Q&A: 17 Month Old Refuses Table Food and is Underweight

CME WebsitesBehavior, Child Development, Child Routines, Mealtime

blockquote_bgMy 17 month old daughter refuses to eat most table food and will not feed herself at all. She has never even tried to put finger foods in her mouth, although balls/toys go in there without problem. She will not use a spoon for anything other than banging on her high chair. It seems that she will not eat anything that does not look like baby food. She will not open her mouth at all… we get a smile, or a hand pushing the food away if we try.
Also, she is not speaking, and only says mama/dada and we are not sure she connects those words to us. What tips can you provide to help us get her to at least let finger foods and table food get in her mouth? I really think that once she will eat these items, she will start eating them. She is underweight (approx. 17.6 pounds) but height and head circumference are normal. She is very active; but is not walking yet. She cruises a lot and does a very speedy crab-crawl. She has started standing without holding onto an item, and we believe her walking is only days away (at least we are hopeful). The very main issue is food since her weight is low, with the speaking being secondary.

My immediate recommendation for your daughter would be to schedule a free early intervention evaluation through your local early intervention provider. This link may be helpful to you in setting that up:  Since your daughter is not self feeding yet, nor is she eating age appropriate foods, she may be eligible for occupational or speech therapy to address these concerns. I am concerned with her feeding since she is underweight. At 17 months she should also be saying a bit more than just mama and dada, however, since she is also not walking yet, it is typical for new walkers to slow down on speech development since all their motor energy is going into learning to walk. When she begins walking independently, you may start to hear her speech increase. Your daughter may be having trouble transitioning to new textures of food beyond the smooth purees of baby food and perhaps she is showing some tactile (with her hands) defensiveness with foods since she is unwilling to pick up foods to self feed and is unwilling to use a spoon (have you tried a fork and allowing her to poke foods?). You can read our article on improving a child’s feeding skills.

But I would definitely contact your early intervention provider now, so you can get some hands on help and suggestions to help your daughter improve not only her self feeding skills, but also her speech and language and gross motor skills as well.