What to do if the child does not eat complementary foods?

Published: 12/09/2019

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The introduction of complementary foods is one of the most significant events in a baby’s life. This is a kind of milestone, upon reaching which a child’s diet becomes increasingly closer to that of an adult. But sometimes parents’ attempts to introduce new dishes into the baby’s menu encounter an obstacle: the child refuses complementary foods for no apparent reason, although he had previously enjoyed porridge and purees. Or he doesn’t agree to the new nutrition format at all.

What is the difference between breastfeeding and bottle feeding?

If a child eats mother's milk, then complementary foods are introduced to him no earlier than 6 months. But there are other food options:

  1. Artificial.
  2. Mixed.

The mixture has nothing to do with complementary foods. This is a “substitute” for mother’s milk that the baby eats for a certain period of time. If the baby is initially bottle-fed, then complementary foods are introduced to him earlier.

Mixed feeding involves the use of both milk and formula. This feeding option is chosen when the mother has milk, but it is not enough. In order for the child to be fully nourished, he is “fed” with formula.

The difference between complementary foods and main foods is as follows:

  • formula or mother's milk is the basis of nutrition;
  • complementary foods are a supplement, a unique source of new taste sensations, nutrients and microelements.

Attention! Porridge cannot be regarded as a replacement for formula or milk; they are considered complementary foods, but it is recommended to introduce them gradually.

When to introduce complementary foods

There are several ways to understand that the baby is ready for the introduction of complementary foods; this can be recognized by the child’s behavior:

  1. Willingly agrees to try any unfamiliar food and reaches out to adult dishes.
  2. He eats new food without screaming or scandals and does not refuse to try complementary foods.
  3. The baby does not experience stomach problems, he does not have viral or colds, and is not teething at this moment.

Psychologists distinguish two types of child’s readiness to introduce complementary foods:

  • psychological;
  • physiological.

If we talk about psychology, then mentally the baby should be ready to try new food. If a child does not want to eat the dishes offered, then there is no point in forcing him to do so. As for physiology, the degree of readiness to accept complementary foods can be discussed with a pediatrician, he will help clarify the situation.

Physiological parameters of readiness

This is an assessment of the child’s general condition, the ability of the gastrointestinal tract to accept new food, respond adequately to it and digest the resulting product.

The baby is ready to eat new, adult food if:

  1. There are no signs of inflammatory or infectious disease.
  2. No problems with digestion, normal bowel movements for a week.
  3. His body temperature is normal.
  4. There are no rashes on the skin.
  5. He is not teething at this point.

Despite all this, the baby eats well, does not refuse a bottle, and has no problems sleeping. The child's weight is at least 6.5 kilograms, and his development does not lag behind his peers. In this case, we can say that the baby is ready to eat complementary foods, its digestive organs are able to adequately respond to the arrival of new products.

Psychological parameters of readiness

If the baby tries hard to grab something from the table and put it in his mouth, then we are talking about the fact that he is ready to try new dishes. Psychological readiness is the baby’s curiosity, the desire to diversify the diet and try something new.

If a child is not psychologically ready to eat new food, then he usually:

  • refuses unfamiliar food;
  • throws tantrums at every feeding;
  • prefers a bottle or mother's breast.

How to introduce complementary foods correctly

It is very important to know and be able to correctly expand the menu of an infant. Here you will be presented with the main points on how to do so as not to discourage the child’s interest in complementary feeding, but also to stimulate the desire - to constantly try something new.

  1. It is better to give complementary foods in the morning, as soon as the baby wakes up and is quite hungry. At such a moment, he will not go through too much food. That's what a feeling of hunger is.
  2. You should not force a new product onto your child. Especially if you give it after breastfeeding, and the baby may be simply full.
  3. It is better to mix the first new dishes with food that is familiar to the child. So that he feels that this new taste still contains mother’s milk or formula.
  4. When a baby refuses some vegetable or porridge. Don't give up and think that everything is over. Perhaps your baby doll simply didn’t like a particular vegetable or porridge. There is a wide variety of them, try a different option.
  5. Don't completely eliminate foods you don't like. Try introducing it again in two weeks or a month. Perhaps all is not lost yet.
  6. Introduce complementary foods in stages. If you have added something new to your baby’s diet, let it take a week or two before another new product appears in his diet.
  7. Monitor your body's reaction to new foods. It is very important to recognize an allergy in time and stop feeding such a product.
  8. You can eat while playing. Tell your little one how tasty and healthy this food is and don’t think that he doesn’t understand anything. Play with it as if it were not a simple spoon, but a train or an airplane. I often used this technique.
  9. Set an example for your child. And before his eyes, start eating the same thing as him.
  10. Give up the idea of ​​eating with a cartoon on. This, as a rule, only concentrates the baby’s attention on the screen, while food is poorly digested due to insufficient production of digestive juices.
  11. The main thing is to understand, in principle, whether your baby is ripe for new foods or not. Don't try to force food on him just because he's 6 months old.
  12. Do not forget that complementary foods should be introduced in small portions, no more than a teaspoon for the first time. And if the body reacts correctly, gradually increase the norm.
  13. It must be remembered that the first complementary foods should consist of one ingredient, be of liquid consistency, and homogeneous in composition. It is important that the food is at normal temperature and prepared from quality ingredients. It is advisable to refrain from using salt and sugar.
  14. Under no circumstances should you scold your child if he overturns (even on purpose) a plate of food. This will only make you feel disgusted by the new food.

