Try offering finger foods to see if they are keen to feed themselves. You could also try continuing to offer food using your own spoon and let them have a spoon too to let them assert some control and independence. At what stage in the mealtime are they keeping their mouth shut? Is it the case they’ve had enough food? Signs they’ve had enough include: clamping their mouth shut, turning their head away, spitting food out (though note they tend to spit food out often in the early days) or raising their hand to refuse further food.
By the time your little one is 8 months old they should be having 3 meals a day. Portion size and how much your little one eats can vary so much at this young age, depending on how they feel each day (are they teething, or unwell?) and how much they’ve moved around. There are many reasons why babies may refuse or eat more food than normal. Try and stay calm even if they don’t eat everything you offer them, just ensure to offer a wide variety of foods. It’s important for your child to regulate their own appetite, so do allow them some control. On portion size, it’s useful to note that all babies are different, and they can differ in the amount they eat. For useful info on portion size, check out this link here.
The first year is vital to exposing little ones to new foods, flavours and textures. These early days are also about trying new textures whether that be from whole cooked or soft raw foods (if following the baby-led weaning approach). If offering purees first, then your little one will progress from eating runny, thin and thicker purees through to mashed, lumpy, minced and chopped food.
Offering first foods can be scary for us as parents. However, it’s good to remember that gagging is a natural reflex that happens when there’s a risk of choking. They are learning lots of new skills, particularly how to chew, swallow, and how much food to take into their mouth in one go. To minimise risk of choking, ensure to cook food well so it’s a soft texture and cut into suitable sized pieces (e.g., halve grapes and cherry tomatoes). Always stay with your baby at mealtimes while they eat, and I’d recommend doing a first aid course for babies and children to further put your mind at rest at this time.
Snacks are a great way of getting extra nutrients into their diet. Little ones have small tummies, so they need to eat regularly, and a snack can be a way to bridge the gap. Try any of these: bagels, oatcakes, crumpets, pitta bread, tortilla wrap, or breadsticks served alongside some chopped fruit or vegetables. Dips can be a good way of encouraging children to try different foods – especially vegetables or salad. Dip ideas include guacamole (mashed avocado & lime), mild tomato salsa or houmous (made from chickpeas or beans) or as simple as soft cream cheese or cottage cheese.
Try and have the whole family sit together eating the same meal at mealtimes (where possible) – offering your little one the chance to mimic your eating behaviour. Eating together gives you a chance to be a good role model to them in eating a balanced, healthy diet. Try inviting a friend or family member round with a little one of a similar age to embrace the social occasion. Timing is also important, offer food when they aren’t too tired, so as to catch their interest at the right time. Little ones can pull funny faces (i.e., looks of disgust) when trying new foods – but don’t think that they don’t like it, it’s just the whole eating experience is still new to them, so continue to persevere with a range of foods.
If you are concerned that your little one has a food allergy or an intolerance, then you should first get professional advice from your GP. Don’t just eliminate foods from your child’s diet, as they may become deficient in important nutrients. Depending on the severity and urgency, make notes of symptoms and the reactions before talking to your GP.
Babies are likely to show signs of readiness at around 6 months of age for the introduction of first foods. This may be through sitting upright and holding their head steady, showing interest in your food and starting to pick up and move food to their mouth. At around 6 months of age, milk is still important in the diet, but it no longer provides all the iron and zinc your baby needs. This is where protein foods such as lentils, beans, eggs and fish are especially important.
It’s so important to offer a wide variety of foods to your little one; exposing them helps them become familiar with many foods early on. Remember that foods that your little one has rejected previously should still be offered frequently. It can take many tries before your baby will accept a new food or texture. Learning to self-feed is an important skill for babies. As they get older, they start to assert their independence more and sometimes foods that they may have once liked, they appear to suddenly dislike. Try to remain calm through this phase and continue to offer a range of foods. From my own experience with my little boy, by exposing him to a wide variety of foods at a young age, he was more open and accepting of foods as he got older, as he was already familiar with them. It’s not to say he eats everything all the time – but I’m sure being conscious of offering a range of food groups helped.
If you haven’t already, I would suggest you speak to your health visitor and a healthcare professional such as a dietitian to get detailed, accurate advice on this. They will make sure your baby isn’t at risk of any nutritional deficiencies, so that you get care and advice specific to your baby. Note that dairy free alternative milks for babies with allergies aren’t recommended as a main drink until 2 years old.