Is your baby struggling to accept new textures or tastes?
Do they gag on, make disgusted faces, or spit out anything new that you offer them?
You’re not alone. A lot of babies have a tough time getting accustomed to new foods and textures.
As your baby gets older, you will be expanding his or her meal options. They’ll be learning about different tastes, temperatures, and textures through sensory exploration with their mouths. Some may take it well, but others may have a difficult time adapting to this unique experience.
Why does my baby not like textures?
Food offers a brand new sensory experience for a young baby. Since their primary means of exploration is through their mouth (and hands), they have a very discriminatory preference of what they want in there and what they don’t.
If you started your child on smooth purees, you may notice that they are having a hard time with new foods. Add to it, the fact that they probably don’t have any teeth yet, so they will have difficulty chewing and moving foods around their mouth.
It is an adjustment for them to transition from smooth, almost liquidy, foods, to balls and chunks of food. They can be nervous, confused, and upset about what is in their mouth. However, you will get through it and they will eat textures soon!
How I got my children to not be picky eaters
Following a modified Baby Led Weaning (BLW) approach to starting solids, I gave my babies their first solid foods at 6 months old. I did not start with purees, but rather chunks of easily mashable, soft foods.
There were many advantages to this, that you can read more about here, but ultimately I didn’t want to have to transition my baby to different textures of foods later on.
Once they are started on purees, it can be hard to get them to try something new. It’s also dangerous because they aren’t used to chewing and manipulating larger chunks of food so they could choke more easily.
At 6 months, babies should be able to mash up soft foods in their mouth with a little bit of texture and chunkiness. Although they don’t have teeth yet, they still have a strong jaw and a natural ability to learn quickly how to maneuver their tongue and jaw to manipulate and swallow foods.
From day one, I only offered foods that were in their original form, but cooked to soften. I never mashed, pureed, or blended to make specific baby foods. It took a few weeks before they understood and got accustomed to eating solids, but once they did, they loved it. My son’s favorite food at 6 months old was eggplant parmigiana and lasagna- a true Italian!
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I loved the idea that my babies could get such a great sensory, play, and self-feeding experience early on with Baby Led Weaning. I was able to encourage them to use their hands, get messy, try new foods, and be more independent at a young age.
Read more about the Quick and Simple First Foods to Offer Your Baby here.
Tips for getting your baby to try new textures
If you have already started purees and your baby will not tolerate eating anything with a bit of texture or chunk in it, there are some things you can try. These strategies are mainly for young babies (6-10 months old) that you want to transition from purees to textured foods.
Hopefully some of these tips will work for you and you can be on your way to feeding your child from your plate in no time! If you have a toddler, take a look at this post about Getting Your Picky Toddler to try New Foods.
This is always the #1 rule when dealing with babies and toddlers. Whether you’re trying to change a sleep pattern, toilet training, or teaching any new skill, it works. Children thrive on consistency and if you stick to a routine, your child is bound to catch on quickly.
This means: Don’t go back and forth between purees and textures. If you’re trying to get them to get used to textures, don’t offer purees just because you know they will eat it. If you want them to eat the textures, only offer the textures.
Don’t try textures for 2 days and then not give them solids for 4 days. If you’re trying to do this, stick with it and offer those foods all the time.
If you start a diet and someone is offering you potato chips and celery, you’re probably not going to pick the celery, right? So if you’re offering your baby purees still, which are more desirable to them, they are going to stick with that.
The good news is that as long as your baby is getting enough breastmilk or formula throughout the day, it’s not that critical for them to be eating solids. At this age, their primary source of nutrition comes from breastmilk or formula until they are 1 year.
Therefore, you can keep offering the textured foods and if they are not taking them, it’s ok. Don’t offer purees just because they didn’t eat a full breakfast. They will be fine as long as you are providing them with enough milk.
Offer these textured foods at every meal that they will be eating solids. The more often they are exposed to it, the faster they will understand that’s all that they have to eat.
Spice things up
Don’t be afraid to add a little flavor in your baby’s foods. The sooner their palate (sense of taste) gets used to various spices, the sooner they will start exploring new foods.
As early as 6 months old, you should be mixing in different flavors and spices. Your baby can tolerate a little bit of it and it will help them to not only like bland flavors.
Even if you’re starting on purees or have upgraded to chunkier purees, don’t be afraid to add a dash of cinnamon to their sweet potatoes, garlic powder to their peas, or black pepper to their zucchini.
Give chunks of food
Instead of offering the same bowl of purees, but just making them a little chunkier, try offering actual chunks of food. These foods should be easily mashable between your fingers so that your baby can work them around their mouth if they don’t have teeth yet.
If you’re spoon feeding chunky purees, they may get confused since they’re used to those foods being smooth. If it’s in another form (not on a smooth), they may be more tolerant of it.
