Solid food: Is your baby ready?
Changes happen so fast when babies are growing and developing. One of the more exciting transitions is when they are ready for different stages of foods. It’s important to watch for signs that they ready for baby foods before starting. Most babies signal interest in food by watching and possibly leaning towards or reaching for foods that you are eating. This generally happens between 4 and 6 months. Also, be sure your baby has good head and neck control. When beginning baby foods, remember that some gagging is ok! Your baby’s gag reflex will move backwards on the tongue as the spoon continues to be introduced. As your baby begins eating more baby foods, remember to provide lots of different flavors. After he/she is swallowing baby foods without difficulty, you can add more texture. This could include moving up to stage 2 baby foods or mashing up banana, avocado etc. This stage sometimes goes quickly, and before you know it, your baby is ready to move on to table foods!
Babies are typically ready for table foods at eight or nine months. He/she may show readiness by grabbing at the spoon and wanting to self-feed. Another sign is when they can sit unsupported, eating baby foods without losing much out of the mouth. Small, chopped pieces of cooked vegetables or soft fruits (without skins or seeds) are good first foods to try. Your baby will likely be interested in self-feeding and will enjoy picking up pieces of food from their tray. Make sure to give only a few pieces at a time. A good way to teach chewing is to provide a hard munchable—a stick shaped food that your baby cannot actually bite a piece off of. This could be a large carrot stick or a frozen bagel strip. This helps with teething and encourages the jaw to learn a chewing motion – plus it’s great sensory input. Here are some other fun tips for this exciting stage:
- Roll soft foods in crushed-up graham cracker to make them easier to pick up
- Try giving foods in different shapes after he/she shows they can mash foods up well with their gums – i.e. provide foods in stick shapes so they can try holding and biting pieces
- Try adding small amounts of different seasonings/spices, such as cinnamon
- Let them explore various dips to encourage new flavors
It’s critical to ALWAYS supervise your child during meals and snacks. If you have any concerns with your child’s ability to eat safely, please reach out for an evaluation. Things to watch for include difficulty progressing to new foods, frequent coughing/vomiting/pain during meals, and difficulty manipulating foods in the mouth. These are signs that your child might need some intervention to help with successful eating and drinking. The final tip is to be sure you provide and model eating healthy foods from the very beginning. Bon Appetit!
-Heather Hewitt, M.S., CCC-SLP, speech-language pathologist, LifeScape