Refusing solids at eight months

My eight-month-old used to eat solids, not enthusiastically, but at least he'd eat about two to four ounces per day. Now, he doesn't seem to like cereal, no matter what I add. Recently, he refuses solids even if I give him small chunks of soft cooked food. He'll nurse a little or drink juice and water from a bottle or cup during the day. He wants to nurse every two to three hours all night. He has never slept through the night. I am very tired and getting frustrated.

Laura

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Laura,

It sounds like a couple of things are going on. One, your eight-month-old has decided what he likes best and is being stubborn about it. Secondly, it sounds like he is on a sort of reverse schedule, where day and night are confused, particularly since he is not sleeping through the night and does most of his eating then.

For those babies who are so comfortable with nursing that they balk at solids, the parent may choose to dig in his or her heels and impose the change. I know that this advice is in contrast with much of what I suggest, but for older babies, the longer solids and chunkier foods are avoided, the harder it may be to introduce them.

A normal eight-month-old is more than ready to be eating textured foods. It is, in fact, a critical time for them to be offered. Therefore, you will need to withhold juice and nursing at mealtimes so that your baby has an appetite for solids. It is a good time to begin setting up an eating schedule that includes a wake-up nursing, breakfast of solids a couple hours later, a nursing snack mid-morning, lunch of solids only (liquid in a cup to be offered after the meal), mid-afternoon nursing, a dinner of solids to be eaten with the family and a bedtime nursing.

To cut out the nighttime nursings, choose one at a time to eliminate. Begin by cutting the nursing time short, little by little, until you do not nurse at all. If baby cries, you may then go to baby's room, rub his back and calm him and then leave. It may be difficult at times, but it may be the only way to accomplish the task.

You need to get him on a schedule of eating during the day, which means getting his system to adapt to the new schedule. Do not be concerned if he doesn't eat many solids at first at mealtimes because you know that snack time will be coming in a few hours. Do not give in and nurse at mealtimes no matter how hard he demands it. If you do, it will only teach him to hold out for it because he knows it's coming. Once he learns that solids is what there is to eat, he will eventually resolve to eat it.

During this transition time, your baby's eating may fall off some, but it will pick back up after it has become routine. You also need to be sure that your baby is getting a good source of iron from somewhere. Breastfed babies often have depleted their birth stores of iron by four to six months. Although the iron in breastmilk is well absorbed, supplemental iron may be recommended at this time. An iron-fortified cereal is usually the best source, if baby will eat it. Continue to offer it to your son. If he still refuses, talk to your pediatrician about supplements. One sign of iron-deficiency anemia is lack of appetite. If you feel your son's eating has fallen off some, perhaps this may be part of the problem.

You say that he doesn't like cereal, no matter what you add. Perhaps what you need to do is pick one type of cereal, and offer it over and over again until he can get used to it. You may have been changing it so much in order to get him to eat it that he just didn't know what to expect. If he is reluctant to accept new foods, go very carefully and slowly, letting him experience the food several times before you yea or nay it.

Do all you can do to differentiate between night and day and the feedings involved. Make the daytime meals fun and social. Barely acknowledge him at night, making it business only. Put on his PJs just before the nighttime nursing, and put him in his day clothes when he gets up in the morning. Keep all lights out at night, operating only with night lights, if you can.

Armed with patience, understanding and the knowledge that it is the best thing for him, you will do fine. I predict that soon your son will be on a more-normal schedule, and you should be getting more sleep. By then, he will be an "older," more mature baby, and he will have come to understand this new schedule you have designed for him. In fact, he will probably be enjoying eating meals with the family and getting a full night's sleep.

Lots of luck to you and thank you for writing.

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