Q&A: 11 Month Old Won’t Eat When I Feed Her

CME WebsitesChild Routines, Mealtime

blockquote_bgOur 11 month old daughter eats purees (stages 2 and 3), yogurt, oatmeal and has attempted some table foods (scrambled egg yolk, tofu, soft rice noodles, blueberries…). The problem is that while she eats great with our nanny (at the home where we take her – we have a nanny share), she is very inconsistent with me and my husband at home. In fact, it’s gotten to the point this past week where she will only take a couple of bites with us and then won’t open her mouth to eat any more. She is somewhat better when we are feeding her elsewhere, but that is inconsistent as well. We’ve tried feeding her in different parts of the house, on different booster seats, etc.
On several occasions, I have taken her to the nanny share home and tried to feed her there myself in her usual chair and with the spoon our nanny uses – to no avail. As soon as our nanny takes over, she eats the entire portion quickly and easily. A couple of other points – our nanny does not give her table foods. Also, our daughter does not fuss when I try to feed her…just simply keeps her mouth shut. I’m concerned because she has always been small for her age but has recently fallen off her curve and is almost off the charts. At this point, she is essentially “missing” many meals as a result of this problem.

If you daughter is refusing foods and is not gaining weight adequately, then I would suggest contacting your local early intervention provider to set up a feeding evaluation from an occupational therapist who can work with you and your husband, as well as your nanny to help move your daughter forward in the feeding process. Since you say that she is eating fine for the nanny, but not for you or your husband, that might suggest it’s behavioral, however, if your nanny is not feeding any table foods we want to make sure that she can move forward to table foods without difficulty for you as well as the nanny.

You can review some of our articles on feeding at this link.

In the meantime, some suggestions would be:

  • Offer finger foods and foods your baby can eat by herself. She may be exerting her independence and although she may not accept the food off the spoon from you, she may eat some foods on her own.
  • Let her hold her own spoon at meals and if she is eating yogurt, pudding or potatoes that stick to the spoon let her bring it to her own mouth.
  • Even though it is frustrating right now that she is refusing the spoon from you, always keep meals positive and upbeat. Do not show displeasure and frustration or try to force her to open her mouth, this battle will just get worse and can cause more problems.
  • Give her plenty of opportunity for putting toys in her mouth and if she has a favorite toy that she likes to bite and chew on, dip that toy into her purees and stage 2’s and see if she will put it into her mouth.
  • Praise her for any attempt at touching food for you, or placing food near her mouth, even if she doesn’t put it in and swallow it.
  • Eat with your baby, so you are being a good eating role model, make sure you and your husband sit at the table with her and model eating behaviors, even try what she s having especially if she is being served chopped table foods.
  • Some children have difficulty with stage 3 foods, which have an odd lumpy texture which can cause gagging. Many therapists suggest skipping stage 3’s and moving to chopped and soft tables foods instead.
  • Cut bread in strips or use meltables like cheese curls that she can hold on her own, and encourage placement on the sides of her mouth, not in the middle, so she has to bite down on it and learn to lateralize her tongue to move food back and forth in her mouth to chew.
  • Try using a food net that you can place foods in, so she can hold it and chew and taste foods on her own, while getting practice chewing without fear of choking.
  • You can add extra butter, sugar, instant breakfast powder, etc to purees that she is eating for the nanny so that you are enhancing calories for weight gain. Ask your pediatrician for ideas to build weight gain as well.