Q&A: solids feeding for allergic baby

Crystal writes:

"My son Jack is 11 months old and eats very little in the way of solids (loves his breastmilk, though!) - maybe a total of 5 bites from his baby spoon a day.  He seems to have a sensitive gag reflex, and is very in-tune to texture, so we are mostly stuck with pureed foods.  There are a couple of "real" foods he eats (banana, avocado) that I don't have to mash up. 

I'd like to a) get more variety to his diet, b) step up the amount of solids, c) get rid of the jarred foods and replace them with foods in their natural form.  My challenges are 1) allergies (he is allergic to peas, and some other as-yet-unidentified issue that gives him eczema) - so we are on a delayed schedule for food introductions, and 2) work - my husband and I work full time so not only are we crunched for time (i.e. making complicated baby food recipes is too much to think about) but I am giving up a lot of control on the solids-feeding to our daycare provider (who is wonderful but not as sensitive in noticing my son's digestive difficulties, probably because they happen at home due to timing of his meals).

So, I feel clueless on how to proceed.  Honestly, I don't know if my son is ready for more solids.  He seems completely content with his breastmilk, only occasionally does he try to go after our food.

Am I worrying too much about this?  At this point I hate solids and just wish we could stick with breastfeeding (not really, but it is easier).

Thank you for any guidance you can give.  Links to toddler food prep ideas is highly appreciated, as well."

There's this theory that babies who have allergies sometimes refuse to eat as a protective mechanism until their systems are developed enough to deal with the foods. I don't know if it's true or not, but it seems to make as much sense as anything else we know about babies and feeding solid foods. Which is not much, frankly. There seem to be lots of opinions (which seem to vary widely from culture to culture) but not a lot of actual research (except, of course, for my second favorite study ever*, the Dutch one that showed that babies tend to choke less and do better when they feed themselves bigger chunks of food, so there's no need to do the whole pureed baby food thing. I totally used that study to justify not doing the whole rice cereal and pureed squash thing with child #2, and he does seem to eat a ridiculously huge variety of foods and will try anything you offer him, and of course it has to be because of the way I introduced solids to him.<eyeroll>).

So your son could totally just be rejecting foods because his body's telling him not to eat them. And there's no reason he has to be eating solids at this point anyway. A baby can be completely and totally healthy up to and past 12 months of age just on breastmilk alone.

Also bear in mind that 11 months is one of those bumpy times in feeding (the other one I seem to get tons of questions about is 20 months, and that's all about control) when kids sometimes just seem to stop eating solids for some reason (lots of times it seems like they only want to eat things they can self-feed, which doesn't work too well if they don't have many teeth yet). So there are plenty of 11-month-olds all over the place who are pretty much making it on just breastmilk or formula at this age anyway.

I've said it before with regards to solids feeding, and I'll say it again: Don't hate the player, hate the game. By "player" I mean either your kid (for not eating what he's "supposed" to) or yourself (for not somehow magically making your kid eat what he's "supposed" to). And by "game" I mean this idea that if your child isn't eating X food or Y amount by Z time, he'll never learn to eat (think about that for a minute and you'll realize the goofiness of it), or that he's getting better nutrition by eating rice gruel than healthy breastmilk or formula. If you provide a variety of healthy foods and your child does not have a metabolic disorder, he won't let himself starve.

Personally, I think your son's body is protecting him. If you want to back off the solids for a few weeks, just do it. There's no sense in making yourself nuts (a little allergy humor there) and creating conflict with your son over something that's so arbitrary at this age anyway. If it's not going to hurt, could help, and makes things easier for you, you might as well try it.

Has anyone else had experience with either an allergic baby who wouldn't eat solids, or a baby who survived on mostly breastmilk or formula for a long time?

* My favorite "study" ever is that Finnish one about babies being happier when their mothers ate chocolate during pregnancy.