tell my readers when it comes to your kid, take out your patient hat and relax. Anything new, like sleeping in her own crib, learning to crawl, or getting familiar with solids, takes time and doesn’t happen overnight.
So, mamas, smile and relax, and take it one day at a time. Meanwhile, tell us what your baby’s favorite food is and how you introduced them in the comment section.
Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid, you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best’.