Smooth purees… now what?

Finally!  Back to feeding!!!

We’ve chatted about when to introduce foods, how to introduce it, and what  your first food options are.

What next? 

Your baby is eating many smooth purees by now.  Parents can be so relieved that their baby accepts a variety of tastes that they forget about introducing different textures.  All of the sudden there is a panic to move onto lumpy and table foods.  The baby is abruptly presented with a full meal of a brand new texture.  Gone is the smooth applesauce that he loved and in its place is some unknown lumpy mound of cooked apples, seemingly a totally different food.  Back to the scary zone for a lot of babies.

A 10/11 month old that only accepts fine purees and discerns the smallest piece of grit is very challenging.  We want to prevent this from happening.  The goal:  think about moving away from smooth purees as soon as you have a variety of accepted tastes.  It’s a progression that is easiest when you move at the speed your baby sets.  Some babies are much more sensitive to texture changes and need small changes with added time to adjust. Other babies can go from smooth puree to lumpy to table foods in quick succession.

I’d like for you to have tools to prevent challenges in the first place, or at least from minimize how big the challenges become.  Please keep in mind that these strategies are not  meant to be “therapy” for your child if he has been identified to have feeding challenges.   Make sure you see your physician or feeding therapist for assessment and individualized recommendations if you are concerned.

Always, always be working on increasing texture.  Don’t expect your baby to instantaneously accept the majority of a  meal in a new consistency (although I hear that these wonder babies do exist!).   Babies don’t have the luxury of knowing what food is coming at them based on visual recognition.  They don’t have enough experience for that.  The same applesauce of a different consistency seems like a brand new food.  As adults, the sight of applesauce allows us to predict the taste, even when it is a different consistency.  To your baby, it is just like being fed blindfolded.  Everything is a surprise.

At most meals you want to be offering at least one bite that is a new/more challenging consistency.  You’ll need to adjust your jumps in consistency based on your baby’s reactions. You don’t need to do every step listed below.  Pick and choose what works for you.

First, you want to increase the thickness of a familiar food.  You can even present a few thickness options of the same food, at the same meal.   Start by offering the familiar thin consistency, then offer a bite of the slightly thicker version.  Head back to the familiar thinner puree if the thicker one was more difficult for your child.  If not, offer a bite that is just a little thicker.  This seems like a lot of work but really you are only preparing a few tastes of the thicker consistency.  I’ll post some photos of how I do it soon.  You can increase the thickness of a food by adding baby cereal, wheat germ, tofu, greek yogurt, or ground oats.  Please let me know if you have a food that you’ve used to thicken.  I love discovering new things.

Once thicker purees are going well, try adding some lumps that will dissolve in your baby’s mouth.  Things like crushed up Mum Mums, crushed up rice puffs, crushed Farley’s biscuits will all dissolve in about 5 seconds in your baby’s mouth.  This provides an opportunity to feel a “lumpier” texture that changes to a more familiar consistency quickly.

Next move to soft lumps.  Think very mashed banana, mashed avocado, mashed very ripe pear, or anything else very soft and mash-able.  This can also be presented gradually.  When you are mashing the banana, take a spoonful out when you’ve just begun mashing, then continue mashing the majority of the volume until it is just a little lumpy. Offer both consistencies at the same meal.

Finally,  move to small, soft cubes/pieces (small cubes of ripe banana, pear).  You can introduce these just after the lumpy version or in tandem.  Move back and forth between a small piece of banana and the lumpy version within the same meal (if tolerated).  If a small piece of banana is spit out right away, try squishing the cube to soften it up a little bit.

I’ll post some food ideas within each categories soon… plus another tool to help develop tongue skills while you are working through the progression.

Until then!

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