Is your baby still eating puree?
Something I have noticed in my every day practice, is that a lot of parents continue to feed their babies pureed food, long after they need to. It’s a tricky time, because we start our babies on solids around 6 months and progress with offering a range of vegies and fruit, and it is easy to get into the routine of making food in bulk and filling up the freezer! Also, you may not be visiting your Maternal and Child Health Nurse until baby is 8 months, so you coast along doing the same thing.
Puree is ideal for introducing food to babies, particularly if you are a first time parent and a little anxious. However, it’s easy to get caught up in offering a range of foods and forgetting about the texture. Most babies progress quite quickly with eating, so we need to keep pace with them and give them the opportunity to learn new skills. I used to work with a great MCH Nurse who said that babies have a window of opportunity when it comes to solids, and if you wait too long, the window can shut. That doesn’t mean that they stop eating, but from around 8 months they can become very stuck in their way and not be so open to trying new things, like lumps and texture in their food.
All nurses and early childhood professionals can tell you stories about 2 year olds that won’t eat anything but “white food”, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, milk (usually in bottles), because it’s easy to chew and swallow. To avoid this scenario, it’s important to offer your baby opportunities to swallow lumps and texture and to get the tongue and jaw moving to strengthen the muscles.
A lot of parents worry about the gag reflex, which is quite scary when you see your child doing this. Try to remain calm when this happens, as your baby will look to you for a response. If you look terrified, how do you think they are feeling? Offer reassurance, support and a drink of water to help, and always lots of praise for what a fantastic job they are doing. The more they manage, the better and more confident they get at eating.
So how do you help your baby to progress?
After offering smooth, pureed food and eating is established (usually a couple of weeks), start fork mashing the food so that it has a bit of texture. You can also introduce food like chunks of steamed broccoli, cauliflower or pumpkin for baby to hold and to mouth, so that they begin to explore different tastes and textures independently.
Once you have introduced vegies and some fruit, try shredding some chicken, minced meat or fish and add to the veggies as well. It’s really important that babies are having more iron and protein in their diet now, as they won’t be getting enough from milk alone.
From 8 months finger foods can be offered and encouraged. Pieces of toast with peanut butter, chunks of avocado, Cruskits, cheese, boiled eggs, pieces of pasta. The Australian Government Department of Health Guidelines recommend that food be offered mashed or in chunks from this age, so give your baby the opportunity to progress.
The amount and type of food your baby is eating may also correlate with your baby’s sleep, especially when they are older. If you have a 9 month old who is still eating pureed vegies and waking multiple times overnight for a milk feed, think about bulking up their evening meal with chicken (protein makes you feel fuller, longer) and pasta or rice.
Always remember, if you are stressed or anxious at meal times, your children will pick up on it.
MAKE FOOD FUN FOR KIDS!!
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