by Toni (Nebraska)
We took a very laid-back approach to starting solids with our little Ellanore. We were planning on starting around 6 months, but were out of town for a family wedding that month, and ended up waiting to start introducing solids until 7 months.
Then we weren't too concerned when Ella didn't take to solids right away, because we knew she was getting most of her nutrition from breast milk. Even so, we tried to introduce her to different foods: bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, peas… eventually even the dreaded rice cereal (which I tried to avoid, but caved in at my husband's prodding).
Ella would take the food in her mouth but then make a face like it was the worst thing she'd ever tasted in her life. Then she would gag if it got to the back of her throat (no matter how thinned out the food was, it was the taste that seemed to be making her gag). I wasn't concerned at first, because so many people say you just need to try things multiple times or prepared different ways. For awhile there, we had her taking a spoonful or two, but now she's absolutely refusing. And now that she's older (11 months) she can actually take the food back out of her mouth with her fingers.
I've tried pureed, mixed with breastmilk, warm, cold, finger foods… I'm starting to run out of options. It seemed like her eating went downhill when she got her two front teeth in. That was a really rough milestone for her. She also went on bottle-strike, so now I'm exclusively breastfeeding again (I'm a working mom, but get to come home for my lunch breaks, so I can swing exclusive nursing). I didn't mind at first, but now that she's going through another growth spurt and eating like crazy it's getting to be a lot of pressure on me. Not only because of lots of wake-ups in the night, but also sore nipples like I haven't had since I first starting nursing.
We were making our own baby foods, but I'm wondering if purchasing something would be a better option? Also, we haven't tried any meats, not sure if that is a good idea when she hasn't mastered any solids yet at all?
I could use some suggestions for what to do to convince her to eat solids. Sounds like you went through something similar with Galen. Also, could use a little encouragement that it's ok to not be relying on solids for nutrition at this point. And maybe just a reminder that she won't be little forever, and I should treasure these moments when I'm her whole world.
As a hilarious side note, she is perfectly fine with swallowing paper or string or whatever other little bits of something she finds on the floor when I'm not looking. She's digested more paper and plastic than anything else solid I've tried to feed her. LOL!
Ella is an absolute doll, look at that beautiful face!
What you're experiencing with her does sound similar to what we've experienced with Galen. She also sounds pretty similar to my Cassidy, who at 11 months didn't eat much. She started eating right around a year and didn't look back.
So if Ella is gaining weight and doing well, it could very much be a “wait and see” sort of thing.
For me, my concerns came with Galen because he wasn't gaining any weight and he literally could not swallow solids (Galen won't swallow paper or things, either, though he'll put them in his mouth now.)
I decided to bring up Galen's issues with our doctor and now, at 14 months, Galen and I are working with an occupational therapist in an infant feeding program.
Our OT's advice for Galen is to first focus on what he can eat without problems – Galen can eat pureed food with no problem, so that's what I feed him. We are working to get Galen eating a certain amount at every meal, or close to it, and then we'll work on getting him more used to textures.
He does like having textured food in his mouth (like bacon or chicken), but he will just suck on it and eventually spit it back out. Like Ella he will also dig things back out of his mouth with his fingers. Galen will also “pocket” solid textured foods, meaning he'll store it in his cheeks or under his tongue to make sure it doesn't go down his throat (even when he takes a drink of water).
As for what to feed, one of Scott's biggest concerns with Galen was that he would be made to eat something we didn't want him to in the feeding program. I've made sure that doesn't happen.
My blender on the highest settings will literally puree anything, so that's what I do. I usually puree Galen's portion of whatever we're eating – and I do puree meats. In fact, there's almost always meat because we usually have at least a small amount of meat with each meal.
I thin purees out with either heavy cream (from grass-fed cows) or with chicken broth. Usually I go for the cream to get in a little more flavor and fat. Most of the time I gently heat the puree and I'll add a little butter, too. I taste it because I'm not going to feed him anything I don't think tastes good myself!
Usually he'll eat the purees fine – 2-4 tablespoons worth is what he's eating right now (not as much as the OT would like him to be eating so we're working on it.)
Sometimes he gets fussy about the purees and I think it's because he wants what we're having (he's getting it, he just doesn't realize it!) In this case I can usually add a soft vegetable, a bit of scrambled egg, or something on top of the puree to get it into his mouth, then he'll start eating the puree.
He doesn't choke or gag on purees, but he still will on more solid foods (or he just holds the solid foods in his mouth… and will then dribble it back out on me at some point later on if I don't take it out of his mouth. He hates that, but I don't like hour old, soggy chicken being spit out on me, either, lol)
I'm not sure if any of this is helping. I'm just sharing my experience, but in reality this is very new for me too!
I'm making sure that I'm nursing Galen on demand and eating very well to keep my milk supply high. But I understand how you feel because nursing a busy older baby gets very tiring, especially when you feel you're really the only source of nutrition.
And like I mentioned above, I have not compromised on what I'm going to feed to Galen just because his feeding skills are not good. I make his purees at home so I can put high quality ingredients in them.
I also don't think there's anything wrong with buying baby food, though, if you think that may help. I would research for a good company. You can also try making bigger puree batches and freezing for convenience – that has been helping me a lot. And you can find the “fresh frozen” baby food in a lot of natural foods stores. That could be a good option, too.
I get annoyed at the rice cereal pushers… the people who imply that your baby wouldn't have any problems with solids if you'd just started with rice cereal. That's a myth, and I know it's a myth because my first three never had rice cereal and never had feeding challenges, either, lol! So just brush off any rice cereal pressure you get… because you may get more 😉
You can feed her what you want to – you can keep trying solid textures or you can go back to purees. And you can make your own. Like I said my blender's highest setting has pureed everything I've put in it. I put the meat/eggs/cooked veggie in first and get it chopped, then start adding liquid and it comes to a smooth puree. If your blender won't get things pureed our OT recommended “The Bullet” blender – she says it will puree absolutely anything you can throw at it, and that's what they use in the clinic.
Like I said, this is all sort of new for me, so hopefully this is helpful. I'd say if you're concerned, don't hesitate to bring it up to her doctor. Or if you feel comfortable with “wait and see” then you can by all means just wait and see. It's encouraging that she can and does swallow paper, string, and other things! Keep trying different things and best of luck to you and your sweet girl!
Update: I cover my experiences with Galen, including extensive tips on how we overcame Galen's issues, in Natural Birth and Baby Care.com's book First Bites and Beyond.