Monday, October 29, 2012

Transitioning Your Baby to Table Foods - Part 2

There is a lot to say on this topic, so it's been broken down into two different posts. You can access part 1 of this article here.

After your baby has had some practice eating, try giving them so crunch but meltable foods (such as puffs or Townhouse crackers) with every meal. Encourage your baby to eat these foods on her own, but feel free to provide assistance when necessary. If they are managing these foods well, move them on to softer foods that require more chewing. You can tell when your baby is handling these foods well when there is little or no coughing, choking, or gagging, and they can swallow easily (no hard gulps). This should go on consistently for at least a week or two.
Some examples of softer foods to move on with (in increasing order of difficulty) are avocado, bananas, scrambled eggs, boiled potatoes, muffins, pasta, deli meat, and cheese.

At this point, you can also try pairing crackers and other crunchy foods with various spreads (jelly, hummus, cream cheese, etc.) in order provide your child with more exposure to different textures and types of table food. Spread it right on the cracker in front of them or show them how to dip it into a glob on their tray. Start giving them these foods first at a meal and let them eat as much as they want to. If you feel like they haven't eaten enough, you can supplement the table food with some baby food. Slowly keep presenting more table foods and offering less baby food. Eventually, they will eat enough of the table food that you no longer need to supplement it with baby food. Once you reach this point, it is okay to dip back into baby foods for an occasional meal, but you need to make the leap into letting go of the security that baby food offers. Keep trying lots of different table foods.
As they eat softer foods and spreads well, you can begin to (slowly) experiment with mixed textures, like soups and casseroles. Again, keep this slow. Start off with something like mac and cheese, then move on to spaghetti and meatballs, and then to chicken noodle soup. They progressively have more changes in consistency within a bite of food. You can give your baby a couple pieces of these foods on his tray, but you will probably be feeding him mostly by spoon.

Helpful Tips:

  • The best way to present most of these foods is in a small cube shape. This gives your baby more control and lets her pick up her food and control the size of bites she is eating. It is normal for babies to choke some when learning to eat more solid foods, but we can minimize the risk by giving them smaller pieces until they are ready to handle larger ones.
  • Puffs have almost no calories. They are great for when you start on table foods, but they don't offer enough to fill their little tummies when you pull further way from baby food.
  • Do not forget -- this is a transition. Moving your child to table foods is a process, and often a challenging one. It will often mean taking a few steps forward and then one step back, and will most likely be very time-consuming. Don't expect your baby to grasp the concept overnight.
  • Be careful of foods that present a greater choking hazard than normal. These include hot dogs, grapes, marshmallows, large dollops of nut butters (like peanut butter), nuts, lettuce, popcorn, and hard candies. Hot dogs, grapes, and marshmallows can all be cut into smaller pieces. Spread nut butters thinly on foods. Anything larger than a pea can get lodged in your baby's airway.

If You Are Having Difficult Making This Transition
Some children have a harder time moving on to table foods. They may have been pros at baby food but turn their noses up at table foods and refuse many (or all!) of them. This is often related to sensory defensiveness and/or difficulty chewing. If sensory defensiveness is the issue, allow them to play with their food. Encourage it. This will help break this reticence down. Take the pressure off of eating and make a game out of those bananas that they refuse to eat or even touch.
Finally, remember that your baby watches you closely and will want to imitate what you do. Show her how to chew by leaving your mouth open and letting her see. Be positive about the foods she tries, even if she refuses them or spits them out. Keep presenting it over and over, at least 12 times. We all have food preferences, but even for adults, it takes at least 10 to 12 times to know if we truly do or do not like a food!

If you continue to struggle with moving forward with this transition, beyond a reasonable degree, consider consulting an expert.

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