Starting Solid Food is More Than Meets the Eye! – Part 1
We have all seen it; you try to introduce solids to your child… it goes in and comes right back out. Is it the taste or the texture of rice cereal? Understanding what to look for in the transition to solid food can be extremely important to insure your child is progressing appropriately.
The timing for the introduction to solids varies based on your child growth and your pediatrician’s recommendations. “Transitioning from bottle or breast to solids is a major milestone for children,” notes Kim Morrow, Developmental Specialist at teli.
To help your child get off to a good start, Kim has some suggestions on how to approach the introduction of food and how to spot concerns that may require Early Intervention services.
- Positioning is a key step in feeding success.
“If a child must work to maintain their sitting balance, hold up their head and stabilize themselves they may strain to coordinate their tongue, lips, cheeks and jaw, which all work together, to move food around in their mouth and aid in swallowing,” explains Kim. Sometimes adding rolled towels, baby blankets, small pillows, or stuffed animals around your child in their high chair or feeding seat allows them to concentrate on the food entering their mouth versus working to keep their body upright.
- Position Yourself Eye to Eye with your Child
Take advantage of this special time to communicate with your child. “A meal is something very special to share with your child and provides a great time to connect. Eye to eye contact between the caregiver and the child allows you to read your baby’s cues indicating if they want more, are enjoying the experience or are all done. When seated across from your child you are able to enter the spoon straight into your child’s mouth avoiding scraping food off their gums and encouraging them to use their lips to clear the spoon,” notes Kim.
- It Takes Practice and Patience!
The use of a spoon is all new to your child. They have perfected their ability to suck at the breast or bottle and when the food is introduced on a spoon; their first reaction is to push it out. Kim reminds parents that it takes practice. “The first several attempts may be challenging because it is natural that a child will push food out. You may even see grimaces and horrible faces. Repetition over time helps a child to become more comfortable having a spoon in their mouth. Eventually they will use their lips to clear food from the spoon,” says Kim. Trying to force and coax a baby to eat is never recommended.
- Feeding Reflexes are Foundational to Language
It is important to understand that eating and speaking use the same muscles. The feeding movements you are practicing with your child are some of the same ones that will help them in producing sounds. “Applying slight pressure to your child’s tongue with the spoon and waiting for them to close their lips will help them draw the food off the spoon. This is the same movement that, with practice will help them form the letters M, B, Wand P sounds.” explains Kim. “In that same manner, swallowing elevates the tongue and in turn helps to create the sounds for the letters D, T and N.
- When Should I be Concerned About My Child’s Progress?
A child’s readiness to move from the breast or bottle to solid foods may vary. All children are unique and learn at different rates and require practice to learn. If you have tried feeding solids to your child and are frequently or consistently observing any of the following reactions, you might consider talking to your pediatrician or other health care provider as well as contacting teli.
- Refusal-turning his head away and not opening his mouth for food
- Crying or upset –trying to get out of her high chair
- Suspect he or she is losing weight
- Note frequent gagging, coughing during meals
At teli we will help you to secure the Early Intervention Services that can benefit your child. Our Developmental Specialists, Occupational Therapists, or Speech Pathologists have extensive experience in working with children and their families to address feeding concerns.
Look for Part II of our series on Starting Solid Food is More Than Meets the Eye, when Kim will provide tips for handling “picky eating” before it becomes “resistive or problem eating”.
Learn more about teli Early Intervention Services