Is your baby refusing to eat food other than purees? Not sure how to introduce textured foods to your baby? Here are some expert tips from a registered dietitian.
When to Move to Textured Foods
Generally speaking, most babies are ready to transition from purees to textured foods between 6-9 months.
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If you decide to take the baby led weaning approach, then your baby will learn to handle textures from the start.
If you’re starting out with purees, it's best to keep this stage pretty short. That’s because research shows that infants who are introduced to textures by 9 months generally have less feeding problems and greater food acceptance down the road.
Therefore, you need to gently challenge your baby with new food consistencies. Otherwise, they will get used to just swallowing and not learn to move food around in their mouth and chew. All this leads to an increased aversion to textures.
If you haven’t decided which feeding method is right for you and your family, then check out this post - Starting Solids - Purees vs. Baby led weaning.
And remember, babies don’t need teeth to chew! It's amazing what their gums are capable of!
- Increased acceptance of variety
- Strengthening of baby’s jaw muscles
- Promotes speech development
How to Transition to Table Food
First, if you've started on purees and feel stuck, allow me to guide you!
Every child is different and contrary to what you may have been told, you don’t necessarily have to introduce textured foods in any specific order or stages. Everything you see in the visual is appropriate and safe to serve to your baby.
But your baby or you might need the gradual progression. Perhaps your baby has a very sensitive gag reflex or other underlying issues. ALWAYS do what feels best and comfortable for you and your family. Just remember not to stay at any one stage for too long.
You can start by thickening the baby purees to encourage the use of the tongue and muscles in the mouth to start the chewing process. This can be accomplished by adding less water or liquid when pureeing.
If you've been spoon-feeding, try preloading the spoon (here's one that I highly recommend!) and either place on the table or hold it out for them to grab.
Then move onto lumpy to mashed to soft minced and chopped up foods along with soft finger foods. Here are easy ways to incorporate vegetables for babies 6 months and up!
Additionally, don’t think you can’t serve the previous texture once you move on. It’s important to continue exposing them to a wide variety of textures.
- Always stay close to your baby.
- Make sure your baby is secured tightly in a highchair, sitting upright and not leaning back. Their feet need to be supported as well!
- Be sure to serve age-appropriate food size and texture.
- Avoid foods that are small and round (e.g. grapes, blueberries), hard (raw vegetables, nuts), or sticky (thick nut butter, candy) as they are choking hazards.
Is it going to be messy? Absolutely! As hard as it may be, learn to embrace it as it's SUCH an essential part of the self-feeding journey. In the meanwhile, here are some products that I recommend
What If your Baby Stops Eating
It’s normal for your baby to resist texture at first because it’s unfamiliar and feels unsafe. While it's tempting to continue serving just purees, DON'T fall back! Keep marching forward otherwise your baby will never learn.
Of course you worry when your baby doesn't eat as much as you think they should, but by no means should you rush them or force-feed. You do need to gently and lovingly pressure/challenge them by continuing to offer.
Remember, learning to chew and swallow different textures takes time to master so keep giving them plenty of opportunities to practice in a safe, pleasant, and encouraging eating environment! That’s the best thing you can do!
Again, your baby is most likely not going to consume much, if any, at first. But remember, at this age, exploring all the different textures and advancing their oral motor skills (moving food around the mouth, chewing, etc.) is much more important than the amount of food that actually makes it into the belly.
With continuous exposure and practice, your baby will gain the skills and confidence needed to handle textured foods. And you'll be so glad that you stuck with it and didn't give in.
As you navigate through this challenging transitional period, I hope these reminders provide some much needed reassurance and peace of mind.
- Your baby’s appetite will vary from day to day.
- Their tummies are tiny so they don’t need much.
- Breastmilk/formula will continue to be the main source of nutrition during the 1st year. If your baby didn't eat much, you can offer milk about 30-45 minutes after the meal has ended (don't offer immediately after). That way they're still getting the nutrition they need, and they won't make the association of "ooh if I don't eat, mommy will give me milk!"
Most likely, there will be a lot of gagging. This is again quite normal as your baby learns to handle new textures. It’s a safety mechanism that actually helps prevent choking and helps your baby in learning to manage food safely.
So don’t fall back on offering the safer purees. Again, gently challenge them to accept new textures and to learn to chew by offering a variety.
On the other hand, if the gagging persists and your baby is visibly upset then it’s best to consult with your physician to make sure there aren’t any other underlying issues, like oral motor delays, sensory sensitivity, or a medical condition, that need to be addressed.
As babies are learning to chew and swallow, they will likely spit out food that is too large to swallow. It's also a part of learning to chew. So don't intervene. Let it be.
It's important to keep the mealtime environment safe and positive. Offer different textured foods without pressure and encourage your baby's curiosity with exploring the food. The best thing you can do is have your baby join the family during mealtimes as much as possible. They learn so much from simply watching what you do. The more they see everyone enjoying their food, laughing, and having a grand ole time, the more they're going to want to be a part of it.
Show how you grab food with your hand and bring to your mouth. Exaggerate chewing with your mouth open. This is not the time to mind your table manners.
EACH and EVERY time your baby is exposed to new flavors and textures, they are learning and gaining confidence from it.
I want to leave you with this:
Be patient. Continue to offer a wide variety of textures (and flavors!). Trust the process! It's one bumpy ride and we need to be in it for the long-haul. And if you need a step-by-step guidance, check out my 3 month program below. It's complete with daily cooking demos, game plan, recipes, etc. to help you to move beyond purees!
Do you want to minimize picky eating and set a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?
Check out this 3 month mastering self-feeding program! It’s the closest thing to me being in your kitchen