thread: Won't eat finger food or "play" with food - need some ideas!

  1. #1
    BellyBelly Member
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    Oct 2007
    Melbourne
    2,362

    Won't eat finger food or "play" with food - need some ideas!

    My DS was slow to want solids and I was happy to wait until 6 months to start, a) because he just didn't seem ready and b) because we have allergy/dietary issues in the family and he has eczema.

    Once we got there it was a VERY slow process. He has a hypersensitive gag reflex and would projectile vomit if he gagged. He didn't really want any solids till 8 months and then only started to take them if they were very pureed. It was only then he started taking more than 1-2 tbs a day! Since then we've been working on increasing the texture and also offering finger foods once a day. He's improved on the textures - will take some slightly chunky or mashed foods... BUT he's gone backwards on finger foods. A few more gags & vomits (the last one he found very distressing) and he has just been refusing finger foods for probably a few months now.

    We went to see a speech path last week who suggested we get him to play with yoghurt (which he likes)... but when I tried it, even that resulted in an unhappy baby who put his fingers in it for a bit, but didn't want to taste it at all (even though EVERY toy goes in his mouth) and got distressed. I thought it was pretty logical to get him to "play" with a food that he likes, but he didn't even seem happy doing that. I feel he's got really fearful of food and I don't know how to help him get past it. Any suggestions? We've tried offering different finger foods at mother's groups or with another little girl, we try eating with him, we try seeing if he wants what we have... and nothing seems to be getting through. I'm worried that maybe my worry is coming through to him, and I'd really like to have a good messy FUN play with food and help him relax. I THINK i'm as relaxed as I can be (given the circumstances), so any suggestions for how I can try to make food more fun for him? I don't even want him to eat it, I just want him to enjoy it. I've tried putting a plastic toy in the yoghurt to help make it more fun or a spoon or having the yoghurt in a bowl - but so far, everything has resulted in the same unhappy response.... and it makes me dread trying again, but I know i need to give him the opportunity. The speechie suggested we don't try chunky finger foods for now but stick to foods he likes to eat normally. The only "solid" thing he will have happily is a solid rusk (I guess because the food doesn't come off it IYKWIM) and he DID want a bite of my magnum the other day.. so I let him slobber on that a few times. Don't know if I can justify going through a magnum every day tho, and it's not ideal baby food!!

    Love to hear some ideas.
    TIA,
    Belfie


  2. #2
    Registered User

    Apr 2006
    In the ning nang nong...
    1,277

    Tricky! My DS isn't a consistent eater but I've found changing the finger foods I'm giving him seems to keep him a bit interested. Cobs of corn, slices of rockmelon, pieces of cooked chicken, steak, toast, plain bread sticks (enjoys crunching those), grilled cheese on toast, halved cherry tomatoes, thick slices of cucumber, steamed broccoli, carrot and pumpkin... as well as spooning baby yoghurts and trying the organic range of baby foods. Plus I just keep giving him bits off my plate to try. He's still getting what he needs from breastfeeding and weight's good but I also worry about what happens when he starts to wean.
    I don't know if any of that helps at all. I struggle with patience. It takes so long sometimes for DS to eat anything substantial. We haven't had the gagging thing really to deal with but I did use those mesh food holders for grapes and banana and steamed vegetables right at the start because I was worried about DS choking. Have you tried one of those? Good luck!! Hope someone comes up with some good ideas for you!

  3. #3
    Life Subscriber

    Jul 2006
    Brisbane
    6,683

    That's a tough one hun I think you are going to be needing a lot of patience for a while

    I don't really have any answers for you, but maybe you could try different textures and things and see if that interest him. And it might be like taste, that he might need to be offered the same thing many times before he'll play with it. Mashed potato was a favourite one for my boys - they loved to squish it in their hands and through their fingers.

    I think just keep trying things until something works - but keep it fun. If he starts to get upset then stop, and wait before trying something else. I hope you have some success soon.

  4. #4
    BellyBelly Member

    Jul 2005
    Sydney
    7,896

    Keep offering, hun, but you're right that you shouldn't stress about it. It might take him a while to get used to or feel comfortable with the different textures he's feeling in his hands. How is he with other sensory things? Make sure that you seem happy about touching the food and don't rush in to clean him up anytime he does get a little messy. Is he happy to play in the dirt outside? What about finger painting? I would look to encourage sensory play with other things, not just food, so he knows that it's good to feel things that are different. He will naturally experiment once he is more comfortable.

    As long as he sees from your example that you are happy to get messy and see him get messy he'll soon get the idea that there's nothing to be worried about. Some kids (and adults) do have more issues with different textures than others. But it doesn't mean he can't get to the point where he's comfortable enough to be more adventurous with food.
    Last edited by Jennifer13; October 13th, 2009 at 10:14 AM.

  5. #5
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Dec 2006
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    Have you tried things like watermelon or other juicy fruits in a mesh bag feeder? He can then suck them and get the taste but no swollowing... DS liked that concept a lot... Took a bit to get him interested in the mesh bag and sucking, but using things like pear and watermelon were good... I also used two fruits from a can, as they have a lot of juice (i know there is sugar) but it helped get him interested and then i switched out to real fruit...

