The progression from purées and baby rice to more textured food doesn’t always go smoothly (if you’ll pardon the pun!).
Many parents find their baby objects to lumps at first, and this can be frustrating as you struggle to ensure he’s eating enough.
It’s important to persevere, though, because the older your baby, the harder he’ll find it to accept lumps – and the transition to normal family meals can become fraught with fussiness.
In addition, the muscles your baby uses to chew are the same ones that he needs for speech, so lumpy food will help his development in more ways than one.
You can start to introduce texture and small lumps at around seven months – or a week or two after first weaning, if you started at six months and if your baby has accepted all the first tastes well. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t yet have any teeth as he’ll still chew using his gums.
Experts say the best way to help your baby learn to eat well is to change the texture gradually. The easiest way to do this is to prepare meals yourself so you’re in control.
If you feed exclusively on jars or pouches of ready-made ‘stage 1’ baby purées, the jump to stage 2 products can often be too great, as they can contain large lumps such as pasta and whole beans or peas.
First, try thickening your purées, then add fine textures like well-cooked rice or a few tiny pasta shapes. Or take some steamed vegetables or fruit and mash half, and add this to the other half which you have puréed.
Gradually increased the proportion of mashed food, and then you can start to chop some of the veg finely and mix that in. Well-cooked scrambled egg, liquidised meat and fish work well, too.
What if your baby refuses lumps?
It’s not unusual for babies to reject new textures the first (and second, and third) time they’re offered, so be prepared for clamped lips and a turned head after a few tentative mouthfuls. If this happens, don’t be disheartened.
It may be that he wasn’t keen on the flavour, in which case try a similar consistency but a different food (mango instead of papaya, say). Or perhaps it was a little too lumpy, so try blending it more next time, without making it completely smooth. Or simply try the same dish and consistency a week later and chances are he’ll eat more.
Another way to help your baby get used to lumps is to offer finger foods. Try strips of cheese, grated apple or pear, rice cakes, rounds of banana, buttered fingers of toast or pitta bread and steamed vegetable crudités. Many babies prefer this to the surprise of finding the occasional lump in an otherwise smooth puree.
Some babies become very adept at spitting out even the tiniest of lumps they encounter in their food, but don’t assume this is a sign that your baby doesn’t like the texture.
He needs time to learn to control the lumps in his mouth, chewing them, moving them from front to back and then swallowing, and until he’s sussed the skill, solid pieces may come straight back out again. Keep offering foods of a similar texture, as the more practice he gets, the better he’ll become at dealing with the lumps.
To reassure yourself that your baby is still getting the nutrients he needs, alternate offering lumpier meals with smooth purees; if he refuses his chunkier solids, he won’t have long to wait until his next meal. Or give him a main course containing lumps followed by a more liquid pudding like yoghurt or fruit puree.
In some rare cases, a baby may have a physical issue that makes it difficult for him to handle lumps, such as a tongue tie or an extra sensitive gag reflex.
If you’ve been persevering with lumps for several weeks with no progress, speak to your health visitor; some problems with the physical processes of eating can also lead to difficulties with speech later on, so it pays to resolve them sooner rather than later.