The main reasons why a baby refuses complementary feeding

When a child does not want to eat complementary foods, there are several reasons for this:

  1. The body does not produce enough food enzymes, resulting in stomach problems.
  2. Children also refuse to eat because the first experience with new food is associated with negative impressions.
  3. The taste of a new dish is simply unpleasant, for this reason the baby does not want to try it.

Attention! If a child spits out food and does not eat, then there is a high probability that he cannot swallow it. This is a reflex, there is nothing strange in this behavior. If a child swallows poorly or does not swallow food at all, then you should not force him to do this.

Reflexive rejection of solid food goes away on its own, does not require any procedures, only patience and understanding are required from parents.

Possible reasons for refusing complementary feeding

The first thoughts of parents when a child refuses complementary feeding: what to do and who to turn to for clarification of the situation. If this problem occurs for the first time or recurs from time to time, the first thing you need to do is calm down and think. You can probably fix it yourself if you rule out the cause. You can find the answers in the articles of Tatyana Evdokimova, Associate Professor of the Department of Dietetics and Nutritionology of the Russian Medical Academy of Continuing Professional Education of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation.

Child's unpreparedness for complementary feeding

. Until 4–6 months, the sucking reflex is strongest. And against this background, chewing skills develop very slowly. Therefore, if a child pushes the first complementary foods out of his mouth, regardless of their taste and composition, perhaps the baby is simply not ready for such nutrition. The child’s readiness for complementary foods is evidenced, among other things, by his attempts to “suck” porridge or puree fed from a spoon. He seems to be chewing food, rubbing it with his gums and tongue. The child will be ready for new food when his reflex to push out the spoon with his tongue disappears, he begins to grow and gain weight, he can sit up and hold his head up on his own - and, of course, he will develop an interest in the contents of mom and dad's plate.

Unusual taste of the product

. Many foods can cause unpleasant taste in a child. These are not necessarily foods or dishes with a sharp or “exotic” taste or smell. For some children, the effect of novelty is enough: after trying a banana, pumpkin or other unfamiliar complementary food for the first time and not appreciating its taste, the child refuses this product. But if you persistently offer him such a dish, the baby may begin to resist even when trying to feed him familiar and favorite dishes.

Unusual consistency of products

. The need to gradually increase the density of complementary foods and reduce the degree of grinding of products is caused by the characteristics of a particular age of the baby. So, the first complementary foods should have a homogeneous and semi-liquid consistency.

Incorrect order of product introduction. A child may be capricious and refuse vegetable puree if he has already been given sweeter food: porridge or fruit food. In this case, the vegetables will seem bland and tasteless to the baby. Therefore, today pediatricians recommend starting complementary feeding with broccoli, cauliflower or zucchini puree: their unfamiliar taste may seem interesting and rich to the child.

Incorrect temperature of complementary foods

. The oral mucosa of an infant is very sensitive. And a baby, accustomed to the temperature of mother’s milk or an adapted formula, can react very negatively to a temperature shift even 1–2 °C above or below normal.

Negative experiences with complementary foods

. If a child begins to refuse complementary foods out of the blue, but still demonstrates a good appetite (actively suckling at the breast or formula) and there are no signs of health problems, the reason may lie in some unpleasant incident during previous feedings. Perhaps the child coughed while eating and was afraid of it. Or maybe he didn’t like the taste, temperature or consistency of the previous dish so much that even familiar complementary foods make him wary.

Unusual sequence of foods during complementary feeding

. It is recommended to introduce complementary foods before breastfeeding or bottle feeding. A hungry child is much more willing to try a new dish or eat a portion of the “usual” vegetable puree or porridge. And when he is full, after feeding he becomes more picky, and failures with complementary feeding can be caused by this.

