Is it Time to Try Baby Food?
There is plenty of advice out there about what to feed your baby and when to introduce solids. Some doctors, grandmas and others believe that baby food such as cereal helps to reduce vomiting in babies with reflux and helps babies sleep better at night. Some parents and doctors believe that delaying the introduction of food may decrease the likelihood of developing food allergies. In a way, it seems like a huge milestone in the life of your little one to “graduate” to baby food. It is kind of fun too. There is such a huge selection of flavors and types of baby food, tiny bibs and fun little spoons. But what if your baby has reflux and she is just not ready for eating baby food?
You both may have struggled early on to find a feeding rhythm. She might have arched and cried out during feedings until positioning and medical treatment decreased the pain. You might have felt like there was no schedule for feeding, sleeping and playtime. You couldn’t count on her to nap or eat from day to day, much less from hour to hour.
Before medical treatment starts to lessen the misery of reflux, some babies associate breast and bottle feeding with pain. While she might drink just enough formula or breast milk to maintain her weight, there is no eagerness to eat or comfort from eating.
A few babies will struggle with feeding so much that a nasogastric tube or gastrostomy tube will be needed. A feeding tube by passes the mouth and food is placed in the stomach at intervals. While this form of nourishment can be beneficial and crucial for an extremely sick baby, there is little pleasure to a child.
Some babies with reflux are just not ready to try solids. You have probably seen other babies (you know...the ones without reflux) licking the spoon and crying out for more pureed green beans. It might be better to delay the spoon feeding until you and your baby have developed a feeding rhythm. This might include: plenty of eye contact, cooing and playfulness during bottle and breast feeding. It might also be important to develop at least a bit of a feeding schedule.
If you want to try spoon feeding but you are not sure your baby is ready, give it a try. But don’t insist on feeding success from the very start. Let her get used to the idea of the bib, the spoon and the new flavors and textures. Most of what goes in her mouth may end up on her bib and all over the kitchen. You might end up throwing away a few uneaten jars of food at first. That is ok. The point is to maintain the interaction and relationship that takes place during feeding: turn taking, eye contact and baby sounds. You might even hear some creative spitting, tongue thrusting and lip smacking. If eating from a spoon causes fussing, crying or a little mouth that is sealed shut then wait a week or two before proceeding.
If you insist that your baby or toddler eats some food before she is ready, it can set up a power struggle. As you persist with pushing the spoon in her mouth, she will most likely fight back and clamp down her little gums so the spoon cannot fit in her mouth. If this type of feeding pattern takes places frequently, she will begin to associate feeding with fear and distrust.
It is common for reflux babies to have a slow start to bottle/breast feeding as well as spoon feeding. While this may be upsetting to you, it is unlikely that delaying the introduction of baby food will have a long term effect on the development of feeding skills.