Ask Amma

Why is my baby not eating food?

In Why on 17 October 2012 at 8:07 pm
My daughter hardly eats anything.  She breastfeeds and has around 250 to 300 ml of milk a day –  that’s it. She just doesn’t want to eat any solids.  She sometimes obliges me but it happens only once in a blue moon. She used to have home made baby food earlier but now seems to have an aversion to anything and everything. She has not gained any weight in past 2 months. Please help me out …I’m so worried 😦
– Mama of a 1 year old in Delhi

     First, let’s talk about weight gain.

When my baby was born I used to go to a breastfeeding support group at the local hospital, well beyond my initial weeks of needing breastfeeding support.  Let’s just say it was on our social calendar, and  it was in walking distance.  Once there, I did not pass up the chance to stand in line and put her on the digital scale they had dedicated to the cause of infant weights and measures.  How fun to see those numbers go up, week after week … until she was 8 months old.  At 6 months she was 6 kg, at 8 months she weighed 8 kg.  For the next 6 months, she stayed at 8kg. She nursed like a champion and happily ate a growing range of solid foods.  Yet she gained not a gram.

     This was fine, I learned.  She was happy, healthy, alert and curious, crawling and later walking – possibly she burned off the calories because she was more active. Partly she was growing in other ways, and partly also as some people told me “genes kick in” and weight gain slows after the first 6 months.
     Regarding solid food intake, babies know best when their stomachs are ready. It is better to let them reach for solids when they are interested and not try to coax them in to eating, especially if they are not showing interest. Mama milk is still more nutritious than any other animal’s milk. So set aside the scale and ask yourself if baby is active, interested, and interesting.  If so, then don’t worry.  If not, then you should look for the cause.  Even then, or especially then, do not worry, because you certainly would not want to create stress through your worrying.
     When it comes to solids, breastfeeding serves as a safety net, permitting you to relax and let baby to choose what to have when.  Baby will then take foods at her own pace (rather than to oblige you) and enjoy food without any of the “picky eater” behaviour that is commonly attributed to children.  If you refrain from offering industrially processed and packaged food, baby will get to know the taste of fresh, whole, home-made food.  Simply offer the food or invite baby to join you (when you are eating foods that are appropriate for her) and let her decide whether to eat or not.  Eating should always be a pleasant and comfortable experience.
     Whatever you offer, please offer with pleasure, without being attached to a specific result. Let it be her choice whether to eat without any idea that you will be more happy if she eats or disappointed if she does not eat.  What is really a cause for celebration is that she has the opportunity to try food according to her own wishes and to stay tuned to the signals of her own body, while having the freedom to continue breastfeeding, thus ensuring her nutrition and instilling greater confidence as she goes exploring.
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