Help! We're Stuck On Purees
Starting your baby on solid foods can come with a huge range of feelings. Lots of parents are feeling really excited about this big new stage but lots are also feeling anxious. Often the same parents feeling excited and anxious!
There are lots of things that might cause worries but some of the most common I hear are;
Choking and gagging
How to know baby is getting enough food
When it comes to food for your baby there are different ways you could offer foods. You might puree up everything into a smooth texture, you might mash things so they are lumpy and soft or you might offer finger foods for your baby to pick up themselves.
Of course you might do a mixture of these. There isn’t really a right or wrong approach although I would always encourage you to give your baby some finger food alongside purees so they can explore the textures and tastes as well as improving their hand eye co-ordination which are all big parts of the learning process.
But back to those fears. When parents are anxious about choking or making sure baby eats enough of the ‘right’ foods they often choose to use purees. This makes it a bit easier to see what is being eaten and you tend to have more control (you can make spoon feeding baby-led too if you want to).
Purees are generally easy for babies because they are easy to swallow. No need to chew and move the food around their mouth, it just comes in a bit thicker than milk and straight down. This means your baby might get the hang of it quite quickly and start enjoying the different experiences of flavour.
But for some parents this is where the problems start. The purees are going well but what next?
Some advice will be to work your way through the stages; leave your puree a but thicker or with small lumps; mash food rather than puree; chop small; and so on until you reach eating finger foods. You might find this works or you might find your baby isn’t keen on the lumps and thicker textures.
Some babies do just need a bit more time but for others it can start to feel stressful that you want to move on from purees but your baby doesn’t!
If you aren’t quite in this stage yet but are worried this could be you, keep reading. All the ideas I am going to give can be done at any time. If you are feeding your baby purees or if you are trying to get away from them these are all applicable and will hopefully help.
Of course no overnight fixes promised, but hopefully over time you and your baby will adapt.
1. Offer some finger food with every meal. Make sure it is a size your baby can pick up – something like your little finger for them to grasp. While you are spoon feeding you can leave a few bits and pieces on their tray for them to explore. They might not eat today, or tomorrow, but picking things up, squeezing, dropping (sorry) are all part of the learning. And hopefully the will gradually put food to their mouth and have a suck or chew.
2. Eat together. Where possible eat at the same time as your baby. It might not be every meal but taking the chance to eat your breakfast or lunch at the same time will help your baby see how you eat and hopefully pick up some ideas for themselves. You can also use this time to teach them about the social elements of a meal as you chat and eat. If you can all eat as a family they can see how everyone interacts and it can be a really lovely part of your family time.
3. Try finger food snacks. You might feel less stressed about your baby eating if it isn’t meal times. Whether you decide to prepare everything yourself or opt for something shop bought, snacks could be a good time to go for finger foods. Rice cakes, breadsticks or fruit are good options. You might leave a plate of bits close by when they are playing so they can try it if they feel like it. Don’t leave them unsupervised if you leave food within reach though.
4. No pressure! However hard it feels try not to make mealtimes a battle. Ultimately there is only so much you can do. You provide the food, the environment and the time for them to eat but you can’t make them eat it. Food needs to feel relaxed and fun creating positive associations for your baby. When you feel anxious and have a knot in your stomach it affects your appetite and it could be just the same for your little one.
5. Don’t forget some water. Having a drink with a meal is a great way to keep them hydrated and forms a good habit to drink with a meal. It is another thing they can mirror if they are eating with you – watching how you eat and drink throughout a meal.
And as a side note on the choking worries because I know it is a real fear that stops parents using finger food. It is actually better to start with finger foods from early on so your baby is learning to deal with them – how to bite, chew, move food in their mouth and swallow it. If they pick up the food themselves and put it to their own mouth that is the safest way. It is not safe for you to put a stick of carrot to their mouth as then they don’t have control of how much is going in and they manage it. Using finger foods doesn’t increase the risk of choking.
Gagging is a very normal part of starting out on solid foods. This doesn’t mean it is pleasant or easy to deal with but it does happen while baby is learning how to manage foods. Their gag reflex is far forward initially and with time and practice moves back. It is a protective mechanism. But again having early access to finger foods will help them learn to manage as they progress through their weaning journey rather than having to figure it all out a few months in.
If your baby is coughing and spluttering leave them to it. They are dealing with it and are fine. If they are silent and look shocked you need to intervene. If they are choking they can’t breathe which means they won’t be coughing. It goes without saying that you should never leave your baby alone when they are eating and it is a good idea to take a first aid course so you know what to do should you ever need to.
As with all things with your baby’s development try not to compare with other babies. Some want to eat everything themselves and are self-feeding 3 meals a day in no time and others are a bit slower to get started and it might be around 8 or 9 months that they really start to eat. All this time they will be keeping their milk intake the same which means they are still getting all the nutrients and calories that they need.
If you are preparing to start solids or just started and feel a bit stuck come and join a Starting Solids Workshop. Private sessions are available if dates don't suit you or if you would prefer a 1-1 session to address your specific situation.
If you have already started and not feeling confident please get in touch to discuss ways I could support you.