I am having a real battle every time I try to feed my eight-month-old girl. For some reason she never wants to eat—not easily anyhow. Sometime she comes around, but other times she just clenches her lips shut and turns her face away. We have had quite a time since birth with feedings—even nursing at times. I'm not sure what we may have done to make things worse. Can you please tell me how we can change our feedings and make them more successful, pleasant experiences? How we can get our child to eat without these constant battles? We are desperate for help as she is not gaining the weight that she should.
Though more often seen in toddlers, feeding battles are common in pediatrics. The most important point about them is that once it becomes a "war", parents always lose. You can cajole, offer, pout . . . but your child remains in control of what she is willing to swallow. The more tense the feeding event gets, even if you are simply trying to nourish her, the more negative her associations with food, and the more she may refuse to eat. Many children will eat just enough to take the edge off their hunger, or instead fill up on liquids.
First, make absolutely sure that your daughter is healthy and that there are no other medical reasons for her not gaining weight.
Second, if you are the main feeder and are feeling frustrated, hand over the task to someone else and leave the room. This will relieve some of the stress you both may be feeling. Trying to make the time spent eating more pleasant is important. As long as food is nutritious, it's OK to make it into silly shapes, or eat in an unconventional place, or to make it a game. What your daughter won't eat in 20 minutes, wrap up for the next time. It's also not wise to give her a bottle instead, figuring it's better than nothing, because an eight month old needs more in her diet than liquids.
Third, if you are still not succeeding and she isn't gaining, ask your doctor for a referral to a feeding clinic for expert, hands-on help.