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Learning how to eat is a process that can take time. Some babies figure it out very quickly, while others need more help. We teach Baby-led Weaning, or infant self-feeding, in our online course, and we know that while it can be an amazing experience for many, it doesn’t always go as expected for some. If you’re in this boat, please do not blame yourself or assume you did something “wrong.” It’s not your fault if your baby doesn’t love solid foods, and there’s nothing wrong with your baby if they’re not into them either! 

We wanted to walk you through a few things to try right now if your baby isn’t taking well to solid foods. This is just a starting point - our Infant Course has a complete Troubleshooting section that will help with almost any issue you might be dealing with when solid foods aren’t going well.

Before we begin, please know that many babies do not swallow a quantifiable amount of food for many weeks to months when doing Baby-led Weaning. It’s a gradual process. Our clients report that they start to notice their baby actually consuming food sometime between 7-9 months of age, but this varies depending on the baby and environment.

If your baby is not taking to solid foods, try these things today:

1. Make sure your baby is ready for solid foods. We recommend starting around 6 months of age, when your baby is:

  • Sitting with minimal assistance on the floor,
  • Bringing their hands to their mouth, and
  • Showing an interest in food.

It might be hard for your baby to sit well in their high chair, know how to bring food to their mouth and have a desire to eat if they’re not exhibiting these readiness cues yet. For more about readiness cues, head here. If your baby is older than 6 months and still isn’t showing readiness cues, our Infant Course goes into detail about how to help them get there.

2. Make sure your baby’s high chair positions them well for eating. Babies (and adults!) are more willing to sit and eat when they feel stable, supported and comfortable in their chair. If you’ve ever sat at a bar stool with your feet dangling or have tried eating while reclining in bed, you might understand what we’re talking about! Proper positioning (ability to lean forward and reach your food, back supported, feet supported) can make a monumental difference for new eaters. Read more about this and our favorite high chairs here.

3. Eat with your baby. Babies learn about the world through watching us, so it’s imperative that we eat with them when they’re learning how to eat. They observe us picking up food, putting it in our mouth and chewing it, and they learn that it’s OK to try different foods on their plate because we are eating them too. Make sure your baby’s chair is right next to the table so they’re included in the mealtime experience and can see you eat.

4. Make sure your baby can pick up the food you’re serving. It seems obvious to cut up your baby’s food into tiny pieces, but a 6-month-old can’t pick up small pieces of food because they don’t yet have a pincer grasp. Instead, offer strips of soft food that pokes out of the top of their hand when their tiny fist is holding onto it. Learn how to do it here.

5. Offer more meals a day. We recommend starting with at least 1 meal per day at 6 months of age, working up to 3 meals a day by 9 months of age. However, if your baby isn’t taking to solids well, bump up to 2-3 meals a day right away. The more practice they get, the more successful they will become with solid foods.

6. Try loaded utensils. Sometimes babies don’t quite understand what to do with food until you put it on a loaded spoon or fork. We want babies touching food with their hands first and foremost, but utensils can help if food is slippery or hard to hold. Our favorite starter utensils are the NumNum GOOtensils.

 7. Put food on their favorite teether or (washable) toy. Sometimes babies will put all the things in their mouth, just not food. One of our favorite techniques is to put food on the toys they already like to teethe on. Once they understand that food is meant to go into their mouth, they might be more willing to try strips or pieces of food.

8. Let your baby get messy. Yes, we know mess can be triggering, but messy eating is one of the best ways babies learn to eat. They have to feel comfortable touching and exploring food to be more willing to put it into their mouth. If we’re constantly wiping their hands or face as they eat, they might not love the mealtime experience. If we don’t let them touch and explore food, they are less likely to bring it to their mouth. Messy eating is essential. Let them get messy as they eat and wait until the end to clean up – it will help them be a better eater in the long run!

9. It’s great to encourage your baby, but don’t force them to eat. If you’re trying to push food into their mouth, feed them while they’re distracted or “airplane” the spoon into their mouth while they’re not looking, they might not love the feeding experience. Instead, let them eat on their own terms. Bring them to the table frequently, but don’t make them eat. Rather, let them explore their food and try to keep it a positive experience.

10. Know that it can take some time, but once it “clicks” your baby will be off and running (err, eating)! Many of our clients say that their babies didn’t “get it” for awhile, but once they did, they became voracious about solids. It just took awhile to get there. Stay consistent and positive, and work with your doctor if you don’t see improvement by 12 months.