8 Big Feeding Red Flags for Babies and Toddlers

Feeding your baby can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure what they should or shouldn’t be eating. The following are some food-related red flags that may indicate your child isn’t getting the nutrients he needs.

The “toddler suddenly spitting out food” is a red flag that parents should be aware of. It can indicate a number of potential problems, and it’s important to take action before it becomes a bigger issue.

8 Big Feeding Red Flags for Babies and Toddlers

Is your infant or toddler suddenly gagging on foods? Do you have a child that chews food and then spits it out? Or is it possible that your child refuses to eat? A pediatric occupational therapist can tell you what’s typical and what’s not. 


One of the most common reasons parents come to Your Kid’s Table is because their infant or toddler is refusing to eat either baby food or table food. Clearly, this is a major source of anxiety for parents. These refusals are typically a sign that something is wrong with their eating, and if it isn’t addressed, it may lead to a lifetime of fussy eating and feeding issues, causing stress for the whole family.

One of the first questions I ask (even for a 12-year-old) is, “How did they transition to table foods?” I’ve served so many families with children aged 2, 4, 6, 8, or even 12, and one of the first things I ask (even for a 12-year-old) is, “How did they transition to table foods?” 

It explains how my eating became so out of control! Because if a newborn or toddler gags often or suddenly, or refuses to eat, it’s a clue that they have certain issues that have been causing problematic mealtimes for years.

I’d want to assist parents like you in avoiding this!

Let’s look at eight potential feeding red flags for newborns and early toddlers, as well as what you can do to assist.


8 Feeding Warning Signs for Infants and Toddlers


#1. The Baby Refuses to Eat 

Some newborns don’t like the mushy pureed food, while others don’t eat it down jar after jar like other babies. However, when a baby persistently refuses to eat baby food and even gets angry when given it, it is typically a sign of sensory sensitivity.

While newborns do not need baby food and may instead concentrate on table meals, it is critical that they learn to accept using a spoon and consume purees such as yogurt, soup, and applesauce as they get older.

To discover a step-by-step method to assist your baby consume pureed baby food, go to my baby won’t eat solids.


#2. The Baby Refuses to Eat at the Table

When infants reject pureed meals, parents are more likely to attempt table foods. In fact, it is exactly what I would advise. However, if a baby refuses pureed meals due to the mushy texture, bananas and avocados may not be appealing.

Alternatively, some infants like baby food but refuse to eat table food. There is a technique to make the transition to finger foods easier for newborns and toddlers.

Starting with a dry, crunchy melt-able like baby puffs is usually a good idea. If a baby consistently refuses them and all other meals, it’s a strong sign that something else is wrong. 

We offer a FREE class for parents (sign up now) where you can learn how to assist your infant or toddler consume table foods!



#3. A baby or toddler gags at the sight, touch, or taste of baby or table food on a regular basis.

Gagging while touching or sampling new foods is common, but if your infant or toddler does it often, it’s a sign that they’re sensitive to various textures. It’s also conceivable that your child gags at the sight of food.

This is due to their imaginations of how that texture would taste or feel.

Working with your kid at a calm, steady pace to help them desensitize to the textures that make them gag is vital (and extremely feasible). Learn all you need to know about toddler and baby gagging. You’ll discover suggestions on how to get through it.


#4. When chewing or swallowing food, gags, spits food out, or seems to choke frequently. 

There’s a distinction between choking when you first touch a meal and gagging while you’re attempting to consume it.

Gagging or spitting food out after a baby has begun eating is a sign that the infant is having trouble integrating chewing and swallowing activities. These abilities are referred to as oral motor skills. 

Some infants and toddlers need assistance in learning to chew. Find out how you can assist your kid with oral motor activities (free printable included).


#5. At 8 months or later, the baby or toddler is exclusively interested in breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

At the absolute least, by the age of eight months, infants should be exhibiting some interest in eating (puree, soft table foods, or crunchy foods). If they don’t, despite your best efforts, you should suspect a texture sensitivity, oral motor difficulty, or a medical issue such as food allergies, silent reflux, or a tongue tie, to name a few possibilities.

Make an appointment with your physician and a pediatric gastroenterologist to rule out any health issues you may be unaware of.



#6. The baby or toddler refuses to eat with their fingers, spoon, or fork.

Children can struggle to synchronize the motion of using a spoon or fork. Of course, I don’t expect a six-month-old to be able to feed themselves much, but he or she should be able to finger feed at the very least. 

When a youngster as young as six, nine, or fourteen months refuses to feed themselves with their fingers or utensils, it’s a sign that they either can’t coordinate the movement necessary or are too sensitive to textures and are trying to avoid becoming dirty or having utensils in their mouth.

You can train your youngster to feed itself in either case. 


#7. Will only eat if there is a screen or other distractions.

If a young infant or toddler can only eat because they are distracted by a tablet, TV, phone, or a parent standing on their head attempting to amuse them, they lack intrinsic drive to eat, which may occur for a number of reasons. (For a list of the top five reasons why newborns and toddlers refuse to eat, go here.)

