One of the daily struggles of new-found parenting is feeding your kids. As a mom, you not only have to ensure that your child doesn’t turn their head away at the first sight of the spoon, but you also have to ensure that the food stays in, is chewed properly and then swallowed, instead of being spit out immediately. Every experienced parent knows that Phew!! that’s quite a herculean task, to be honest!
As your baby transitions into becoming a toddler, the baby food too transitions from being just pureed mash to little bite-sized pieces, that their tiny little baby mouths can chew and digest. It is quite a delightful sight to see your child explore new tastes and textures and a very important part of this process, is teaching your child to chew their food in the right way.
What is Chewing?
Chewing or mastication is a process by which the teeth ground up food. The first step of digestion, chewing, helps in increasing the surface area of foods, that further helps in a more efficient breaking down of the food by the digestive enzymes and the subsequent absorption of nutrients by the body.
Babies, generally tend to just gulp their food down, hence cultivating a healthy chewing habit is quite necessary to cultivate a strong digestive process.
When Does Your Baby Start Chewing?
Generally, by the age of 5 months, babies begin the oral exploratory process of using their fingers and baby teeth to bite and release things. This develops even further by the age of 7-8 months, and this is when they are ready to be introduced to new foods and new textures. This is the time when the foundation of chewing food is laid down. At this age, babies start trying to manipulate the food that is put in their mouths and experience the taste and texture of new baby food recipes you make for them. As your baby’s diet progresses from soft homemade baby food to lumpier more pliable bite-sized pieces, they begin to use more tongue and cheek movements, that help in the development of chewing actions even further.
By the time they cross their first birthday, chewing foods with better coordination become easier for your baby, and is finely tuned by the time they hit the age of 2-3 years old.
Tips for Teaching Your Kids the Right Way to Chew
Learning Through Repetition
Children generally learn things through repetition, so a good way to teach your child how to chew is via repeated instructions. You can make it fun and make it a playful game by reinforcing chewing gestures every time your child takes a bite. It will take a little bit of time, for your baby to acclimatise to the transition, but it is worth it.
Starting with Soft Foods
When beginning to make a gradual addition and transition to finger food, make sure that you start with softer foods first. Foods that easily melt when your baby bites through them will help your baby learn about biting and taking food into his mouth, and how to soften and swallow it with ease.
One Step at a Time
The process of learning how to chew is a new one and your baby will take time to get accustomed to it. Hence, it is best to start one meal at a time. Begin with a baby food chart and introduce one meal in a day that requires chewing, and try it with some food that your little one generally enjoys; this would encourage them further. Fruits and cereals like rice are always a good starting point, which can gradually be followed by harder things, like vegetables and chapatis.
No matter how messy it may get, sometimes giving your child total control with the spoon, is the best idea. He might go to town with that spoon, and only manage a couple of bites in the process, however it is more than likely that he will try to hold it in by chewing and swallowing it, which is a good start.
Make it More About the Need to Eat
Feeding your baby when he’s truly hungry, is a nice strategy. If your baby is really in a mood to eat, then chances are that he will be more motivated to actually try a new activity, like chewing and biting. If you try to feed your baby when his appetite is even partially satiated, it will most likely end up in him trying to play with the food! So while you prepare a breakfast for your little angel, prop him up on his high chair and hand him little bites of food to play with, while preparing the rest of his breakfast.
Your baby’s safety should be your first priority, so make sure that you do not give him any food that might turn out to be a choking hazard. It is imperative that you do not give your child any food the size of his airway until they are at least 3 years of age. This may include foods like whole grapes, nuts, popcorn or any food that is not finely chopped up, for that matter. It is important for your child to have a playful pleasant chewing and biting experience, an event of choking might make him reluctant to try bite-sized foods again.
This tip as we all know is easier said than done. It can be absolutely frustrating when your child doesn’t seem to listen to you or refuses to eat after four bites! It is important here to not get too anxious and to celebrate every little victory (by which we literally mean every time your little bundle of joy, chews!). Motivating your child, by positive reinforcement goes a long way and will help him develop a healthy interest in food. So just keep at it and soon your baby will be gobbling down anything you hand him.
Chewing comes so naturally to us adults, that we forget it to be an actual task. Yes, babies take a little more time, so be patient and soon your little one will be a pro at it. You can scroll through our page and look at interesting baby food recipes to make your baby’s mealtime more exciting and help him learn how to chew away, with not a care in the world!
Happy Parenting until then!