Why a child doesn’t want to eat complementary foods - we figured it out. But how to prevent such mistakes and how to correct them if they have already been made?

Where to start the first feeding

Many parents start giving their baby porridge, but this type of complementary feeding has its own characteristics:

  1. It is not recommended to feed a baby who is overweight with cereals; in this case, preference is given to fruits.
  2. Cereals are difficult to digest, for this reason you should not overuse various cereals. At the initial stage, it is better to give semolina and oatmeal prepared not with milk, but with a mixture.

Lactose is difficult to digest, for this reason, prepare porridge not with milk, but with the mixture that you give your baby as the main food. You should not feed a baby porridge if he is not yet 5-6 months old. Giving such complementary foods at 3-4 months is too early. At this stage, it is better to give preference to fruit purees.

Some parents begin to feed their baby juice; this decision is completely justified, since it allows you to understand whether the body is ready for innovations.

Practical recommendations

If you decide to introduce your baby to complementary foods, then you should follow several rules. This will help you get used to the innovations and will significantly reduce the amount of pressure on the baby’s body.

You can only feed a healthy baby

You can introduce new foods, start giving drinks, juice and even compote only if the baby feels great. When he shows signs of illness, you should refuse complementary foods, let innovations wait. If the baby feels unwell or the mother suspects he has a virus, infection, cold or even a common runny nose, complementary feeding is postponed indefinitely until his health condition stabilizes.

To begin with - a small dosage

Take your time, as rushing will not help here. Complementary feeding should be introduced gradually, this will allow the baby’s body to get used to the new food.

Action plan:

  1. Give him a spoonful of new food to try.
  2. Assess your child's reaction to the dish.
  3. If the baby refuses, don’t force it.

Forcing a child to eat complementary foods will lead to negative associations. It is advisable to exclude violence, but you can resort to small tricks. At the initial stage, distract the child, this will help redirect his attention.

Introducing a new food before eating the main meal

If the baby is full, then he does not need any complementary foods, he will refuse food or throw a tantrum.

To avoid this, pediatricians recommend:

  • give complementary foods before main meals;
  • offer water after meals;
  • give up juice if you decide to introduce a new product.

Juice in large quantities can cause stomach problems; to avoid this, give preference to clean, warm water.

The body must receive a sufficient amount of fluid, since water is involved in digestion processes, and its lack can lead to insufficient production of digestive enzymes.

Once in the stomach, the liquid reduces its volume, which means that the baby will eat less, so drinking liquid is carried out between feedings.

No violence

Violence against children is not valid for several reasons. But the little tricks that parents often resort to are difficult to describe with this term.

What can you do with your baby so that he starts eating new foods:

  1. Distract in any way possible.
  2. Insist on your opinion.
  3. Resort to blackmail if it works.

When mom or dad decides to insist on their own, it can hardly be called violence. Try offering your baby new food; if he refuses, repeat the procedure. It is worth stopping if the child is ready to throw a tantrum; negative emotions will not bring any benefit.

The child does not eat complementary foods

There are often situations when a child does not eat complementary foods. Therefore, it is better to choose in advance the timing and scheme for introducing adult food, familiarize yourself with the various options for dishes, and the rules for their preparation.

  • The main reasons for refusing complementary feeding
  • The child is not ready for complementary feeding from a physiological point of view
  • Lack of maturity of psychological indicators
  • Rules and methods for overcoming difficulties
  • Recommendations for introducing adult food for different types of feeding
  • Useful tips from experienced mothers

Complementary feeding should be started gradually to minimize possible problems from the fragile gastrointestinal tract.

The main reasons for refusing complementary feeding

The first tastings do not always go smoothly.

The following factors may be the reason for this:

• too early attempts at complementary feeding (at 3-4 months);

• at the age of 7-8 months, infant reflexes can still be triggered;

• negative associations may have formed with the start of complementary feeding if the child was forced to eat or was feeling unwell at that time;

• may show character and protest if he does not like the taste of a particular ingredient.

It is important to follow the recommended timing for introducing complementary foods, which is individual for each baby.

The generally accepted age guideline is 6 months, weight – from 6.5 kg. Any experiments with nutrition before 4 months of age are not recommended.

Such a rush can be harmful to health, since the body does not yet produce the necessary enzymes to absorb unfamiliar ingredients.

The child is not ready for complementary feeding from a physiological point of view

Changing the diet is accompanied by difficulties if the baby is not ready according to physiological parameters.

