What to Do When Your Baby Refuses to Eat Solids

Frustrated because your baby refuses to eat solids? Discover simple hacks to introduce new food and get your little one excited to eat!

Baby Refuses to Eat Solids

I dreaded those days when my baby refused to eat anything—even his favorites. When his gums were tender from teething or when he’d try a few bites but fussed within minutes.

If you can relate, rest assured that there is a way to help your baby eat solids, even if he refuses to at the moment. These were the exact tactics I used to help me get through this challenging stage and steer my kids toward eating just about anything.

Take a look at these simple hacks when your baby refuses to eat. As one parent said after reading the article:

“This was the most comforting post I’ve ever encountered in my struggle to feed my baby. Thank you Nina, this was so soothing to read and made me take heart again.”

Give enough time between meals

One of the most common reasons your baby refuses to eat might come down to simple timing. He might not be hungry for much food on top of the milk he’s already drinking.

While you and I are used to three square meals a day, solid food for a baby younger than a year old is only supplemental. At this point, breast milk or formula is still his main source of calories and nutrition. Think of solids as “just for fun” or introductory food for his little belly.

If he continues to refuse, try offering solids less frequently in your feeding schedule, such as one less meal a day. You can also drop snacks to focus on the three main meals. That way, when you do offer solids, it can be a welcome surprise rather than yet another attempt to feed him.

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Start with the solids first

Do you typically offer your baby milk first, followed by solids? He might already be satisfied enough with the milk that he isn’t as willing to try solids, especially so soon after.

Instead, see what happens if you offer the solids before you breastfeed or give a bottle—he might take to them this way. With an emptier tummy, he might be more willing to try solids since he hasn’t had his milk yet.

Give your baby autonomy

Have you been spoon-feeding your baby? What if you give him the choice of what and how to eat?

One simple way to do this is through baby-led weaning, or offering finger foods on a tray that he can pick and feed himself. Steamed carrots, bits of bread, or diced bananas are a few examples perfect for self-feeding. This allows him not only to decide what to eat, but how much.

Or you can hand him a spoon of purees and encourage him to scoop the food into his mouth. Utensils and bowls work well for introducing independent use. Start by pre-scooping the food onto the spoon and let him bring it to his mouth. Later, encourage him to scoop the food himself.

Combine with a favorite food

One way to get your baby to eat more than one thing is to combine new tastes with a favorite food. Let’s say he’ll only eat pureed apples and nothing else. See what happens if you combine it with mashed bananas. Once he takes to that, try mixing apples and peaches or apples and chicken.

You can also offer apples in different ways, like steaming and dicing them into bite-sized pieces or adding less water for a chunkier puree. Later, you could even offer thin slices of apples he can grab and gnaw himself.

Or let’s say he refuses to eat any solids and is adamant about milk. Try blending baby oatmeal not with water, but with milk so the taste still feels familiar.

The goal is to figure out which food he likes and work other foods and textures into it. This exposes him to different foods that are similar to the ones he already likes.

Ditch the high chair

A common struggle with feeding babies is the high chair: they want nothing to do with it. So much so that your baby is already fussing before you’ve even buckled him in.

If you notice this behavior, ditch the high chair. He probably feels constrained and uncomfortable, especially if he’s already high-spirited and energetic. Solid food may not even be the issue so much as the environment he’s eating in.

Instead of the high chair, try holding him with one arm on your lap as you feed him with your free one. Partner up with another adult so one is holding him while the other is feeding. Sit him on a blanket placed on the floor or try another “chair,” from a stroller to a swing to an infant seat.

In time, he’ll likely take to the high chair. For now, don’t let it be the deal breaker when he refuses to eat.

Offer cold food

Yet another common struggle with solid food is the inevitable teething that plagues many babies. Chewing food can be too uncomfortable when their gums are tender.

One easy hack is to offer cold food. For instance, chill a banana and let your baby gnaw on it until it turns to mush. Yogurt and smoothies make for delicious and cold meals that are both soothing and don’t require much chewing. Offer a cold watermelon that he can chomp on easily and feels refreshing.

You could also offer his regular purees in a mesh popsicle feeder. Simply add the puree to the popsicle, chill in the refrigerator, and offer it to him when it’s time to eat.

Offer food from your plate

Perhaps the best “trick” of all is to not make a big deal when your baby refuses to eat. After all, solid food is practice at this point—it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t want to eat what you offer.

