Encouraging Chewing in Babies: A Guide for New Parents Day 1: Encouraging Chewing in Babies: A Guide for New Parents

Encouraging Chewing in Babies: A Guide for New Parents

Chewing is an important developmental skill that we want our babies to acquire, just like walking and talking. As early as 4-6 months, babies begin exploring the world around them by putting objects into their mouths. You may notice a "munching" motion as they do so. This reflexive action is their way of exploring objects that come into contact with their gums and molars.

Understanding Chewing as a Reflexive Action

Babies under 9 months have a natural reflex to "munch" on objects they place in their mouths. This munching motion is similar to chewing, and our goal is to help them develop this action when it comes to eating.

We want them to instinctively munch on their food and move it around their mouths using their tongue.

The Importance of Introducing Finger Foods

That's why it's beneficial to introduce finger foods around 6 months, or when you begin introducing solids. During this stage, there is a critical window of opportunity when babies can instinctively learn and develop their chewing skills.

It's a common misconception among parents that they should wait for their babies to have teeth before introducing finger foods. However, babies have strong gums and jaws, and with consistent practice, they can learn to explore and manage finger foods effectively. As long as the finger foods are soft enough for your baby to chew using their gums and jaw, they will handle them well.

Chewing Is a Learning Process

Chewing is a progressive skill that takes time for babies to master. When you start solids around 6 months, it's normal for babies to exhibit a tongue thrust reflex. This reflex causes babies to push or thrust food out of their mouths instead of chewing it.

Remember:

  • The tongue thrust reflex will gradually fade over time, so even if you feel that your baby is not retaining food in their mouth, it's recommended to continue feeding them.
  • Switching entirely from finger foods to purees is not necessary. If you're concerned about your baby spitting out finger foods, you can adopt a balanced approach by offering both purees and finger foods.
  • Remember, at some point, they will instinctively begin the munching action.

    Patience and Consistency: Key Factors in Developing Chewing Skills

    It's important to understand that chewing is a skill that requires practice and patience. Each baby progresses at their own pace, so it's essential to remain calm and supportive throughout the learning process.

    As parents, you can provide opportunities for your baby to practice and explore different textures and flavors. Be patient, even when it seems challenging.

    Tips to Encourage Chewing in Babies

    Here are some practical tips to encourage chewing, especially if your baby is around the 8-10 month mark and still not chewing well:

  • Allow exploratory behavior: Let your baby put safe and clean objects in their mouth. This is an essential part of their learning process. Provide toys and objects designed for this purpose to support their exploration.
  • Offer a variety of food: If your baby is having difficulty with finger foods due to the tongue thrust reflex, don't eliminate them entirely. Instead, balance finger foods with purees to ensure your child receives proper nutrition.
  • Introduce a wide variety of flavors and textures to encourage exploration. If your baby struggles with a particular texture or food, try alternatives. It's completely normal for babies to have preferences at this age.

  • Gradual transition to soft foods: If your baby has primarily been consuming purees, consider introducing soft, lumpy foods such as boiled carrot or sweet potato sticks. Bananas are often a favorite among babies.
  • Another option is to create small balls from khichdi or dal rice with a thick, non-watery consistency, which can be easily held and explored by your baby.

  • Model chewing:

    Babies learn by imitating their caregivers. Sit in front of your baby during mealtime and demonstrate chewing actions. They will observe and try to imitate you, helping them learn the chewing motion.
  • Teething toys and teethers: During teething, babies may have sore gums, making chewing more challenging. Provide them with teething toys or teethers to soothe their gums before feeding them their food.
  • Remember, chewing is a vital life skill that babies need to develop as they grow. It takes time and practice for babies to master this skill, so don't delay their learning process.

    Each baby is unique, so provide them with the time and opportunities they need to develop their chewing skills. Stay patient and calm, and enjoy this important milestone in your baby's development.

    Tomorrow, we explore why babies exhibit certain behaviors in their weaning and feeding journey and how to manage them without getting stressed.

    Learn the right ways to nourish from experts