Once your baby has mastered the art of eating lumpier mashed up textures, the next stage of weaning is to make the move from mash to chopped foods. All babies develop differently, but on average this is usually around the eight to 10 month stage. By this age most will have developed their chewing skills and will have learnt to push their food to the roof of their mouth.
How to introduce chopped food
There’s no need to wait until your baby’s first teeth have made an appearance before introducing chopped foods. Babies can mash up lumps of soft food, like cooked vegetables or bread, by biting or sucking, using their gums and tongue. It’s a process which actually helps their speech muscles to develop.
The best way to introduce bigger chunks of food is gradually. Start by adding small, soft pieces in with your baby’s mashed food to make the texture coarser. Try small pasta shapes or couscous, which are both easy to manage. As she become more accustomed to larger pieces, gradually chop the food less and less. You could also try introducing raw vegetables, such as carrot sticks and salads.
To begin with it’s best to serve meat minced up, as most young children don’t like struggling to chew on lumps of meat. Adding gravy or sauces will soften savoury chopped food and add flavour.
The role of finger foods
Encourage your baby to eat soft finger foods like buttered toast, fresh fruit and steamed vegetables. This will help her to develop hand-to-eye coordination. Children are inquisitive, so let your baby examine her food with her fingers and attempt to feed herself. By putting the food into her own mouth it’ll help her get used to eating at her own pace. And by practising picking up small items like cubed, cooked vegetables between finger and thumb, she’ll be strengthening their pincer grasp which is needed when she moves on to using a fork and spoon.
What if your baby refuses chopped food?
If your baby resists the transition from mashed to chopped food, don’t panic. If you allow mealtimes to become a battle of wills your baby may be even more inclined to refuse certain foods, leading to potential future feeding problems. Just try again in a few days. Lead by example saying, “Mmm, this is yummy isn’t it?!” as you taste the food together. If, however, your baby isn’t able to manage the change in texture and continuously gags, it’s better to stick with the mashed food for a while longer. As your baby’s tastes and confidence grow, she’ll soon be tucking into chopped servings of the foods that the rest of the family is eating.