It’s a huge warning sign that something else is going on. Other factors may cause older toddlers and children to fall into this habit, but newborns who have never been fed successfully in another manner typically need assistance to address the source of the issue.

Medical concerns, sensory sensitivities, and/or oral motor impairments are often to blame.


#8. Doesn’t chew on discovered stuff or mouth on toys.

“I thought it was so nice that my baby never put anything in his mouth,” I regularly hear from parents.

On the surface, it seems to be fantastic, but there is a reason why newborns behave in this manner. It desensitizes their mouth to various sensations, aids in the development of their jaw, tongue, and lip muscles, and allows them to practice chewing. If your kid has never done this and has one of the other warning signals, there are certainly some underlying issues.


Myths About What Babies and Toddlers Eat…


Myth #1: My infant won’t eat because he or she lacks teeth.

If I had a dime for every time I heard a parent complain their kid won’t eat because they don’t have any teeth yet, I’d be a millionaire…. You know how the rest goes, right? I’ve heard this a lot, and although it sounds reasonable, I’d want to scream it from the rooftops: Babies and toddlers don’t require teeth to eat well.

Seriously, I’m not joking!

Consider when newborns receive their first teeth, which may be anywhere from 6 to 14 months old. They are the teeth at the front of the mouth. We don’t eat with our front teeth, and neither should newborns. Their gums are tough, and they should gnaw on them where their teeth will be. Those molars may not come in for another year.

Because newborns’ mouths aren’t strong enough to chew steak or raw carrots, we don’t feed them such things.

Without teeth, newborns and early toddlers were intended to eat effectively during meals.

They shouldn’t consume the following foods since they don’t have teeth and are a choking hazard:

  • nuts
  • lettuce
  • popcorn
  • additional tough cuts of meat
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, and celery are among the most common raw vegetables.

To handle all of those meals, they’ll require teeth and strong chewing abilities. With the exception of certain rough foods and a few choking dangers such as grapes and hotdogs, newborns may consume a broad range of meals without teeth.


Myth #2: They’ll get over it. 

This is something I hear a lot as well! It is not, however, from parents of infants under the age of 15 months. It comes from parents of children ranging in age from two to eight years old.

While some parents come to this decision on their own because they don’t know what else to do, the majority of the time, parents have a gut sense something more is wrong, but their doctor tells them, “Don’t worry, she’ll grow out of it.”

I’m not attempting to disparage pediatricians; they are incredible professionals with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, few people have extensive training in eating disorders that aren’t causing medical issues or weight loss.

If you see one of these indications, do some research, seek assistance, or use our resources to get aid!




When to Seek Professional Assistance

In general, if your kid exhibits two or more of the warning flags indicated above, I would strongly advise scheduling a feeding exam with an occupational therapist (like myself) or a speech and language pathologist. However, in many circumstances, just one of these warning flags is sufficient to trigger further investigation.

I would also highly recommend a feeding assessment if your infant is not eating any meals by 9 months of age or no table foods by 11 months of age.

But, more significantly, if you don’t know how to assist your kid and something in your gut tells you there’s something more going on, get help. You’ll be happy you did.

*Be aware that infants born preterm or with developmental problems may follow a different schedule. Furthermore, since each kid is unique, this information is intended to serve as a guide for parents as they consider different treatments to assist their child. Whether you’re still not sure if your kid needs further assistance, please leave a remark below.


Where Can Your Baby or Toddler Get Eating Assistance?

We specialize in assisting newborns and toddlers with proper nutrition. It’s critical to address it as soon as possible since the issues become more engrained as a kid grows older.

Table Food School is an online program for newborns and toddlers who are having difficulty eating table meals, and Mealtime Works is a program for finicky eaters. We also offer two free workshops:

  1. A free session to assist newborns and toddlers learn to eat table meals may be found here.
  2. To learn more about a free class for finicky eaters, click here (toddlers and older)

You may also check into early intervention if you live in the United States. What is covered varies by state, but for children aged 0 to 3, the examination is often free. Feeding treatment is another possibility. To book an appointment at a private clinic, outpatient facility, or children’s hospital, first check with your specific insurance carrier.


Printable for Babies and Toddlers to Learn to Eat Table Foods

Do you want some specific advice right now? I’ve created a free printable to offer you some direction and help you relax. It’s for parents who are having trouble getting their toddler or newborn to consume solid meals. I’ll drop it in your email straight away:

Here’s where you can get the free When Babies Won’t Eat Table Foods FAQ Sheet!


More on Feeding Babies and Toddlers


8 Tips for Nursing Moms Returning to Work With a Bottle-Refusing Baby!

The Best Baby Food + Table Food Ideas for a 9-Month-Old!

How Do You Teach Your Child to Chew?

Milestones in Feeding for Babies and Toddlers


The “toddler gags for no reason” is a sign that your baby or toddler may have an underlying health condition. It could be something as simple as a bad tooth, but it could also indicate a more serious issue. Here are 8 big feeding red flags to watch out for with your little one.

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