Starting Solids With Your Infant and Picky Toddler Eating

This post is for all mothers who wonder about infant and toddler feeding and what is “normal”.  Remember, human milk is the primary source of your infant’s nutrition throughout the first year and solids is mainly a sensory (read teaspoons to tablespoons) kind of experience.  In our society we act as if infants should be putting away jars upon jars of baby food a day!  This is not how the human digestive system was designed!

Early Solids WILL NOT help your baby sleep through the night, make your baby less fussy, make your baby grow up later or develop earlier or provide better nutrition than breast milk!

Normal Course of Appetite (Ames) up to age 6:

  • Usually infant doubles birth weight by the time they start solids
  • Usually the birth weight is tripled by the end of the first year
  • Cup feeding may be started in middle of first year
  • At 12 to 15 months, the gross motor drive is strong – may be difficult to sit and eat a meal, may want to stand in highchair if family using one
  • After 12 months, toddler may go through phase of not being interested in cup
  • 15 to 18 months toddler very interested in self-feeding
  • May throw food
  • 21 month old may have definite preferences, such as a certain bib, a certain spoon, a certain dish – but may not have the words to express it! Easily distractible
  • 24 months – preferences are high, may be related to taste, form, consistency, color – Think small helpings, teaspoon sized! Ritual demand of eating the same things reaches its height at 2 ½. Food jags prevalent.
  • 3 years old – Eating better, appetite fluctuates less, the child has become a good chewer . On the downside, may dawdle if eats with whole family.
  • May prefer raw vegetables, desserts, may accept green vegetables.
  • 4 years old – Chief problems are talks too much, usually has to interrupt meal to go to bathroom, has much trouble sitting still
  • 4 ½ to 5 – A distinct rise in appetite, can listen as well as talk at the dinner table, may use a knife for spreading but not for cutting
  • 6 years – Perpetual activity! Cannot sit still, wiggles in chair, eats with finger, talks with mouth full, cannot finish meal. Preferences and refusals very strong.

Signs of Developmental Readiness to Start Solids as per La Leche League:

  • Usually middle of first year
  • Your baby has at least doubled his/her birth weight or weighs at least 14 pounds
  • Your baby can sit up with support
  • Your baby has control of his/her head and neck
  • Your baby has the ability to transfer food from the front of the mouth to the back of the mouth (tongue-thrust reflex has disappeared)
  • Your baby may have a tooth or two
  • Your baby is capable of refusing food
  • Your baby likes to imitate people and showing distinct interest in food, not just the silverware
  • Your baby can reach and handle food, toys, objects
  • Your baby has increased saliva production necessary for digestion
  • Your baby is not ill and has no rashes


  • Different cultures start with different first foods – you may want to think specifically about foods that provide decent mineral quality for supplemental foods.
  • La Leche League typically says to start with banana, pears, applesauce (make your own), cooked carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash, avocados.  Some cultures start with meat as a first food!
  • Use your own clean finger as the first spoon
  • Offer new foods in the morning  in case of allergic reaction


One book you may consider on this topic is the classic “Feeding the Whole Family:  Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents” by Cynthia Lair.  It takes recipes the whole family can eat, and suggests how to take all or parts of the recipe to make food your infant can eat as well.  All recipes are centered on fresh, whole foods ingredients.

Top Asked Questions Regarding Sources of:

Iron (per Dr. Sears Family Nutrition Book)

Beef (4 ounces) 3.5 mg

Ground beef (4 ounces) 2.5 mg

Lamb (4 ounces) 2.5 mg

Turkey, dark meat (4 ounces) 2.5 mg

Beans (1/2 cup) 2.0 mg


Best Plant Food Sources of Iron (per Dr. Sears Family Nutrition Book):

Tofu (1/3 cup) – 7 mg

Iron-fortified cereals (1 ounce) 4-8 mg

Cream of Wheat (1/2 cup cooked) – 5 mg

Lentils (1/2 cup cooked) – 3 mg

Prune Juice (8 oz) – 3 mg

Dried Peaches – 3.1 mg for 6 halves

Pumpkin Seeds, 1 ounce – 4.0 mg

Signs of Anemia (Iron-Deficiency Anemia): paleness, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, irritability, difficulty concentrating, increased susceptibility to infection, intolerance of cold temperatures, constipation, brittle nails

Zinc (per Dr. Sears Family Nutrition Book)

Top Zinc Veggies:

Tofu (1/2 cup) – 2.00 mg

Artichoke – 1.47 mg

Chickpeas (1/2 cup canned) – 1.25 mg

Beans (kidney, lima, ½ cup) -0.75 mg

Dr. Sears writes in his book that many children with ADHD have lower levels of zinc and essential fatty acids; this may be worth looking into if your child has that challenge! 

Tips for Picky Toddler Eaters


Serve food attractively, give small helpings, serve food without comment, do not stress amount of food to be eaten, be aware some food refusals may indicate an allergic reaction to that food, try to maintain a calm and unworried attitude toward your child’s eating, do not stress table manners with young children, allow finger-feeding until child has become proficient at eating and is interested in food.


