Aversion to Solids

I have a 12-month-old who refuses to eat solids. She only wants to nurse. What can I do?

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

First, let me congratulate you and your daughter for nursing for a year! This is a wonderful gift to both of you.

Second, when I hear about a child who refuses to eat solids at about 12 months, one of my first questions is whether she has never eaten solids, or if this refusal is a recent development. Often, 12-month-olds are enjoying a new independent streak and no longer like someone else to feed them. They’re done with baby foods but may not have learned to like feeding themselves healthy finger foods yet. You can learn more about how to handle this gap here.

Some children, though, have been thriving all along on breast milk alone and haven’t become interested in solids yet. Sometimes this is just their personal timing and preference, but occasionally it’s a signal of an esophagus that is too tight or swallowing that isn’t coordinated. When a child has never taken solids and still refuses them at 12 months, an evaluation by a feeding specialist is usually a good idea. Often, this is a pediatric gastroenterologist.

The window between 6 and 12 months, of age is usually the easiest time for kids to learn to eat solids. After about 12 months it often becomes more difficult. At 12 months, the foods kids will often take first are those things they can handle for themselves and go down easily. In the meantime, you may want to check with her doctor to see if she would benefit from iron or vitamin D supplements. After 6 months of age, solely breastfed infants who are not eating iron rich foods may need iron supplements to prevent iron deficiency anemia. Vitamin D is good for all of us, and unless we are getting plenty from the sun I recommend supplemental vitamin D, either in fortified foods or taken separately.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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