Yesterday was not a good day. My 9 month old rejected her porridge…
I had made it for her breakfast with blueberries*, she did not want know. It’s hard when you’ve lovingly made something for your child only for them to refuse it, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
Refusing food can happen for all sorts of reasons:
- Teething – imagine trying to eat with teeth coming through – ouch. Or if you need to gnaw on something and the only food you are given to eat is soft. Good gnawing foods include corn on the cob, bread crusts and cold raw whole carrots – washed and peeled and rice cakes. Cooling foods include yogurt, melon, the middle seed centre of the cucumber sliced into a stick (see photo below), cold cooked vegetables from the fridge and cool water. Don’t give them food from the freezer as this can burn their gums. I know it’s common sense but it has to be said: never leave your baby alone with food.
- Overtiredness – if you’ve missed that window of opportunity. Try to not to have mealtimes in the hour before nap time/bedtime.
- Being unwell – having a cold can affect sense of taste and smell and appetite can also be reduced when ill. At times like this go with baby’s needs and accept they don’t want to eat and may want to have more milk feeds than usual.
- Distractions – if there are things on the table, baby may well want to play with them, loud music, television or the radio can take attention away from food. So clear the decks and if you want music on go for chilled or classical type that’s not too loud.
- If it’s a food that has to be spoon fed then baby might want to feed themselves – and get frustrated if they can’t. Giving them a spoon to hold as well as finger foods along with pureed/chopped foods means they feel more in control, independent and engaged.
Or it may just be because, they don’t actually like the food. I know my daughter isn’t keen on porridge as I tried again at lunchtime, this time with mashed up banana. But no, she avoided the spoon with great dexterity and pointed pointedly at my soup (I should have had porridge too).
I knew that it wasn’t because she didn’t have independence or control as she had pieces of banana as a finger food (so that rules out teething too) and a spoon.
Giving her a spoon to hold can often result in food being flicked around, in hair and on clothes and elsewhere. But she is developing her control of the spoon – sometimes managing to get food into her own mouth or feeding me which she tried to do with the porridge. Actually, the porridge ended up just about everywhere, except her mouth.
The recommendation is that you have to try a food with your baby or older child about 14 times before they accept it. I think, with porridge I am on number 6 and I will keep trying as it’s healthy, filling, cheap and versatile. Next time I am making it for the rest of the family, the baby will get a little portion too.
So what did I do about the lunchtime porridge which got rejected for the second time in a day?
I boiled an egg (the yoke has to be cooked through for babies) and warmed some low sugar/low salt baked beans. Both of which she happily ate.
Once children are about 18 months, offering an alternative to a refused meal is not recommended. They are coming into the age where they reject food to get attention or exert independence.
But in the first year, when you and they are learning likes and dislikes then it’s fine to offer an alternative sometimes. As long as it’s a comparable swap – i.e. swapping savoury for savoury (rather than sweet). Or if you don’t have a savoury alternative that’s quick and easy to make give them fruit and/or yogurt for pudding.
For older children, if they are generally good eaters, and you make them something new which they try, eat some of and really don’t like, it’s ok to swap with a comparable food, or just let them leave the food they don’t like and eat the rest. But if they regularly refuse food then swapping is not recommended as they will learn if they refuse what they don’t want they will get what they do want.
If your child is regularly refusing food, give them a small amount of a new food or refused food alongside foods they are happy to eat. Don’t give them too much attention – as even negative attention is attention they thrive on. Keep neutral, tell them to try it, and if they don’t like it just to leave it on their plate. This is why it’s good to have puddings that are nutritious e.g. fruit-based and or dairy based. So that if they refuse the main meal, they still get a relatively healthy pudding.
There have been a couple of new dishes I’ve made in the last year which my 7 year old really hasn’t liked, so in those instances I have made a sandwich for her instead as I could tell she genuinely didn’t like it. I know this goes against what our parents did but I don’t want to stand over a child making them eat something they really don’t like.
Just try not to make a big fuss about it, don’t take it to heart that they don’t always like your cooking, and don’t let it stop you trying out new recipes with them.
*I buy frozen blueberries and boil in a little water for a few minutes – these are softer than fresh blueberries so are easier for babies to eat. I would puree them for younger babies though.