Readiness can be determined by the following signs:

• The child sits confidently and can hold a spoon with his hands.

These skills allow the child to take an active part in the process and sit at a common table.

• When eating solid food, there is no reflexive pushing of it back with the tongue.

If the child spits out lumps of food or feeding causes vomiting, then you need to take a break for two to three weeks and try again.

• There are no negative reactions from digestion.

It is recommended to monitor changes in the baby’s condition for 1-3 days after introducing a new product.

The body is ready if pain, bloating, upset stool, and rashes on the skin surface do not appear.

It is not recommended to start feeding during illness or during teething, accompanied by poor health.

Lack of maturity of psychological indicators

A clear manifestation of insufficient psychological preparation for the adult menu is a lack of food interest when the baby does not want to try mom or dad’s food.

Psycho-emotional maturity develops faster in children whose families usually dine together at the same table. Daily observation by adults introduces the child to new conditions and greatly simplifies the primary stage of complementary feeding.

Parameters of psychological maturity:

• Active demonstration of interest in the food on the adult's plate.

The child asks and tries to take pieces of food on his own and eats them with pleasure.

• Shows his dissatisfaction in every possible way if his parents ignore his requests.

It is important to distinguish the desire to play with kitchen appliances from an interest in food.

• The baby cannot be distracted by anything from the dish he likes; he refuses the breast and his favorite toys until he gets what he wants.

Rules and methods for overcoming difficulties

If the baby is healthy and is ready according to the basic parameters for complementary feeding, you can suggest trying half a teaspoon of vegetable puree or porridge.

Fruits are not the best option for first courses. There is a chance that after sweets, the baby will not want to eat something else.

It is customary for children with normal body weight to start complementary feeding with vegetables, and for underweight children - with cereals.

Dr. Komarovsky recommends kefir as the first adult food.

The doctor considers this transition to be the most optimal and comfortable due to the greatest similarity of kefir to milk.

In the absence of negative reactions to the product, it is necessary to increase the portion every day, adding one spoon at a time, until you reach the portion norm for your age.

To form correct eating habits, it is unacceptable to force a child to eat something he does not like. Coercion tactics cause a backlash; the baby may completely refuse complementary feeding.

From the moment you insert the first spoon until you reach the standard portion, you should introduce only one product at a time, without mixing several ingredients.

Alternating exposure to different foods allows you to observe the body’s reaction and determine the source of the allergy in time.

Correct actions by relatives help simplify the process of entering a new menu. The most effective methods include:

• shared meals with the family;

• it is better to try food on an empty stomach;

• it is worth experimenting with cooking your own meals or purchasing various types of store-bought food;

• if one product is rejected, an alternative option, similar in composition, is offered.

Recommendations for introducing adult food for different types of feeding

The opinion that there are significant differences in the transition pattern from natural or artificial feeding to solid food is erroneous.

Breastfed babies digest foods a little easier, thanks to special enzymes from mother's milk.

The development of digestion in children on formula occurs with a slight lag.

In both cases, you should start complementary feeding with small portions, focusing on the developmental characteristics of a particular baby, in order to avoid disruptions in digestion.

In accordance with the recommendations of the World Health Organization, children under one year old do not need a varied menu; they receive all the necessary nutrients from milk or formula.

Parents who are concerned about their baby’s refusal of complementary feeding need to understand the main goal of complementary feeding - introducing solid food for a comfortable transition to the adult table.


Don’t worry if your one-year-old baby only accepts vegetables or cereals and refuses meat.

You should offer the product later, after a while your appetite will improve.

There is no need to start complementary feeding before six months of age for bottle-fed babies.

Modern formulas are adapted for use by the youngest children.

The nutritional composition is as close as possible in properties to breast milk and satisfies all the needs of a growing body.

Useful tips from experienced mothers

Experienced mothers have little tricks in their arsenal that make it easier to overcome any problems with complementary feeding.

If the baby does not want to eat with a spoon, there is no need to insist. At first, children often take food with their hands. It's easier to attract attention by using cutlery in bright colors and childish designs.

Sometimes a little breast milk or formula is added to unleavened porridge to make the taste of the food more familiar.

The same can be done with pureed vegetables if the child does not eat it in its pure form.

The main principle when difficulties arise with complementary feeding is patience.

To safely introduce new foods, step-by-step and coordinated actions of all relatives are necessary.

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Tatiana Vasilyeva

author of the publication (site editor)

NURSE Mother of two daughters and grandmother of wonderful grandchildren.

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