Helping Your Baby Learn to Chew
The transition from purees to table food can be very scary... for parents. Even when babies are ready, developmentally and physiologically, well-intentioned parents sometimes hesitate and find themselves unprepared for the pending shift in mealtime control. Here are some tips to help ease you and baby into this next phase of life!
Long before you introduce table foods, make sure your baby is part of mealtime and feeding herself purees with utensils, fingers, or tools such as the ZoLi Chubby Gummy Gum Massager. (Allowing your baby to practice self-feeding can also help with gagging!)
Try using a "safety net", such as the Kidsme Food Feeder (small size), to ensure that nothing will enter your baby's mouth that you will feel you need to jump in to retrieve with a finger swipe. Place fresh fruits, steamed veggies, or any other foods from your plate in the Feeder and let your baby go to town while she watches you model biting and chewing. This is also a great way to include your baby in family meals and can be done in the earlier months after you have finished helping her eat purees.
Offer dissolvable solids such as Gerber Puffs, Baby Mum Mum crackers, or plain old graham crackers. Place pieces inside your baby's cheek to encourage chewing (think Puffs or a small corner of a graham cracker). Also, encourage her to hold bigger pieces such as the Baby Mum Mum cracker or 1/4 graham cracker and mouth it at her own pace. Supervise closely, but remember gagging is common as children learn to move food around their mouths. If she looks at you for reassurance when this happens, remind her to "chew, chew" and model the same mouth movements with food. The last thing you want to do is teach your baby that food is scary by pulling her out of the high chair the minute she coughs or gags! If she can't work through it or you have concerns that she may not be safe, obviously use your best judgment and intervene.
Encourage the use of dips and dippers! Crackers and cream cheese, Veggie Stix and hummus... think of foods you typically eat and adapt them for your baby. As your baby eats the yummy puree from the dipper, it will likely begin dissolving and small pieces will break off, combining with the puree for an easily managed bite of food.
Try offering crumbs - I typically use graham cracker crumbs or Ritz cracker crumbs. You can use the ZoLi massager again to dip in a favorite puree and then coat with crumbs. Encourage your baby to place the teether on the side gums and this will elicit chewing. It is also less likely that she will gag with this type of placement.