  6. #6
    BellyBelly Member

    Mar 2009
    1,400

    It maybe worth trying to introduce the food at a different time and place - say on a towel out in the back yard rather than in the highchair. Also perhaps a small amount of food at a time just left out to discover. DD here loves the frozen vege mix (cooked of course) and picking out the different veges. She seems to make less mess as they are small and require some precision to 'catch'. Sucking pasta sauce off pasta is another fav as is flicking fried rice EVERYWHERE!
    Messy as it is DD also loves eating in the pram - arrowroot bikkies all over the place. FWIW DH is a neat freak and is not allowed to wipe and spoon feed as DD1 became obsessive about being clean between mouthfuls.
    Belfie - I would be stressed about gagging etc too but you are doing a great job! Let us know how you go. x

  7. #7
    BellyBelly Member

    Jan 2006
    Melbourne
    2,732

    I don't know if its much help but my DS#1 was really slow to feed himslef. At the age of one he was put in a playpen with a chocolate cake and his Belly Buddy babies and just stood there while the other babies helped themself to the cake. He was ahppy to eat it if I fed him but refused to feed himself. He wouldn't even bit a sandwitch - we had to break bits off for him and pop it in his mouth like a baby bird.

    Like your baby he has a sensitve gag reflex so I don't know if that is part of the issue, but he now happily feeds himself (he's now three). So you are not alone, at least, in having a child who won't feed themself

  8. #8
    BellyBelly Member
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    Oct 2007
    Melbourne
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    hey everyone,
    thanks so much for the replies & ideas!

    Roryrory - I appreciate knowing there's others out there! I was so keen to do BLS, and never thought I'd run into these kind of issues. It's so frustrating when everyone else's kids seem to be just happily hoeing into everything! I do feel like a lot of DS's fear has come from that gag reflex, and as for feeding after having a cold, well he just refused solids for 5 days, until I realised and went back to purees. We think he's always had a tendency to be a snuffly mouth-breather which has been tied in with this - kinda "what are you doing mummy, I'm not gonna put food in there, I breath through it!" He seems to be growing out of the mouth-breathing/snuffliness but I think it's left an impact.

    Mak - I like the idea of food out to discover. We've tried different places/times/company/food, but not just finding it.

    Rufalina - have tried the mesh feeder a bit, he tried it but wasn't interested for long, I shall try it again, good suggestion.

    Jennifer13 - I don't THINK he's too bad with other sensory things, he's a very cruisey happy fellow in all other respects, little bothers him. But, we did have an ah-ha moment after I wrote this and did some research (think I'd had my head in the sand for a bit ). Realised that we were being too tidy & neat, and then I read your response and thought yup, for sure. I'm trying not to beat myself up about it (works for the most part) but we've gone to messy town big time and is definitely helping. I've picked up a smock for him... and trying to really play with food during meal times, suction bowl on the highchair tray, spoon for him & me... and the other day we played drop the peas off the spoon from height (he's not keen on eating peas so they were all leftover)... and he loved it! Already he's putting his hands in the food more, sticking the sppon in the bowl and just interacting with his food much more happily! He still won't put any of the food to his mouth himself, but I know i can't focus on that, I just need to help him explore it all in a fun way.

    At this stage I'm gonna try encouraging him to play with his food (anything he eats, he can play with) - and with textures each meal we go easy-harder-easy again and then he can play with those textures too. I'm gonna hold off finger foods as a separate thing, and see how he goes with the little things in the harder foods (peas & cubes of carrot etc). Then I might see if I can start just putting some finger foods on the tray as well for him to explore. And if we happen to eat some finger foods and he wants them, well that'd be fine too. It's actually now easier to eat with him, because he's tending to eat a little slower. I was finding it was hard to role model eating because he'd get very antsy if you didn't feed him quickly enough - so I couldn't feed him and me simultaneously.

    Thanks so much for all the suggestions, it's really helped - and I'm feeling SO much more positive particularly since every meal since posting has been great! So that helps me to help him.

    Thanks again!!
    Cheers,
    Belfie

  9. #9
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Dec 2006
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    It is good to have reassurance from others... I did this thread a while ago for DS, as he would only eat purees here... He was not as bad as your DS with the gaging, and food rejection, but there were some serious spews...

    Anyway, took me a while, but we are now going so much better with solid/chunky food, and thought there might be a tip or two in there for you. I was like you too, and have really loosened up with the mess factor, and we now get dirty when eating, and I just clean up afterward. Keep going the way you are and I am sure you will get there.

  10. #10
    BellyBelly Member
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    Oct 2007
    Melbourne
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    oooh thanks rufalina, that's a very interesting thread, and actually I think I read it in a real hurry one day!

    I forgot to say that the other thing our speechie said to do was to spoon the food into the sides of his mouth/gums to encourage a more mature chewing action. She thinks his tongue doesn't actually come out far, plus he has an underbite (and a very very mild tongue tie)... so sometimes the food is just sitting right on the front of his tongue and easier to spit out. If the food goes into the sides of his mouth, he'll be more likely to chew it (and learn to chew well), and he certainly is taking it ok into the sides like that. Still won't eat peas though (whether whole or mushed). Interestingly we also tried that baby pasta and he refused that too.

    It's difficult when you're trying to work on these little graduations of texture & lumpiness! But he still does better with lumpy foods than anything hand-held.

    It's great to hear you've had such improvement, and it certainly gives me more hope we'll see similar improvement. I never thought I'd be trying to encourage a baby to play with food!