Offer completely new foods
For example, if you have been giving your child pureed sweet potatoes and then decide to switch it up on them and give them chunkier sweet potatoes, they may not take to that well. They know that this is slightly different than what they were getting before.
Instead, try offering them a completely new food in that chunky form. This way, they won’t be already used to it and knowing there was a change. Both the taste and texture will be different so it may be a good experience for them.
Use your hands
When you’re giving these chunks of food, you can hand feed them. Use your hands so that you can adjust the amount and size that you give your child.
For example, with a banana, use your fingers to take a chunk off the top and offer it to your child. This way, you can mash it up as much or as little as you want as you give it to them.
Since they are used to being spoon fed, this would be a good transition to eating chunkier foods. Allow them to grab at your hand to bring it to their mouth, as well.
Give them some independence
Your baby may not have the fine motor control or finger dexterity to self-feed or finger feed themselves yet. However, practice makes perfect!
Around 7 months they should be able to use a raking grasp (whole hand) to grab larger pieces. However, you’re probably not giving them large pieces at this point. Even some smaller pieces they can pick up without the precision of a pincer grasp (using thumb and pointer to pick up tiny objects).
So place some tiny pieces of soft, mashable foods (sweet potatoes, bands, eggs, avocado, noodles, soft toast) on their tray and let them try. At this point, they may just play and they’ll probably make a mess, but let them!
Since babies love to explore new things orally, they will more than likely bring those pieces right up to their mouths! This will make them more interested in the foods they’re eating and what’s put in front of them.
Ok this may be obvious, but it works! I can typically get my daughter to eat anything once I turn on the tv, play her favorite music, sing her favorite songs, or dance like a crazy person in front of her. Once I get her distracted or laughing, she’ll eat whatever I put in front of her!
You can start your baby using utensils at 6 months. Of course, they won’t be able to use them independently, but with a little assistance, they can get the food in their mouth this way.
Grabease utensils are my absolutely favorite for this age. They are the perfect size for little hands to hold and have a choke guard so they can’t stick the utensil too far in their mouth.
Just place the food on the fork or spoon for them, place on the tray, and gently guide their hand as they grasp it and bring it to their mouth. They may find that this is a fun and entertaining way to eat.
Related Post: How to Make Mealtime Less Messy
Let them play
Mealtime is a wonderful sensory experience. They can explore these new textures with their hands, as well as their mouths.
So let them get a little messy. Spread some food out on their tray and let them play. They’re bound to bring their hands to their mouth and lick or taste what’s on them.
Don’t stay on purees too long
The longer they get used to the smooth texture of purees, the harder it will be to transition away from it. If possible, start the chunkier textures within a couple weeks of purees.
Better yet, wait until 6 months like I did, and try the Baby Led Weaning approach. This way, you can start with chunkier foods immediately.
Model chewing and eating
Chewing can be an instinctual habit for a baby to start. However, in most cases they really need to see what they’re supposed to do in order to understand it.
Make family mealtimes a ritual so your child can see you all eating together and understand the concept of eating and meal routines. At the least, just teach him how to chew.
Even though it may seem like second nature for us adults, a baby with no teeth may really have to work hard to perform the action of chewing, manipulating food, and swallowing. By giving them a model and demonstrating the task to them, they’re learning how to do it quicker.
Try table foods
It may feel nerve-wracking to start your little one with real table foods (what you’re having for dinner), but you may be surprised with how they take it. As long as you break it apart into tiny pieces if it’s their first time with chunks, they should be fine.
For example, my son wasn’t that fond of sweet potatoes and zucchini when we introduced the wedges at 6 months. Then I gave him eggplant parmigiana and lasagna (in tiny pieces at first) and he absolutely loved it.
Babies can develop a taste palate similar to ours very quickly and bland, fruits and vegetables may not be interesting enough to them. Giving them foods with spices, different flavors, and textures will help to get them intrigued by more foods.
Related Post: 19 Summer Must-Haves for Your Baby
Don’t make it a battle
You don’t want to make meal time a horrifying experience for your child so don’t fight with them over foods. Keep trying, but if they are reluctant, don’t push it.
Pediatricians will even tell you not to force food on your children. It can often lead to resistance and could backfire into a severe aversion to foods or even obesity. They will eat when they’re ready.
Always offer water
Especially if you’re introducing chunkier foods with different textures, make sure your baby is drinking water. You don’t have to give much, but it helps for them to understand that they should drink with their meals, as well as help to wash all the food down and aid in digestion.
I love these Munchkin Weighted Straw Cups as a first water cup for babies. They have easy to grasp handles for infants, a straw that moves as the cup is tilted, and they can easily suck through it.
Starting with a straw over had or soft spouted sippy cups is best for oral motor development. Read more about it here: Why Straw Cups are the Best Sippy Cups for Your Baby and How to Transition to the Sippy Cup.
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Leave a message in the comments if you have tried any of these strategies to get your baby to try new textures and they worked for you!