What Lily Ate - Part 8

Posted by Kristin on November 30, 2016

 

The Importance of Texture

We’ve gradually been introducing more and more textures, lumps and harder foods into Lily’s little meals this past few weeks as she has now passed the eight-month mark. At this stage in their development, your little one should be moving on from soft, smooth pureed foods to eating a wider variety of pureed, mashed, grated or finely chopped foods. They should have discovered how to move their food from the front to the back of their little mouths, so now it is time for them to learn to chew through foods.

Although Lily has cut a few little teeth, you don’t actually need to wait for any teeth to appear before introducing more texture and lumps into your baby’s diet. It is quite amazing what those little gums can get through!

Learning to chew is a crucial skill in your baby’s growth and is an important factor in the development of speech and facial muscles. Failing to offer soft but textured foods such as minced meats and lumpier fruits and vegetables can see children develop a strong preference for their foods to be extremely soft. This will limit the range of foods they will consume and thus impact their nutritional intake. A common example of this is where small children will only eat very soft foods such as yogurts, pasta and fruit limiting their dietary intake to carbohydrate-rich, sweet foods at the expense of nutrient-rich, savoury foods such as vegetables, meat and proteins. When small children fail to progress with textures it can become harder and harder to introduce different foods later on in childhood, increasing the risk of having the dreaded fussy eater in your midst.

Until they are about 4-6 months old, babies have a reflex (in addition to the gag reflex) that causes them to thrust their tongue forward whenever the back of their throat is stimulated and this reflex can make early solid feeds challenging. Pushing out the first spoonful’s of puree with their tongue is quite normal. Initially, they might spit out bigger lumps and chunks of food but with time and practice, they will eventually learn to control this and chew.

Like any new food introduction, you baby might reject the food change initially – however over time these harder, lumpier foods will become familiar and accepted. Remember it can take 8-10 tries before your little one learns to love a new food, so don’t give up!

You don’t have to stop giving your baby purees when it is time to move onto more textures but they do tend to prefer a lumpier texture overall, rather than a smooth puree with occasional surprise lumps. Try moving on from smooth baby rice or cereals to regular porridge oats for breakfast time, Lily’s favourite breakfast right now is my apple and blueberry porridge (see recipe below). For lunch or dinner, try more textured purees by adding plenty of finely chopped foods including tender, cooked vegetables, cooked white rice or small pasta shapes. My Heavenly Tomato Pasta recipe has been a go to for all my little ones and Lily is no different.

 

Heavenly Apple and Blueberry Porridge

Ingredients:

3 apples

1 cup blueberries (can be fresh or frozen)

1 cup of porridge Oats

Directions:

1.       Peel and core the apples and chop into small chunks.  Wash the blueberries.

2.       Place the apples and blueberries into a saucepan and add 1 cup water.  Simmer on low heat for a few minutes until the apple is tender, and the blueberries have burst open.

3.       Cook the oats separately by placing 2 cups water into a saucepan and adding the oats.  Gently heat through, whilst stirring occasionally, until the oats are bubbling, and are slightly creamy.  Allow the porridge to cool.

4.       Add the porridge, apples and blueberries to a blender and puree until smooth.  Add some of the cooking water from the blueberries and apples if needed. 

5.       Portion into small portions and freeze.

 

Heavenly Baby Tomato Pasta

Ingredients:

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon tomato puree

¼ onion chopped

¼ orange pepper deseeded and chopped

1 teaspoon mixed herbs

1 spoonful of olive oil

1/2 cup baby pasta

Directions:

1.       Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions, garlic, peppers and tomato puree.  Stir on a gentle heat for a few minutes until the onions are softened.

2.       Add the tin of tomatoes and turn up the heat a little until the tomatoes are bubbling.

3.       Reduce the heat and simmer for around 10 -15 minutes allowing the flavours to infuse.

4.       Add the pasta to a saucepan of boiling water and boil for around 5-10 minutes or until tender.

5.       Once the sauce has cooked, puree to a smooth consistency.

6.       Drain the pasta and stir the sauce through the pasta.

7.       Allow to cool and serve.  Freeze the remainder into individual portions.

This sauce is fab for using for older kids too – you can also sneak in lots more pureed veggies such as spinach, carrots or mushrooms for a picky eater! Or you could use it as a base for chicken or minced beef dishes.

 

Choking

When it comes to moving onto lumpier purees and solid foods, a common concern expressed by parents is the fear of their baby choking. While you might be terrified that your baby will choke if you offer food containing lumps and chunks that require chewing, they do need to be added to your baby’s diet for normal development. The likelihood of babies choking is actually quite slim due to the sensitivity of their gag reflex. This reflex is a lifelong automatic response that helps prevent choking and helps babies with the transition from milk to solid foods during infancy.  

As long as the foods you offer your baby breakdown in their mouth, you shouldn’t have many issues with choking. Naturally hard or small pieces of foods such as whole nuts, popcorn, hard vegetables like raw carrots and whole grapes should be avoided until babies are older. Basically, anything that could get lodged in their little throats should be avoided. The age old most important piece of advice to avoid choking is to make sure your baby is in an upright position and never, ever leave them unattended while they are eating.

 

Tips to help your baby tolerate textured food:

  1. Add texture to their food, but avoid surprise lumps
  2. Brush their teeth and gums regularly, which will help to make the gag reflex less sensitive
  3. Try independent eating or baby-led weaning. Research suggests that children with a sensitive gag reflex often do much better if they can feed themselves
  4. If they aren’t ready to tolerate lumpy or textured purees, try solids that dissolve easily, such as:

Melt in the mouth foods:

  • Banana
  • Avocado
  • Pear
  • Steamed carrots, parsnips or sweet potato sticks
  • Steamed broccoli or cauliflower florets

Bite and dissolve in the mouth foods:

  • Fingers of toast
  • Cooked pasta shapes
  • Hardboiled egg yolk, cut into quarters
  • Heavenly Wafer Wisps

Bite and chew foods:

  • Sugar snap peas
  • Sliced apple
  • Peeled, halved grapes
  • Sticks of hard cheese
  • Sticks of raw peppers
  • Cooked sweet potato wedges
  • Mini minced meatballs
  • Strips of lean meat, chicken or fish (always watch out for bones!) 

These are all nutrient-rich foods that little ones will benefit from eating on a regular basis, both from a nutritional and developmental perspective.

It’s important to remember of course, that every baby is different and develops at a different rate than the next one, so you may have to wait a little longer if your baby is finding extra lumps and textures too difficult to manage. Always speak to your GP or health visitor if you are concerned. Has your baby struggled with textures? How did you help them overcome this?

Shauna.x.