Now that your baby has been eating for a little while, they have likely developed their skills enough to be swallowing many of their foods. Such progress! Do you know what to look for before starting to add in other items and textures?
If you've been following a baby-led feeding style, you are likely serving finger size foods that are easy to mash between two fingers. Perhaps you've ventured into the land of feeding separated bites of meals to your baby. Maybe it was a chili or a dal that was already fairly soft.While feeding babies this food is certainly closer to normal table food than pureed, it can still take some significant modification from family foods to ensure that the foods are safe for baby. If you need a refresher on size and texture, check out my First Foods printout. So how do you know when your baby is ready to have their texture advanced beyond what you're currently doing?
Every baby develops differently. Some might be ready to advance much sooner than others. It is vital you pay attention to your baby's signs.
There are a few developments that can signal it's time to start advancing the texture of your baby's food. They generally happen around 9 months of age. Keep in mind that I am mentioning this purely for reference. This does not to indicate you should start right at 9 months!
Mastery of the pincer grasp. This is when baby is able to consistently grasp small items between thumb and forefinger. Think blueberries or Cheerios sized foods.
They've Got Teeth. Around this time babies tend to start getting teeth in if they haven't already. These new teeth can be a great help to nibble off bits of harder foods. They will still not have molars to help them grind their food, but that does not usually alter their ability to start advancing their textures.
Once you've seen these first two signs together, you can see if your baby is able to handle harder textures.
Try providing them with a slightly harder food, a vegetable or fruit is a great place to start. If you normally serve your baby vegetables cooked more than your own, try giving them more al dente like your food. Pay close attention to what they do with the food. A great sign to watch for is any increased gagging, or if after a first bite of the food they return to the softer foods and ignore the harder one. If they handle the harder food well, you should feel confident to keep trying other harder foods, as well.
Your baby met the developmental markers and did fine with some slightly harder food. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean that it's safe to give everything directly as you serve to yourself or the rest of the family.
It is still important to pay attention to high risk choking foods like raw apples, whole grapes, and nuts among other things. Your baby will likely be able to handle smaller pieces of things though, and won't need many things cut into finger shapes any more.
Try cutting things like meat and muffins into smaller bite size pieces. These will allow your baby to continue to develop their pincer grasp. Now is also a great time to start introducing some casseroles or other more complex mixed dishes to your baby. Cut them into bite size pieces and let your baby taste the mix of flavors they provide.
Continue to pay close attention to your baby and follow their lead. Allow them to stay at the texture that is safest for them as long as they need to. At the same time, don't be afraid to help them develop their skills even more!
Even though it may be exciting to have them start eating more of the exact same food you do, it is vital that you go at your baby's pace.Your goal is to allow them to have the most pleasant experiences they can at meal times. Exploring different foods and textures at their own pace helps them to develop a great relationship with food that will last them their whole life.
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