As your child develops and grows, parents take great joy in those “firsts” — that first smile, the first step, the first word and so on. When it comes to “firsts” around infant feeding, parents often have lots of questions for teli therapists. When should I introduce a cup? How soon do I give my child finger food? What foods and textures are safe? Our occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists and developmental specialists have had extensive experience through their work in Early Intervention and have some great child feeding suggestions for parent.
When should I introduce my child to a cup?
As early as 9 months, offering a cup can begin the transition away from the bottle or breast. It will not be perfect the first time, but with practice, your child will become more familiar and comfortable drinking that way. A number of cups with straws or sip spouts are designed to help your child begin to strengthen their mouth muscles and lips to sip and control the flow of liquid. Some of the teli therapists’ favorites include:
- Honey Bear Cup – A squeezable bottle with a rubbery soft straw used by occupational and speech therapists to teach straw drinking. The straw is bite resistant and fits tightly into the honey bear bottle making the cup spill resistant. The honey bear cup is also squeezable to help draw liquid up the straw.
- Take and Toss Cup – A low cost firm cup with a basic straw that is perfect for ease of maintaining your child’s lip comfortably sealed around the straw with an easy flow of liquid without much effort.
- NUK trainer Cup – Essentially a “sippy cup” with a similar silicone bottle nipple mechanism that allows the liquid to flow easily through the spout when sipped.
- Munchkin Sippy Cup and Nuby No Spill Cup – Both cups by design are more difficult to sip from for children who have difficulty pacing the flow of the liquid and tend to chug the contents. The Munchkin cup has a spout vs a flexible silicone straw for the Nuby cup.
When should I introduce my child to their first solid foods?
Again, 9 months is a good time to begin to encourage your child to explore solids. Your child should be able to sit up with support and have good head control. They may have also begun their oral exploration with other objects like their fingers, toes and toys in their mouth, so why not something that tastes good! Don’t be discouraged when if they do not love it when they try the first time; it takes practice. Be ready for your child to get a little messy too! Our teli therapists have provided the following suggestions about the progression of the type of textures, size and kinds of foods to introduce:
Texture – Start with small amounts and smooth texture first, then advance slowly through to more firm textures as noted in the progression below, as your child tolerates what they are eating.
- Pureed texture of smooth applesauce (8-9 months)
- Food mashed with a fork with small chunks no larger than a pea (8-9 months)
- Meltable solids help the child learn how to move foods within their mouth; including puffs and baby mum mums for example (9 months)
- Thinly diced foods about ¼ inch square in size (9 ½ – 10 months)
- Bite sized pieces of food that can easily be held between their fingers that can be easily mashed. (10 months)
First Table Foods – Soft texture is key with these foods. They should be able to be easily mashed between your fingers when light pressure is applied.
- Sweet potatoes
- Boiled apples
- Cooked carrots
- Cooked beans
What utensils are helpful in feeding my child? When feeding your child, there are a number of utensils that can help your child become accustomed to the texture of solids. Depending on their progress with controlling their lip and tongue movements, there are a few “spoons” that are helpful.
- Maroon Spoon and Gerber Graduate Infant Spoon – These soft plastic spoons have a narrow shallow bowl that is good for a child learning to close their lips around a spoon. Additionally, the shallow bowl of the spoon provides a very small portion which allows better management of food for babies that may have difficulty with different food textures or an issue thrusting their tongue.
- ChooMee Flexi Dip Starter Spoon – A soft plastic spoon with a larger handle helps your child easily grasp and control the spoon. The contoured bowl of the spoon enables your child to dip it into the food to get a small portion, with less risk of the food falling off the spoon.
Your child’s feeding progression will be uniquely theirs. If you have any concerns regarding their progress you should always discuss those concerns with your health care professional. For some general developmental guidelines, you can refer to teli’s Child Developmental Stages, developed by our teli therapists.
If you have any questions regarding teli’s Early Intervention Services role in Child Development, call teli at 412-922-8322