1. Offer a nibble tray – put out a muffin tin and put a little food in each tray (apple moons, avocado boats, banana, broccoli trees, carrots, cheese cubes, hard boiled egg, little o shaped cereal)

2. Offer dip – made from cottage cheese, tofu, yogurt

3. Try smoothies

4. Serve it attractively

5. Respect that a child’s stomach is about the size of their fist

6. Let the kids eat at a child sized table where their feet can touch the ground

7. Let the kids cook or help prepare food

Food Allergies per La Leche League:

Top foods to cause allergic reactions: beans, berries, cabbage, chocolate, cinnamon, citrus fruits and juices, coconut, corn, cow’s milk, eggs, nuts (especially peanuts – and peanut allergy is a type of allergy that children do NOT outgrow as they age), onions, pork, shellfish, tomatoes, wheat.

Typically tolerated foods include:

Fruit – apples, apricots, bananas, peaches, pears, plums

Vegetable – asparagus, beets, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes

Rice and grains such as oats, barley, millet

Common Signs of Food Allergies: (Dr. Sears)

Skin – Hives, Red Sandpaper-Like Facial Rash, Dry/Itchy/Scaly Skin on face, Swelling in Hands and Feet, Puffy Eyelids, Dark Circles Under Eyes, Lip Swelling, Tongue Soreness and Cracks

Respiratory – Sneezing, Runny Nose, Stuffy Nose, Wheezing, Watery Eyes, Rattling Chest, Persistent Cough, Congestion, Bronchitis, Recurring Ear Infections

Intestines– Burnlike Rash Around Anus, Abdominal Discomfort, Mucusy Diarrhea, Constipation, Intestinal Bleeding, Poor Weight Gain, Bloating/Gassiness, Excessive Spitting Up, Vomiting

Behavior – Fatigue, Migraine Headaches, Hyperactivity, Crying, Irritability, Night Waking, Anxiety, Crankiness, Sore Muscles and Joints

The scoop on juice: (La Leche League)

For ages six to twelve months, no more than four ounces of juice a day (That’s half a cup!)

For toddlers and preschoolers, no more than six ounces a day (3/4 of a cup)

For school age children, no more than eight ounces (1 cup of juice a day)

Water, water, water!

Please do see the post on this blog regarding WHY fresh juice made by YOU is much better than the pasteurized stuff from the store!!  Here is the link:

You may also be interested in this post regarding Steiner’s grain of the day from a Waldorf perspective:

A neat solution for grain rotation for the health of your family should you choose to eat grains!  According to Dr. Sears, the grains highest in iron are quinoa, amaranth, oats, enriched rice, millet and barley.  The grains highest in zinc per Dr. Sears are wild rice, rye, amaranth, oats and quinoa.  Tops for folic acid are millet, wild rice, rye, amaranth and oats.

Happy infant and toddler feeding,


4 thoughts on “Starting Solids With Your Infant and Picky Toddler Eating

  1. Pingback: The Baby’s Intense Need For Mother « The Parenting Passageway

  2. Hi Carrie!
    I’ve been scouring your blog for a post about kids and eating, and this was the closest I could find… if you know of something more relevant, feel free to point me to it. 🙂
    You mention in this post to not comment on food, although I know it’s in reference to infants/toddlers. I’m looking more for information for a 3 1/2 year old and a 5 1/2 year old. What I’m not sure about is how to handle whether or not they’re eating their meals. For instance, at supper time, do I insist that they at least have at least a bite of everything on their plate? Do I just refrain from comment, and let them eat as little/much as they want? (Both of my kids are very sensitive to trying new foods, and would likely never try a bite of something if I didn’t insist). If I’m serving bread with the meal, I often withold it until they’ve eaten at least some of their supper, otherwise they will eat the bread and nothing else. I don’t know how I feel about this, but it does get them to eat. Even with foods I know they like, they often have to be prompted to eat them. After supper we usually have fruit and yogurt. I know you should never use food as a reward; but I’ve often caught myself saying they can’t have their yogurt and fruit if they don’t eat their supper. It just seems like meal times are a constant battle. I don’t want to be a short-order cook… I feel like everyone should eat the same thing at meal times. I try to be sensitive to their preferences and incorporate some of their favourite meals into the weekly meal plan. Also, I know this is common, but they’re very squirmy and unattentive at meal times, so I’m constantly reminding them to eat instead of fooling around… any tips on this? Just as some background, we have a good mealtime/snacktime rhythm. We eat meals and snacks at the same time each day, we light a candle and say a blessing. We try to keep things light-hearted but it seems every meal time turns into a battle. Any advice???
    Thanks so much!

  3. Pingback: More About Starting Solids « The Parenting Passageway

  4. Right now, just milk, solids, and water. I’d wait on the juice just becusae it is not neccessary. I feed mine cereal and a full bottle for breakfast, baby food and a full bottle for lunch, a bottle in the afternoon, and cereal and a full bottle for supper. She is 5 months. At around nine months you can start giving her a sippy cup and she will begin getting most nutrients from food. At one year is when formula goes away and they eat more like you (eating and drinking whole milk, juice, water, etc.)

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