Like walking and talking, practice makes perfect with chewing their food. It will also help if you eat with them since they learn by watching and observing. Sit down with your baby for a meal and watch them closely, especially if they tend to stuff too much food in their tiny mouth when they eat. Most babies instinctively learn to chew, but not all babies do that. The good thing is that you can easily teach them how to.
One of the most exciting parts of early parenting is when your baby starts on solid foods.
You carefully prepare the meal and make sure that it looks appealing enough for your baby to be interested in eating them, only to discover that they don’t chew the food they stuff into their mouth.
When should a baby start to chew?
Babies usually start to grab and chew (on anything really) by the age of 4-6 months, they might start to chew on a toy or a teether.
It’s that phase when you almost can’t get your eyes off them because they become obsessed with putting everything they grab in their mouths.
It sure is a stressful phase, making sure that they don’t have anything within arm’s reach that could be a choking hazard.
If your baby has been chewing on their toys, they should be ready to start with solid foods by the time they reach 7-9 months.
Getting them to practice chewing as early as possible with the food they eat could give your baby more chances to learn and develop as many sensory skills using the food taste and textures you would serve them.
Possible reasons a baby has a chewing problem
- Delayed introduction to solid foods – If you haven’t introduced solid foods to your baby between 6-8 months or later, optimal development of motor skills such as chewing could be delayed. Giving your baby exposure to new things is vital for their rapid development at this age.
- Delayed introduction of lumpy foods – When your baby starts to sit on their own, which is usually around 8-10 months, and hasn’t been exposed to any other food texture besides milk, they can have trouble accepting a new texture, which is solids/semi-solids in place of the preferred texture, which is liquid milk.
- Disinterest in food – This could simply be due to a lack of variations in terms of taste, texture, flavor, or sometimes even smell. Babies who are starting to eat solid foods would want to eat something new every meal. Giving them a wide range of options makes it more interesting and exciting for them.
- They need more time – Sometimes our babies are just really taking their time to learn how to chew, especially if there were born at 38 weeks or less. It applies to all the babies and to their development in general, every child is different, but that doesn’t always mean that one is better than the other.
Tips on how to teach your baby how to chew
Keep your calm
It’s very easy to panic if you see that your baby’s mouth is too full or if they choke on something they ate because they didn’t chew on it.
It’s important that your baby sees confidence in you for them not to be scared and panicked too.
Practice with teethers and toys
Some babies will effortlessly chew on their teethers and toys if they are presented with them.
Others try to put them in their mouth but don’t like the feel of it, so they stop trying.
What’s important is that you show them how to do it.
Brush their gums and teeth
This will help your baby get used to having other textures and tastes in their mouth besides their milk and silicon nipples, or if you exclusively breastfeed your baby, your nipples.
Brushing your baby’s teeth and gum twice a day and making it a routine so that they know when to expect it.
Lead by example
Most of the time, our babies imitate us more than they listen, so it is very important that you do what you want them to do, especially with eating different types and textures of food.
If you notice, sometimes if your present new food to them, they would look back at you, waiting for what you would do to that food.
Setting light and fun mealtime around the family would make it feel less of a learning time and more of a bonding time for your baby.
They learn many skills during mealtimes, like developing independence, fine motor skills, and food awareness, but it doesn’t need to feel like training every time they eat.
Space out meals
Make sure that they are not too full or too hungry when you prepare their meal because their interest would largely depend on how full or hungry they are.
This includes milk and not only solid foods because their milk intake is still considered snacks.
Set wide food variations
If there is something I learned from feeding a baby for the first few months (6 months onwards) is that they get bored easily and that you have to really be creative in preparing their meals by giving them something new every time they get used to a taste or texture.
Will a fruit feeder help in chewing?
Dietitian Amy Shapiro, the founder, and director of Real Nutrition, is a fan of baby food feeders for babies six months and older because they allow parents to introduce different flavors and food types that may not be appropriate for the baby to consume safely in whole pieces.
Should I feed my baby or let them eat by themselves?
If you let them eat on their own, they are learning to eat independently, which is a skill they need to develop for the later years of early childhood and life.
This stage will also involve lots of feeling, squeezing, and dropping food. It might seem messy, but it’s one of the ways your child develops fine motor skills.
It’s essential for our babies to learn how to chew and it’s more important that while teaching them this vital skill, we stay prepared, patient, and persevering.
It’s not going to be the same for all babies, just like any other skill they are trying to learn, and it could frustrate you or even make you feel tired if they don’t accept some of the food you prepare for them.
You just have to remember that this is a skill they would need for the rest of their life and that learning this skill would make you worry less whenever they put a portion of food in their mouth, thinking if you have cut it small enough or if it is too big for them to swallow.