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Bon appétit, bébé! {When Baby Says “No”}

Thanks for joining us for the next post in the Bon appétit, bébé! series! I love hearing all of your stories, comments and questions – keep them coming!

making real food


You’ve smashed and smooshed the ‘nana and ‘cado all up. You’ve got the hubby poised with the camera and one of the grandparents with the video camera, the others checking in via FaceTime. The bib is on, the high chair is still sparkly and your baby is looking up at all the excited faces wondering what is going on. You send a spoonful of the yummy stuff towards her mouth and…it ends up on the side of her face.

[enter laughter from all present]

You try again. Annnnnd it also lands everywhere but her mouth. Hm. Your baby seems to have not gotten the tiniest bit in her mouth. And the little she did manage produced a huge “yucky” face.

What’s a mom to do? Are you doing something wrong? Should you skip that food? Change it up – more of this, less of that? Too hot? Too cold? Too early in the day? Too late?girls eating

Nope. You likely did nothing wrong. But it probably feels super confusing, right? So here are some tips for getting your baby to eat a wide variety of foods:

  • Try again. And again. Your baby may just need a few more opportunities to “try” that particular food to truly decide if she likes it. Some babies may need to try the same food 15 times to really indicate a like or a dislike. (No joke!) I had three babies side by side. I have yet to run into a food I couldn’t get them to eat.
  • Serve hot foods cold and cold foods hot. That’s right. There’s nothing wrong with scrambled eggs straight from the fridge. And now there’s no worry in my mind that if Yaya (my mom) makes them eggs one morning at her house that there will be tantrums over egg-temperatures. Lest you think I am joking, I have seen children throwing temperature-tantrums. Not pretty.
  • Serve dinner foods for breakfast. Who says chicken is just for lunch or dinner? Or quinoa pancakes are for breakfast only? Well, usually it’s the grown-ups who decide the “appropriateness” of a food at a particular time of day. Babies know nothing of this and the time is now to encourage that agreeable attitude. Changing things up from the get-go helps to keep babies (and toddlers!) from being hard to please and demanding (sandwich crust-cutters anyone?)
  • Season to the hilt – and not at all. I made it a point to serve foods both well-seasoned, spicy, etc. and bland with nothing but the naked taste God gave them. Again, this makes it easy for anyone to make them food and for them to eat anything I put in front of them.
  • Move on. After a few meal’s worth of tries, move on to another food. Come back next week to the one that your baby didn’t think was so hot. Or, after your baby decides he loves a particular food, move on. Staying on a particular food can result in him only wanting that food. (Ever heard of the chicken-nuggets-only eaters?)
  • Spoon feed. Yup. You heard me. As soon as you hand over complete control of feeding to the baby, it’s hard to take it back. After you move on to finger foods (and we did so pretty quickly), take an opportunity every now and then to spoon feed and gently maintain your authority. There have been many, many times I’ve been grateful I can still help my 20 month old toddlers along without an “I do it!” tantrum. They are used to Mama picking up a spoon and feeding them from time to time.
  • Do not take orders. What Mama makes, Baby eats. I felt strongly that this (eating) was just one of many areas where I (and not the baby) needed to be the authority. If one of my babies decided they didn’t like something and I chose never to offer it again, can you imagine the short-order cook I’d become? Certainly there is a time and a place for allowing preferences and dislikes (as long as they aren’t out of hand and disrupting family life). But at this point in their journey, it’s good for me to help them learn what they can and can’t refuse, what they do and don’t like. Note, I’m not saying “force.” Think of it as any other area of teaching your child. It’s good for them: to learn to dress themselves, even when they don’t want to; to learn to go potty on the potty, even when they don’t want to; to stay in their bed, even when they don’t want to; to rest in their bed, even when they don’t want to. I could go on. =) You are the parent. You have a responsibility to help them learn to eat. Part of this is not taking “no” for an answer.

The great thing about solids is that they really are for fun before a year old (remember “solids before one are just for fun?”). So if Baby isn’t interested in a particular food you really can come back and try again and again.

Once we passed the “One Year” mark, though, and food became a bit more substantial around here, I became a little firmer with them. These days, I am watching their toddler independence emerge and a food they ate every bit of yesterday is refused today. That munchie is given some time to obey Mama and eat – and sometimes they comply. Other times, they are removed from the table. I’m confident they won’t starve before the next meal – but they will quickly grasp Mama means business. =)

(By the way, I am really not a mean Mama. Just one who is aiming to love them with an appropriate measure of authority since authority is something they’ll encounter every day for the rest of their lives – in some way or another. =)

Certainly this is not an exhaustive list. What else could you add to this list?

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  1. Wow, this post makes me sad 🙁

  2. Good tips! One of my twins is a bit on the picky side. Some meals are harder than others with him. My other twin seems to like just about everything!

  3. Having a child that has learned to eat what is offered will make you, anyone else feeding your kids, and your kids much happier! It’s no fun for a child to go hungry bc the limited foods they will eat might not be available. We quickly learned this when trying to eat at restaurants- my eldest wouldn’t eat what I ordered even though he usually loves it, nor would he eat any of my husband’s food or mine! I can’t order and waste $20 of food trying to figure out what my baby will eat and it’s unkind to leave the child hungry. So yes! Broadening the palate is very good for children! It’s one of the French customs spoken of in “Bringing Up Bébe” that I really liked 🙂

    • Jennifer Fountain says

      I agree, Kate! 🙂 I love that my palate is oftentimes expanding – right along with theirs! 🙂

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