Babies get big without realizing it and the first few months pass faster than we would like as parents. Every little step that they make in their development makes us a tremendous illusion but also generates doubts and concern.
In the case of food, it is a subject that generates many uncertainties. We dads do not know when is the best time to introduce the whole food and stop crushing all the food when you start with complementary food.
Not only do we have to take into account the introduction of each food as our pediatrician indicates, but also the textures of the same, passing from the puree to the pieces as soon as possible and the baby does not run any risk.
Whole food for your baby, are you ready?
Each baby has a rhythm in the development and therefore there is no exact date to start giving food in pieces without crushing everything you eat.
Pediatricians often recommend the introduction of complementary feeding after six months in purees but between 7 and 9 start to give some pieces to promote chewing and speech development. However, not in all cases we can do it since it depends a lot on each child and their abilities at that age.
The fine motor, which allows them to take smaller things with their fingers, is developed over 9 months and that’s when we should observe if the baby shows interest in trying new flavors and textures and try to take our food to our mouth when we see it on the plate.
In case you have enough skill to do it, as long as it is not too hard or inappropriate for your age, it is best to let him try and monitor him.
Some pediatricians consider that the fact of having such strict guidelines on the introduction of food, makes the parents to keep the indications to the letter and provoke in the babies rejection in the future towards those foods for which they were interested before and we prohibited them to eat.
Regarding the introduction of the pieces, there are different positions of the professionals in this regard:
- Those who think that you should not introduce whole foods to babies until they have teeth to chew and even full teeth, which does not happen until about 2 years.
- Pediatricians who consider it a bad habit to switch from liquid to creamy before introducing the food into pieces. That is, they believe that purees should be avoided because they can cause problems in the future when accepting food without crushing.
- An intermediate position, that defends the flexibility according to the case and a gradual process of change that does not lengthen too much but neither goes forward without necessity.
It is advisable to adopt that position with which you are going to be safe and do not generate excessive anxiety or worry every time at lunchtime.
Babies are curious by nature and most acquire the habit of putting everything in their mouths, even less secure objects than food, from a very early age.
Some children choke easily even with liquid foods or with purees and others, even without teeth they manage very well to undo the food they put in their mouths. How is your baby? You will have to observe its behavior that will be the one that better indicates to you if it is or not ready to introduce pieces in its meals.
In general, you can start to give the food in pieces when:
- Have at least 6 months and do not exclusively feed on milk
- Be able to keep your head and back up, even with support, in a highchair or chair.
- You can catch food with your hands
- He is interested in trying new textures and flavors
- Do not choke easily with purees
Safe food to introduce whole food
There are mothers who are applying the method of Baby Led Weaning , which consists in leaving the baby who decides when and how to eat, passing from the breast to the pieces, without resorting to mashed or crushed food.
Some pediatricians support this technique that involves the use of the hands of the baby before the spoon to favor their autonomy and accustom them to the textures that sooner or later they will have to try.
However, the security and the fear that they get choked makes many parents do not dare and even some professionals do not advise it. What is clear is that the introduction of the whole food should be done little by little and there are some safe foods that you can start with.
You can cook or boil the vegetables you use for the purées such as potatoes, zucchini, pumpkin, carrot … and before passing them through the blender put pieces on a plate so that the baby can take them with their fingers and bring them to their mouths.
Being soft and be flavors to those who are already accustomed there is no risk of allergies or choking as they will unravel on the palate and end up grinding with gums.
Once you have introduced gluten, you can try bread, which is one of the first foods for which babies tend to show interest. Although at first it is difficult to swallow, it is perfect for him to suck and grab with his hands.
Yes, watch him and try to give him big pieces that he can take but that do not fit whole in his mouth.
The color of the fruit usually gets quite attention and also they are also accustomed to its taste if you have already introduced their fruit purees. Ideally to get used to the pieces is to prepare thin slices of apple or pieces of pear and banana, so you can grab them and take them to the mouth.
Keep in mind the recommendations of your pediatrician at the time of introducing each fruit according to their age because some can cause allergies if they occur ahead of time.