The best way to adopt this carefree attitude is to offer small portions of food from your plate when you’re eating. You’ll feel less stressed about preparing anything extra (that he might not eat anyway) when you’re simply giving him a few bites of your food during meal times.

Sure, you may not be able to offer everything on your plate. Instead, think of it as a “courtesy feeding.” You’re sharing a few peas or pieces of cheese and introducing new food without the stress or pressure for him to accept your offer.

Check for constipation

I introduced cereal to my son, which seemed to change his digestion and bowel movements. Ever the first-time mom, I panicked when he didn’t poop for several days and seemed extra fussy. It turned out, the cereal was causing him to be constipated.

How can you tell if your little one might also be constipated? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a few signs include:

  • More or fewer bowel movements than normal.
  • The stool looks like pebbles or hard rocks.
  • The stool has blood.
  • Your baby is straining for 10 minutes or more without success.
  • Your baby is extra fussy.

All babies are different, and they differ from adults. For instance, it can be normal for babies to not poop for three days and not feel constipated. But if you see signs of constipation, try these tips:

  • Give your baby prune juice and water in a bottle. I mixed two ounces of prune juice in one ounce of water. (Try not to offer juice too often though because of the extra sugar.)
  • Offer fruits and vegetables. High-fiber foods like peas and pears can help with digestion and bowel movements.
  • Do bicycle kicks. Help massage his belly by doing bicycle kicks. Gently move one of his bent knees toward his belly, then straighten and move the other bent knee.
  • Place a warm towel on his tummy. This can relax his muscles and loosen the stool. Make sure to test the temperature of the towel before placing it on his tummy.

The bottom line

The battle that ensues when your baby refuses to eat solids can be enough to make the experience miserable for both of you. Hopefully, you’ve seen that, at the end of the day, everything will work out. Babies don’t function like robots—their appetites and interests ebb and flow just as ours do.

That said, you can still do plenty to help him take to eating solid food in a stress-free environment. You can’t always control when or how much he eats, but you can take the pressure off and make eating a positive experience—for him and you.

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  1. Christianna says:

    This was the most comforting post I’ve ever encountered in my struggle to feed my baby. Being a PPD survivor, I’ve already had enough of misery being a first time mom. It was not just one thing. I had to shift my breast fed baby to bottle as I was forced to take meds to stay sane. By the time I improved, I was dried up. Struggled to relactate.
    I was sore from the day & night pumping. But throughout the process my little munchkin stayed strong & made me stronger. As everything started to turn out fine. ‘Solids’ stared at us. Both of us were stressed. Since his weight fell on the minimum normal range, I was worried & kept preping calorie dense food all day in an effort to make him a little chubbier which ended up in me forcing him one last bite. Eventually he began to refuse solids & I was anxious trying to feed him even more. This became a vicious cycle. Thank you Nina, this was so soothing to read & made me take heart again. Love from India.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Big hugs Christianna <3 It's hard dealing with the stresses and anxieties we feel with motherhood. You're definitely not alone. I'm learning to let a lot of things go if only to focus on the joys of parenthood. Hang in there, mama!

  2. My baby girl is 7 months old and has become very fussy with food. She’ll only have a 5/6 ounce bottle first thing in the morning when she wakes up, and one before bed and sometimes a third during the night if she wakes up. So solid food is her main source of food at the moment. There are some flavours she likes, but whenever I try and give her something new, she cries a lot and I have to end the meal. When she’s upset I try and give her something she likes and refuses that as well. I’m trying to introduce her to more chunky purees, but she barely tries anything to even know if she likes it or not. I’m at a loss of what to do as I don’t want to be feeding her the same 3 things she likes and make her a picky eater

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Devon! Check with your pediatrician, but at 7 months old, I believe babies should actually be drinking breast milk or formula as their main source of nutrients and calories. At this point, solids is sort of a side nourishment, and not until a year old does it switch and solids become the main source. I would also check with the doctor about weight gain, because if she’s gaining weight just fine, she may not need as much food as you assume she does.

      That said, I totally know the fear of not wanting her to be a picky eater. It’s okay though if she has preferences. I would keep offering different varieties of food. Or if she likes one type of food, see if she likes something similar. For instance, if she loves peaches, would she eat a plum?

  3. Kelly Stöter says:

    This has been so comforting to read.
    I’m struggling to get my 8 month old to eat and I can’t wait to try a few of your tricks. Reading this makes me think it’s actually the high chair that’s the problem as he will eat in his pram.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for your kind words. I hope it works out for you!