As babies begin to grow, their dietary needs change. Breastmilk and/or formula are no longer the sole source of your child’s nutrition as different foods are introduced in stages. Typical feeding patterns for infants include: 

  • 4 to 7 months: Add semi-solid foods (infant cereal, strained vegetables/fruits) 
  • 7 to 9 months: Introduce sippy cup
  • 8 to 10 months: Introduce finely chopped, soft table foods and crunchy meltables (e.g., pieces of puffs)
  • 12 to 15 months: Transition to regular cup 
  • 18 months: Wean from bottle 

Not all babies follow a typical feeding pattern for a variety of reasons. One reason may be food aversion, or a refusal to try or eat certain foods. Common food aversions are those caused by texture, taste, color, or appearance. Food aversion may or may not be associated with poor nutrition and growth.

What causes food aversion?

Refusing what? Possible reasons for refusal
Refusal by texture (such as puree, chopped, table food)

Skill problems

  • Oral-motor deficits (too difficult)
  • No opportunities to learn (missed “critical periods”)

Preference

  • Sensory preferences (e.g., cooked vs. raw carrots)

Medical/physical

  • Classical conditioning (paired with nausea/discomfort)
Refusal by type (such as food group), taste

Preference

  • Sensory preferences (e.g., sweet vs. savory)
  • Experience, exposure

Medical/physical

  • Classical conditioning (paired with nausea/discomfort)

Though not all feeding problems can be prevented, there are some things you can do to make mealtime a little easier:

  • Check with your pediatrician to see if your child is ready to be introduced to new foods and textures.
  • Set the stage for trying new foods. Have a family rule that everyone tastes a little bit of everything.
  • Make meals social events so your child will want to sit at the table.
  • Don’t worry about the amount of food your child is eating. Kids aren’t always hungry for every meal as they continue to grow.

There are things you can do when you have a child who doesn’t want to eat, as well. Some of the top strategies include: 

  • Be a good role model in what you eat, how you eat, and where you eat it.
  • Using hunger to your advantage – meal and snack times occur at certain times and are of a limited duration 
  • Let children know the kitchen is “closed” between meals and snack times
  • Offer preferred foods at pre-determined times and not as a substitute for something they’ve refused
  • Keep trying. Present new foods at least 15 times.