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13 Common Baby Led Weaning Issues and What To Do About Them

We’ve long joked that Baby-Led Weaning is thelazy parents way to feed your baby. We say that only partly in jest because truly Baby -Led Weaning often comes naturally to the baby and from there you just follow your baby’s lead. we’ve been doing this long enough though that we know it doesn’t come so naturally to all parents and some babies also seem to struggle a bit more with learning how to eat solids. These are the common issues we see and are asked about as well as what we reckoned to do about them. You are welcome!

1. Spitting food:

Spitting food is VERY normal and actually an essential skill your baby is learning and honing with Baby Led Weaning and the transition to solids. Your baby is learning how to move food around in his mouth, how to keep it in his mouth, and what to do if a piece is too big. 

What to do: basically nothing on this one! We want the baby to spit out food as they learn to chew. If your baby is 9-12 months and spits everything out still, we recommend starting to teach your baby about the idea of swallowing by showing him or her how you do it in a very exaggerated way. Eat the exact same foods with your baby and let your baby see that you’re chewing up that food and swallowing it. You can show this by opening your mouth to show the chewed food, then closing your mouth and swallowing while using exaggerated hand movements to show that the food moves from your mouth through your throat down to your belly. Say, “I chew the food and swallow it down to my belly.”

2. Gagging

This is a reflex and is an essential part of learning to eat solids. It is actually one of the most important oral reflexes for an infant learning to eat solids foods because it helps protect against choking. 

What to do:   If you feel like your baby is putting too much food in their mouth leading to gagging, you can help your baby learn to slow down by telling him, “sloooow” and “that’s too much.” You can also coach him to spit out a large bite by putting some food in your mouth then opening your mouth and sticking out your tongue to push the food out into your hand. Then hold your hand out in front of your baby to indicate you want him or her to spit like you just did. For more detail on this, we have a whole post on over stuffing up on Solid Starts which you can read HERE. 

3. Refusing foods once in a while or showing a preference for some foods

So many babies do this! This is normal and not something to be concerned about. Literature supports the idea that babies need to have MANY MANY exposures to food to determine a taste preference. 

What to do:   Do not stop offering because your child seems less interested a few times. If anything, Keri serving that food in slightly different ways and make sure your baby sees you eating it!

4. Shoving or over-stuffing food in their mouth

What to do:   We have written an entire post on this over at Solid Starts! Either watch our instagram LIVE video HERE or read the blog post HERE. SO many good ideas/thoughts for you!

5. Throwing food

Oh boy is this one common but frustrating! Although food throwing is a typical developmental phase, it is very annoying (and wasteful!). 

What to do: We believe in using a cognitive approach here--if your baby is throwing food, we want to establish that this means that they are done with the meal. We encourage you to use words to explain that their behavior = meal is done. “Oh! Looks like you are all done (sign all done) with your food. Let’s go play now!” Repeat this to them 2-3 times and then take them out of the high chair. If they fuss, be kind the first few times you introduce this boundary: “I’m sorry! I thought your were all done (sign all done). Looks like you would still like to eat. We can try one more time.” If the behavior continues, stick to your boundary and move on to a new activity.  

6. Only wanting the food on your plate

Your baby learns from watching you and from an evolutionary standpoint, it’s likely that this behavior was life-saving. 

What to do: Let then share with you! If this really bothers you, try serving food family style so your baby and you load your plate from the same bowls at the table. This makes it very clear that the food is all the same! 

7. Refusing to touch sticky or wet foods

Every baby has a different temperament and sensory processing system (some people love to be tickled and touched, while others hate light touch, some love big hugs, while others will run from this. Some babies need additional exposure to wet/sticky consistencies to develop a tolerance to them. 

What to do:   We recommend encouraging messy play at the table and away from the table. Allow your baby to get messy. Immediately wiping them off reinforces the idea that sticky/wet=bad. You can use language to help your baby build tolerance (The Whole Brain Child “Name it to tame it” strategy). “Looks like your hands are sticky! It seems like you don’t like that. It’s OK, momma will get a rag and we can wipe your hands off together.” And calmly wipe their hands clean. 

If your child is not liking a variety of sensations (ie washing their hair, walking on grass/sand, clothing touching their ski, loud but common noises) we recommend talking to your doctor. It’s possible that a sensory integration evaluation by a trained pediatric occupational therapist may be indicated. 

8. Preferring only crackers, puffs, teething biscuits, baby mum-mums, etc.

These foods are literally designed in a lab to be appealing and easy for a baby to eat. They require minimal chewing/minimal oral motor control and are highly palatable. 

What to do:   Your baby can only eat what you serve them… so this one is in your court! These foods provide little to no nutritional value, so don’t be concerned about cutting them out. 

9. Preferring stage one purees and not accepting any lumpy or texture foods

Many babies love how easy these are to eat and just get stuck here. 

What to do:   This is a perfect opportunity to start using long hard sticks of food as spoons/utensils to deliver food. Allow your baby to feed themselves their preferred purees using a carrot stick, celery stick, rib, piece of dried fruit, or mango pit! This will help them learn not only how to move their tongue and jaw to munch and chew, but will also help them build tolerance to other consistencies in the mouth. 

10. Hating purees, gagging every time they are introduced and refusing them.

Interestingly, it seems almost as common for some babies to feel the opposite about purees from what we just mentioned. These babies actually seemed repulsed by them and totally disinterested in learning about them. What to do:   Purees and spoon feeding are NOT developmentally necessary, so do not feel bad in skipping them all together!

11. Crying as soon as they see or are placed in the high chair

For a variety of reasons, babies can quickly learn that they do not want to be in a high chair or to join you at the table for mealtime. When this association happens, smart babies learn that they can often get out of this by crying. 

What to do:   We recommend transitioning out of the chair for a week or two to re-establish that mealtimes are happy and remove the “power” the chair has over the baby. 

12. Pocketing food

When food is held in the mouth for an extended period of time, we call this pocketing. 

What to do:   We did a whole post on this over at Solid Starts! Go check it out HERE!

13. Refusing to pick up food or feed themselves

So many babies do this and there are a few common reasons why. Most of the time, these babies need more modeling of HOW to do it before they begin to self-feed. 

What to do:   Sit with your baby, hold food in your own hand, and bring it to your mouth. Exaggerate your chewing, smile, and show them how delicious your meal is! Some babies also won’t self feed because they are not hungry. Try to space out your solid food experiences with your bottle/breastfeeds by at least 1-2 hours. Allow your baby to feel hunger so they can connect eating with getting full. 

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