Giving baby too much or too little to eat can cause nutritional problems, and you can avoid this as well as ensure that mealtimes are happy times, by being aware of baby’s hunger and full cues. Furthermore, baby might also refuse certain new foods, and gag during or spit up after feeds. All these problems are common and learning what to do can help you cope with minimum fuss.


Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues

It’s important to pay attention to your baby’s appetite in order to provide optimal nutrition for your baby, and also to avoid overfeeding.

  • Signs that baby is hungry:
  • Turning to you/getting excited when he sees food or when food is offered
  • Fussiness
  • Crying
  • Putting his hand in his mouth
  • Chewing movements
  • Signs that your baby may be full:
  • Closing mouth as spoon approaches
  • Batting away or refusing the spoon
  • Show signs of wanting to leave the table or chair
  • Becomes distracted by his surroundings

What to Do if Baby Refuses Foods or Avoids New Foods

When baby refuses food

  • Baby may be full, tired, distracted or sick.
  • Always remember that your baby will eat when hungry, and will not starve to death through stubborn food refusal.
  • Pay attention to signs when he is full and trust that your baby knows how much food he needs.
  • Never force feed your child as this can turn feeding time into a battle time and may even result in overfeeding.


When baby avoids new foods

  • Don’t give up if your baby is rejecting new foods. Research shows that a new food needs to be offered up to 10 times, or more, before baby will actually eat it.
  • Just getting your child to taste the food will eventually lead them to accepting most foods in the future.


Helping baby accept new foods more easily

  • Start with very small portions and offer new food to your child three times during a meal.
  • Don’t overreact if your baby refuses. Move on to something you know he likes.
  • Try offering the new food at another meal.

What to Do if Baby Gags or Spits Up After Each Feed

When infants are learning to manage new textures, they may gag or cough back food that needs more chewing. This is a natural part of the learning process, and parents should not to panic if it happens. It’s likely that baby just needs more experience to cope easily with the new taste and texture.

However, if an infant gags or coughs frequently after meals, you may want to speak to his doctor about it.

As for spitting up/regurgitation, this seems universal among babies. The good news is that spitting up tends to lessen as babies reach their first birthday.


Reducing the chances of spitting up:

  • Burp him regularly
  • Avoid overfeeding
  • Keep baby upright when you feed him
  • Avoid playing with your baby immediately after eating


For further information on infant and child nutrition, please refer to

  1. MINISTRY OF HEALTH MALAYSIA (2013) Malaysian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents. Putrajaya: Technical Working Group on Nutritional Guidelines (for National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition).
  2. NUTRITION SOCIETY OF MALAYSIA (2011) Baby’s First Bites. Petaling Jaya: Mother’s Smart Choice.