Between 6-9 months of age is a good time to start really mixing things up with the variety of textures you are offering at your baby’s mealtimes. You want them to develop the skills needed to eat a wide and varied diet, similar to the rest of the family. This involves a gradual transition from just purees to foods that have a mashed texture with some soft lumps, moving onto minced foods with bigger soft lumps, to chopped foods with a more solid texture.
Research has shown that babies who aren’t given lumpy solid foods until after 9 months of age are more likely to be difficult, picky eaters. These problems are still evident at 15 months and even at 7 years of age. It appears that there is a critical period in the second half of infancy during which babies more readily accept new tastes and textures and consequently it is important that babies are encouraged to eat more challenging textures during this period (SACN 2018).
Some babies find the move from smooth weaning foods with no lumps to the lumpier foods quite difficult, but it is worth persevering. If you’re preparing your own baby foods, then you should adjust the consistency according to what your baby can cope with, aiming for more and more lumps and a coarser texture as you go. Start by introducing soft lumps at first by mashing soft fruits, cooked vegetables or cooked pasta, perhaps with some mashed fish or pureed meat.
If you are using commercial baby foods, offer foods that are specially designed for this next stage of feeding, labelled as suitable for 7 months plus. Don’t be surprised if your baby spits out lumps to begin with, or if lumps get coughed back for more chewing – this is normal. If your baby is finding the change from smooth baby foods to lumpier foods difficult, why not try mixing smooth food with some lumpier food in the same bowl (choosing similar or complementary flavours), gradually increasing the amount of the lumpier food as baby gets used to chewing. Alternatively, you may want to try mashing the 7 month plus food with a fork slightly before you feed it to your baby, and then gradually mash it less and less.
It really helps if your baby can see, touch, play with and explore the foods you are offering, which is why ‘finger foods’ are good to introduce at this stage – there are lots of different foods you can try, such as cooked vegetable sticks, strips of ripe melon, avocado, banana, cooked pasta pieces or soft toast crusts. These help baby to learn to feed themselves, develop hand-eye coordination and learn to bite off, chew and swallow small pieces of soft food.
But remember, it’s important that you stay with your baby at all times to make sure they are swallowing the food safely. Avoid giving hard foods and lumps such as uncooked apple and carrot, or small round foods such as grapes and cherry tomatoes, as these are a choking hazard. Make sure these are chopped up into smaller pieces and peel the skins from fruits and vegetables before giving them to your baby. I hope you enjoy this next stage in your weaning journey!