Your Weaning Adventure: Is It Time For Lumpy & Chunky Food?
If you have mastered the introduction of solids, where your primary goal was to get your baby through the transition from liquids to solids; now is the time to concentrate on chewing and swallowing different tastes and textures.
At the beginning of your weaning journey (6 months), most children only dabble in solid foods; but you can gradually broaden their choices: Just remember to introduce 1 new ingredient at a time, and wait a few days before trying anything else new, to ensure that baby is digesting it properly.
Doing it for themselves
From seven months on, your baby might begin to pick up pieces of food with their thumb and forefinger (known as the 'pincer movement'.) Around this time, many babies develop a fascination with tiny objects, and how to get them into their mouth. So while it's time to make extra sure that there's nothing around the house they could swallow; you can get much more creative with what they are eating!
'Introduce 1 new ingredient at a time, and wait a few days before trying anything else new.'
From this age on, babies also tend to exhibit an independent streak, and will want to do it all themselves. While this will inevitably end up with lots of food on the floor, the high chair, and probably you (!) This is a good thing, and you should foster your child’s independence.
Between seven and nine months is the right time to start introducing lumpy food and texture to your baby’s diet, because chewing helps to develop the muscles your child needs for speech.
Once your baby is eight months, you can start to slowly introduce finger foods. Pieces of banana or toast are great starters. Not only is eating finger food great fun for your baby, it’s a hugely important step towards developing excellent motor skills and co-ordination.
You’ll know when your baby is ready to try finger food because they will be grabbing the spoon you’re feeding them with or taking food from your plate. This stage of feeding can get messy, but don’t be too vigilant with the clean up – allow your baby to get dirty and enjoy this exciting experience.
Make it tempting
This second stage of weaning is an exciting time for both parent and child, but can also be a time when babies who have been great eaters, might become more difficult to feed. Appeal to your little one’s senses by making food which will look, as well as taste, great! Pop their food in coloured bowls, use baby spoons which are easy to hold, and use their favourite bibs at mealtimes.
Chewing helps to develop the muscles your child needs for speech.
Bear in mind that your baby is learning all the time – about texture, colour, taste and smell; so don’t stick to the same ‘safe’ foods every day. Try to see food through a baby's eyes: Crusty bread, smushy scrambled egg, the pop of biting into a cherry tomato, and the colour of broccoli and watermelon ... the possibilities are endless!
Where to start
To begin, arrange four or five pieces of finger food onto your baby’s high chair tray or a plastic plate. You can add more pieces as your baby eats them. Feeding your baby in a high chair, rather than a car seat or the buggy, is much safer and will massively reduce the risk of choking, as well as teach your baby that the high chair is the best place to eat.
While your baby may be hungry, there probably aren’t teeth peeping through yet, so start with foods that can be mashed against the gum and will dissolve easily in the mouth (rice cakes are ideal for this stage). As your baby grows, so too will their ability to eat everything you’re eating.
- Resist the temptation to feed your baby lots of convenient foods: 'Healthy’ foods often hide large amounts of sugar and salt, so always check the label.
- Embrace the chaos: Yes, it will be messy. But it's a learning curve for your little one. Just make sure the high chair is on a wipeable surface, and stock up on cleaning products!
- Be aware of choking hazards: Start with softer foods until teeth develop; and cut items like grapes in half. Serve items in spears that can be held onto; and make sure your item is chewing and swallowing one piece at a time. Never leave them unattended. In case the worst happens, read this.
- Don't force it: One of the vital things about learning to feed themselves, is that babies learn to recognise when they are full (which happens less with spoon feeding.) And if they don't like a particular ingredient, you can always reintroduce it in a few weeks: Their tastes are still developing, so maybe they're just not ready for that one quite yet.
- Be adventurous: You wouldn't want to eat the same 1 ingredient for every meal, would you? So though it might be tempting to stick with something they like; keep introducing new options.
This article has kindly been sponsored by Meaghers Pharmacy.
Visit Meaghers.ie or call in store, to stock up on baby essentials, and browse a wide range of baby products.
And while you're there, why not treat yourself to a well deserved ‘from me to me’ present? You may be getting messy, but that doesn't mean you can't look great.