When you can eat cheese, about 12 months, you can give it pieces of a soft one or even creamy cheeses that you like and do not pose a danger of drowning.
You can accompany pieces of white fish with some vegetables such as carrots or peas so that the dish catches your attention and encourages you to try.
The cookies just like the bread you will have to introduce them when you can eat gluten-free foods. Although there are cookies for babies that do not carry gluten and fall apart easily. They are also perfect size for their little fingers and tend to love them for their sweet taste.
Ways to enter the appropriate pieces and sizes
In addition to the previous recommendations regarding each food, there are some methods of introducing the pieces if you do not feel safe to do so directly.
- Plastic net for food: It is a network where the food that is hooked to a handle is inserted so that the baby can grab it. Some moms use it and it is useful to familiarize them with new flavors but the texture is not really the same since the plastic of the network distorts it.
- Crush the food. Instead of crushing them to the maximum, it might be enough to crush them a bit to start with something in between, but it’s a matter of taste.
- Trips. Another option between the purees and the pieces is to crush the food leaving some stumbles. However, many babies reject it because they do not like the “surprise” of finding a piece when they are swallowing. It happens a lot with yogurts with pieces that do not like them either.
- Pieces of food without crushing. Babies usually prefer this option to the previous one because it allows them to pick it up more easily and put them in their mouths. That favors chewing and its autonomy.
Regarding the size of the pieces, sometimes it is better to give them bigger and smaller ones, depending on the product. For hard foods, it is preferable that they are large pieces that do not fit in the mouth of the baby and that is limited to suck them and in the soft, it will be better small pieces that can handle and grind better.
Consequences of lengthening liquids more than necessary
As we say, there are firm defenders of the Baby Led Weaning method, which goes from breastfeeding or artificial to the whole meal skipping.
The pediatrician Jesus Garrido, of My Online Pediatrician, advises to introduce simultaneously the crushed food without crushing and points out a series of consequences that can have the fact of lengthening more than necessary:
- Distortion of the child’s relationship with food. If we avoid giving whole fruit and vegetables to babies, they are likely to reject it in adulthood and with this we will be favoring a poor diet that can lead to problems of overweight, cholesterol or constipation.
- The lack of habit when chewing could prevent the growth of the jaw enough to create space for the final teeth. If we do not allow room for all the teeth, it is likely that we will have to resort to orthodontics when it is older.
- When chewing babies, they favor language and pronunciation when they begin to articulate the first words, which in some occurs before and in others afterwards. As with a pacifier, not chewing can delay speech.
- The time of the parents or caregivers at the time of preparing the food can also be an inconvenience if it is not customary to eat with the same texture as the adults. There comes a time, that the best thing is that you all eat the same thing without the child needing to pass everything through the blender.
- Eating out could be a problem. Going on vacation or eating out if your baby does not eat more than purees is complicated. You will have to always carry a pure in a thermos or backpack or buy small pots instead of being able to order a children’s menu in any restaurant.
And if he does not want to, how do I motivate him to eat whole?
Some children show no interest in eating in pieces and reject any food that is given to the desperation of parents. In these cases, and as long as they accept the purees, it is preferable to continue with them, since the important thing is that they eat well, regardless of the texture of the food.
In addition, the purés and creams will also have to continue taking them because the adults also eat them and it is good that they get accustomed to different formats and textures of foods, so it is not necessary to remove them completely but to alternate.
There are some tips to motivate you and encourage you to eat:
- Leave within your reach pieces of food, without forcing you, to call your attention for their colors, shapes … They must be food that you can tolerate and soft enough or of adequate size so you do not choke
- Forget the cutlery for now and let it experiment with your hands even if it gets dirty
- Do not force him to eat if he does not want to, let him decide and remove the dish if he rejects it
- Eat all at once. The fact that you see the parents or siblings eat, may encourage you to try the pieces that you have on your plate
- Try it at meal times you may be hungrier so that your appetite drives you to try
If you still refuse to try the whole meal, be patient because there will come a time when you try and like it. If you get nervous and force him you will not get anything but a rejection. The important thing is that the baby is fed in a varied and balanced way.