Guiding your little ones texture progression.
We are inundated with information from social media about what texture (puree or finger foods) to begin our baby with but there seems to be little information on where to from here.
When we approach feeding our little ones with respect we honour the information coming from them. This is the essence of responsive feeding and true baby-led mealtimes.
Part of feeding responsively is not only following their cues that indicate they want more or that they are finished, but also being sensitive and responsive to what they are showing us about their feeding skill development.
Are they ready to self-feed? Do they have the skills to handle more advanced textures? We can trust our babies to show us what they want to eat and what they are ready for. We can figure this out by providing them with varied opportunities and understanding how feeding develops. You will notice that I will talk about what types of textures you can offer at each stage. The key word being “offer” – your baby will let you know if they are ready for this texture. Some gagging, overstuffing and spitting out food is to be expected, little ones are learning how to move these foods around their mouth and break it down to swallow. Reassure your baby, if gagging is excessive, go back to where they are comfortable and reoffer the challenging texture a few days later.
Around 6 months
our babies have had lots of practice suckling and swallowing which makes puree an easy transition. They are also munching using an up-down jaw movement and using an up-down tongue movement (suckling). You may also see some forward-backward movements of the tongue. The tongue protrusion reflex may still be present, this is where baby will push semi-solids back out of their mouth. It is ok to begin solids at 6 months if it is still present. The gag reflex will begin moving further back in the mouth and becoming less sensitive with every feeding opportunity.
You can offer your baby both soft finger foods (that pass the squish test), puree & liquirds from an open cup at this time. Soft finger foods can be broken down by the up-down tongue and jaw movements. Look for what your baby is telling you about their feeding development. Offer them preloaded spoons, finger foods and present the spoons to them (opening their mouth to give permission for you to put the spoon in their mouth). See which they gravitate to, whilst still providing the opportunity for the others.
If you have started with puree, it’s a great idea to offer the opportunity for mashed foods or soft finger foods after a couple of weeks.
Your little one’s tongue is beginning to be able to move around their mouth. Their tongue can meet food when placed at the sides of their mouth on their gums and move it to the centre of their tongue. They are munching up and down and some diagonal rotary chewing is emerging. They can bring their top lip down to remove semi-solids from a spoon. Their tongue is also still moving forward and backward (suckling) with foods that have broken off.
Around 8 months you can begin offering your baby soft-dissolvable foods & at 9 months soft cubes of food. A straw cup can be introduced around this time or when an open cup is mastered.
Now their chewing is a mix of diagonal rotary chewing and munching, their tongue is more controlled in moving food from the sides of their mouth to the centre of the tongue and as they get closer to 12 months they are able to move foods from the centre of the tongue to both sides of the mouth. You can now offer your baby chopped table foods.
Understanding how typical feeding develops and how the jaw and tongue are changing in order to control different textures can give you the confidence in providing your little one with the opportunity to move towards unmodified family meals and advanced textures. Remember it is our job to offer or provide and theirs to decide. If your little one seems “stuck” progressing through the textures, check in with a paediatric feeding speech pathologist.
By, Jamie Williams
Paed Speech Pathologist (check her out on instagram @nourished.babes