Feeding your baby can sometimes be a bewildering experience, as their behaviors around food can vary from day to day. One moment they may happily devour everything, and the next they may refuse to put anything in their mouth.
As a parent, it's natural to feel confused and even frustrated by these behaviors! Today, we’ll explore what feeding behaviors are common in babies and are not a cause for worry. We’ll also look at less common behaviors that may require some help from a medical professional.
Once you understand these behaviors, you will feel more reassured and confident during mealtimes.
Routine and Common Behaviors
1) Baby gags
It's quite common for babies to trigger their gag reflex when introduced to new foods or textures. The gag reflex is located in the first one-third of their tongue, and initially, it may be triggered more frequently. However, this is nothing to worry about.
Gagging is a natural protective mechanism that prevents choking. It's important to remember that just because a baby gags on a certain food, it doesn't mean you need to eliminate that food entirely.
With time and patience, babies will become more skilled at eating various foods without gagging.
2) Baby makes disgusted expressions
Babies may make funny faces or show signs of disapproval when trying new foods. However, these expressions don't necessarily indicate a dislike for the food. They are simply exploring and trying to understand different tastes and textures.
As a parent, you can simply smile and enjoy the experience, avoiding overreacting to their expressions.
3) Baby plays with food
During the initial stages of introducing solid foods, babies are naturally curious and love to explore. They may smear food on their faces or throw it around, which can sometimes concern parents who feel that not enough food is actually going into their mouths.
Do remember that babies under 1 year do not need to consume large quantities of food. The primary goal is to help them develop eating skills and introduce them to new flavors and textures.
So, if your little one ends up playing with their food more than eating it, that's perfectly normal. It's actually a positive sign of their active interest and curiosity.
4) Baby does not open their mouth
There will be times when your baby refuses to open their mouth and eat. This behavior is quite common and can occur when they are full, tired, not hungry at the moment, or simply not in the mood to eat. It may also happen if they are unwell or sick and have no appetite.
In such instances, it's best to respect their cues, stop the meal for now, and try again later. Babies are naturally inclined to explore food, so they will likely show interest when you reintroduce it.
Occasional refusal to eat is nothing to worry about. However, if your baby consistently shows disinterest in eating or this behavior becomes frequent, it's advisable to consult your doctor.
5) Baby spits out food
Babies are still learning how to accept and handle food in their mouths. It's normal for them to spit out food as part of this learning process. Sometimes, they may even involuntarily push out food if they take in a larger chunk.
Spitting is particularly common among babies aged 6 to 7 months who are still in the process of losing their tongue thrust reflex. This reflex causes them to push food out of their mouths.
Spitting is a normal behavior and should not cause alarm. Continue offering a variety of foods for them to explore and manage.
6) Baby throws or drops food
Babies may also exhibit behaviors such as throwing or dropping food. These actions are part of their exploration process and should not elicit strong reactions from parents.
Often, babies learn to associate certain behaviors with specific parental responses. By avoiding overreacting to these actions, you can help them understand cause and effect in a more constructive manner. With time, they will naturally outgrow these behaviors.
While most feeding behaviors in babies are considered normal, there are instances in which guidance should be sought from your doctor:
1) Baby turns away from food
If your baby consistently refuses food by turning away or even running away when you try to offer it, it may be a cause for concern.
If this behavior persists despite multiple attempts, it's advisable to consult a medical professional for guidance on how to address this issue.
2) Baby cries at the sight of food
Some babies may exhibit distress or start crying as soon as they are placed in their high chair. If this happens frequently during most feeding times, it could indicate an underlying problem that requires further investigation.
Discussing this behavior with your doctor or working with a professional can help identify and address the issue.
3) Baby is constipated
If your baby experiences constipation after starting solid foods and has not had a bowel movement for several days, it's worth examining the foods you are offering.
Ensure they receive an adequate intake of fiber-rich foods while continuing their regular breast milk or formula feeds for hydration. If constipation persists or occurs frequently, consult your doctor for appropriate guidance.
4) Baby is not self-feeding
By the age of 9 months, most babies should be showing some interest in self-feeding and attempting to bring food to their mouths independently. If your baby constantly avoids self-feeding or shows no inclination to explore food in this way despite continued exposure to solids for several months, it's advisable to seek professional advice.
A doctor or specialist can help identify the underlying cause and develop a suitable solution.
5) Baby experiences allergic reactions
If you observe symptoms such as watery eyes, a runny nose, rashes, itchiness, or vomiting after your baby consumes certain foods, it's possible they are having an allergic reaction. A doctor should be consulted for a proper evaluation and guidance on managing food allergies.
Have a look at a previous article on what an allergic reaction looks like.
Understanding the range of feeding behaviors in babies can provide valuable reassurance to parents. By recognizing what is considered normal and common, you can navigate mealtimes with confidence and promote a positive feeding experience for your little one.
Remember, every baby is unique, and their behaviors may vary. Trust your instincts as a parent, and if you have any concerns about your baby's feeding behaviors, do not hesitate to consult a healthcare professional for guidance and support.