Parents often receive little instruction about “when and how to introduce foods and liquids” to their babies. They mostly rely on their pediatricians who give them the best information they have during “well baby” visits. Then parents turn to family and friends who themselves have limited knowledge and experience. Baby food manufacturers also place minimal guidelines on their products, if any. Feeding specialists have the best information, but you don’t get to see them unless your child has a problem.
Today, we are giving babies foods later than we did in generations past. This practice gives babies’ mouths and digestive systems time to mature. We now introduce food and additional liquid between four and six months, depending upon the pediatrician’s recommendations. With this change in timing, parents often don’t know when their babies’ mouths are ready to handle increasing food textures. This can lead to pureed baby foods being fed for extended periods of time and children who reject food textures when they are finally introduced. Then you may need a feeding specialist.
My goal is to help you know when and how to introduce foods and liquids and encourage your child’s best possible feeding and mouth development. I want to help you be a proactive parent and avoid feeding problems. By following the guidelines in this article and my parent book, you may avoid food allergies/sensitivities, “picky eating,” childhood obesity, and unnecessary orthodontic treatment.
The Secrets Feeding Specialists Know
So, here are some of the secrets feeding specialists know based on developmental research:
Introduce one new food at a time to your baby and wait 3 to 4 days before introducing another new food. Watch for reactions such as wheezing, sneezing, coughing, stomach pain, reflux, belching, diarrhea, or rash which may indicate sensitivity to the new food.
Don’t introduce wheat, eggs, yogurt, whole milk, or raw honey until 12 months to be on the safe side. Some common food allergies/sensitivities are dairy, egg whites, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. Check with your pediatrician regarding when to introduce these and other foods.
Do not expect your baby to like new food tastes or textures when you first introduce them. It takes humans 10 to 15 opportunities or exposures to accommodate to a new food/liquid taste or texture. You probably didn’t like certain foods or liquids the first time you tasted them.
If your baby continues to reject a food, see if he or she likes the smell of the food. You are not likely to eat a food if you can’t tolerate its smell. You may need to expose your baby to the smell of a food before asking him or her to taste it.
When introducing foods to your baby, don’t make negative comments or faces. Babies understand more than you think. Instead, tell your baby how “yummy” a food is (if it tastes good). Taste the food or liquid yourself. You and your baby may prefer homemade baby food instead of prepared baby food found in grocery stores. All you need is a blender or food processor to make your own baby food.
Be a good role model, and eat something (e.g., a snack or meal) with your baby. Children are great imitators and learn by seeing others do activities.
Give your child a good variety of foods, so he or she does not get “stuck” in eating the same foods over and over (which may lead to “picky eating”).
What to Expect from 4 to 12 Months
This chart summarizes what you can expect during the 4 to 12 month period when introducing foods and liquids. It is a time period when many parents feel they are guessing about what to feed their child.
|Age||Mouth Development||Feeding Development||Foods and Liquids|
|4 to 6 Months||Jaw, lips, and tongue grow and begin learning to move on their own||Spoon and open cup introduced, jaw and lips close on the utensil||Non-wheat baby cereal, pureed fruits and vegetables, breast milk or formula*|
|6 to 9 Months||Teeth coming in, child frequently mouths and bites/chews on toys instead of using pacifier||Child’s lips clear the spoon, tongue moves toward food on gums, jaw moves in chewing motion, may introduce bite-sized pieces of food in safe feeder, straw-cup introduced||Mashed/chopped soft cooked foods, soft cheese, water, very diluted fruit and vegetable juices, breast milk or formula *|
|9 to 12 Months||Bottom first molars come in, significant jaw development occurs with biting and chewing on foods and toys||Soft cookie held with gums/teeth (broken off with hand); chewing movements match shape and size of food; tongue moves food from center to side of mouth; lips are active on spoon, cup, and straw||Soft, cut-up cooked and raw foods, cooked fruit and vegetable strips, soft chopped meats, casseroles, water, very diluted fruit and vegetable juices, breast milk or formula *|
*Remember to avoid foods that tend to result in childhood allergies or sensitivities.
Birth to 24 months is the critical learning period for feeding development. By 24 months your child should be eating and drinking as you do. The book Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) That! Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development (Bahr, 2010) contains detailed charts and easy-to-use techniques for your child’s best feeding, speech, and mouth development.
Bahr, D. (2010). Nobody ever told me (or my mother) that! Everything from bottles and breathing to healthy speech development. Arlington, TX: Sensory World.
About the Author:
Diane Bahr, MS, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist, feeding therapist, publisher author, international speaker, business owner, mother, and grandmother. She is the author of Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) That! Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development. Her website (www.agesandstages.net) contains many free and informative resources for parents and professionals on the topics of feeding, motor speech, mouth function, and related areas.
This article was originally published on Diane Bahr’s website in June of 2013. She has given her permission for the reprinting of this article in our Pediatric Feeding News. Here is the original link to the article: http://www.agesandstages.net/blog.php?id=13
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