Q: My 9-month-old is resisting solid foods, and mealtimes are turning into a power struggle. We introduced solids at 6 months, and she has been breast-fed, with an occasional bottle of breast milk.

She is not interested in bottles anymore. We are trying not to push her too hard but she ends up eating only 1 to 2 ounces per day. Do you have any tips to help her take more interest in solid foods without a struggle? — Via e-mail

A: Between 7 and 9 months, babies learn to touch forefinger to thumb — the pincer grasp that gives them new power over their world.

They now can pick up tiny objects, look at them and explore them with their fingers before putting them in their mouth to learn all about everything within reach.

Now that they can deploy their fingers and thumbs, they want to use them as often as possible. They would much rather feed themselves than be fed.

As soon as a baby learns the pincer grasp, you must let her use it — or she will resist being fed by you. When you need to spoon-feed her, give her two spoons — one for each hand. With both hands occupied, she may let you use a third spoon to feed her yourself.

It will still be more exciting for her to pick up soft foods to put in her mouth — all by herself. She wants to try out her new abilities on her own — a big adjustment for her and her parents who may long for the cuddly baby they once had.

But there is no turning back. Instead, take advantage of her drive to practice fine motor skills. Offer her a soft bit of cooked meat, bread, cheese or scrambled egg, and let her have fun feeding herself.

Just give her one or two bits of food at a time, since most of it will end up on the floor anyway.

Be prepared to start over at every meal. The theory is that many young children will not try a new food or flavor until it has been presented to them 15 times.

When your child turns away from food, she is not rejecting you. She is reminding you that children learn through patient repetition. If you are ready for this process, you’ll feel less frustrated.

You’re right not too push too hard. Eating is a behavior that — like breathing — can’t be forced.

Battles over food always backfire. The child inevitably gets her way, but nobody wins. If you can keep mealtimes relaxed and pressure-free, your baby is likelier to connect food and eating with enjoyable times of being together.

Meanwhile you may share your concerns with your child’s pediatrician, who can measure her height and weight and let you know whether her growth is on track.

Ask about vitamin supplements, including Vitamin D and iron. At this age, limited interest in eating is very common, but if a child’s growth is not continuing apace, the pediatrician will consider other causes that will require other solutions.

Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. Joshua Sparrow, care of The New York Times Syndicate, 620 Eighth Ave., 5th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10018. Questions may also be sent by e-mail to:

[email protected]

New York Times Syndicate


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