Some babies with reflux choose to feed constantly, finding it soothing, while others avoid feeding because they associate it with burning and discomfort of regurgitating their acidic stomach contents. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for babies with allergies and reflux to have oral aversion, that is they don’t like food items in their mouth and are more difficult to wean. This can be for a number of reasons, most likely because they associate feeding with pain and safe weaning foods are potentially less palatable. At the same time you will probably find they are happy to explore all sorts of non-food items with their mouth, and become incredibly frustrated they won’t do the same with food!
My baby had oral aversion to breast-feeding, necessitating me to walk and nurse at the same time until he was well established. It meant for a challenging time weaning, but we got there and he now eats a range of flavours and textures.
Tips to overcome oral aversion:
- Go back to basics and start with a clean slate and try to make food fun, which means lots of messy play with food and being as relaxed as possible about them not eating anything for a few weeks.
- It is very easy for you to unknowingly transfer any stress and worry that your baby isn’t eating and enjoying weaning onto your baby, which leads to a negative cycle of worry for you, baby finds food more stressful, baby eats less, so more worry for you. As hard as it is, try as much as possible to relax and make it as fun as possible. Even try to get someone to film you feeding your child, so you can be sure you are being as relaxed and positive as possible (difficult while being filmed)!
- Experiment with other people (childminder/nanny/nursery, friends, or family members) feeding and offering food to your baby, sometimes this change is really helpful, and can help to de-intensify meal times.
- For babies under the age of one year the majority of their calories will still come from milk (breast or formula) so food at this stage is just introducing tastes and then textures.
- If you are struggling after a few weeks of messy play, try a toy or some screen time as a distraction at meal times. Once you have made some positive progress then you can gradually remove the toy/screen.
- Meal times with peers are incredibly positive for both weaning babies and also picky toddlers. Many parents comment it is amazing what they eat at nursery with their friends around that they won’t touch at home!
- Similarly, babies copy behaviour and so eating together as a family and including your baby/toddler is really important as they can see you ‘modelling’ eating and enjoying food.
- Try a different environment like a picnic outside.
- Go slowly, introduce one food at a time and continue for 3 days, before adding a new item so you can be sure your baby doesn’t have an allergic reaction before proceeding. Once you have a list of safe foods, you can mix them to combine flavours.
- Avoid the more allergenic food items such as gluten and eggs until baby is aged one year and then introduce cooked items first.
- If you chose to make your own purées or baby food, then freeze it the day you make it and offer it a different day. That way if your baby won’t even look it, you might have forgotten the hours spending chopping, steaming and puréeing!
- It is perfectly possible to wean with either baby led, purées or a mixture of both, just try to see which your baby responds best to.
- When you introduce your baby to new foods, try to avoid them being very tired, or starving hungry in the hope that they will eat anything. Also offer a new food along with a tried and tested one, as it puts them under less pressure.
- Finally, if you aren’t winning, ask to be referred to a feeding clinic for Speech and Language (SALT) support.
We loved the Stokke Tripp Trapp chair for weaning and beyond, as it grows with your baby until adulthood, is very easy to clean (the baby bits can go in the dishwasher), and they can eat/do messy play with you at the table.
Get a good bib to reduce your washing! We loved the Hippychick ones with sleeves which have lasted well and been soft and easy to wash. Ikea do something similar.
If you notice your baby reacts adversely to any food item, for example develops a rash or is very miserable after, then consult your doctor. Facial/tongue swelling requires immediate medical attention.