I am super excited to have a guest post on my blog from one of the most knowledgeable feeding experts in the USA (and beyond) - the amazing Diane Bahr. Not only is Diane experienced beyond compare when it comes to feeding issues, she's also a truly lovely lady. If you haven't visited her website Ages and Stages, you will find that it is a veritable treasure trove.
I have asked Diane to answer a question I get asked a lot - it is about helping children bridge the gap between purees and solids when it feels like the moment has passed and that window has slammed shut. Diane's advice is spot on and will be useful for every parent of a baby and young toddler, even when feeding is going to plan. Thanks Di!
How do parents support children in accepting solid foods at 12 or 13 months of age when they are still only taking purees and relying heavily on milk for nutrition?
Answer from Diane Bahr, MS, CCC-SLP, CIMI, Feeding Specialist in Las Vegas, NV, USA
This is a common question in Western societies. And, it may be partially occurring due to labeling on baby foods that may not accurately reflect feeding development. Also, many parents just do not have the information they need regarding typical feeding development. See What Baby Food Jars Don’t Tell You About Introducing Foods.
To my knowledge, there is only one longitudinal study of typical feeding development by Suzanne Evans Morris. The checklists in my book Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) That! Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development and in the book Pre-Feeding Skills by Suzanne Evans Morris and Marsha Dunn Klein are based on this study. There are also others working to help parents introduce food tastes and textures in a more appropriate manner (e.g., Melanie Potock and Gill Rapley).
So, what are you going to do if your child is now 12 to 13 months of age and only eating pureed foods and drinking milk for nutrition? Well, you will need a careful and systematic process, and I am going to give you some ideas in this article.
First of all, do not become anxious about this concern because it will not help you or your child. Know that many parents particularly in Western societies are having the same problem. And, your child will sense your anxiety which often can cause the problem to become worse, particularly if your child is rejecting food and fluid changes. See the work of Jo Cormack, therapist, on this site.
Know that eating and drinking is a 50-50 proposition. Your child is equally responsible for what he or she eats and drinks as you are for providing what he or she eats and drinks. Take a look at the work of Ellyn Satter, nutritionist and family therapist.
Change one aspect of food or liquid at a time. For example, if your child is only eating pureed baby food from a jar, make your own pureed baby food, making it thicker and thicker over time (changing texture). If your child is very sensitive to changes, you may need to start with a mixture of the jarred baby food and your own same pureed food. Change your child’s food textures and tastes systematically.
Do not mix foods you would not eat in your own society or culture. For example, if you don’t mix applesauce with eggs or hotdogs, don’t try to feed this to your child even if he or she loves applesauce. However, applesauce itself can be made in a variety of textures with a variety of appropriate tastes or flavors added.
Twelve to 13-month old children are usually very aware of what people are doing around them. I have worked with many children who suddenly start to reject changes at this age because they do not see others around them doing or eating/drinking the same things.
So, you can start by taking your child to the grocery store. Give him or her two choices (at a time) of foods you want to prepare for your family. Of course, all of your choices will be ones you want your family to eat. Put the one in the cart your baby reaches toward or indicates. This is a wonderful language development activity because you can talk about the properties of foods and liquids during your shopping trip. Children at this age have more receptive language than folks often think.
You can also provide the child with choices of foods you want to prepare for meals. When preparing foods for your family, talk to your child about what you are preparing. Your child should be in a safe area (e.g., playard) away from where you are actually cooking. Let your child smell items like fruits and vegetables before and after you cook them. The senses of taste and smell work together. Most people won’t eat foods or drink liquids if they don’t like the smell.
Have your child eat with the family even if he or she is eating or drinking a modified version of what you are eating and drinking. Have snacks together, and eat or drink what your child is eating or drinking.
Know that it often takes 10 to 15 presentations of a new food or change in food for your child to begin to enjoy it (based on research). Think about yourself when you have tried foods made in a different way or from a different culture. Do you always like them the first time you try them? You are in the process of changing your child’s food culture.
Also, look at what other members of your family prefer. In my 33 years of experience as a feeding therapist, I have found that taste and texture preferences often run in families. One child may have preferences more like dad, while another child may have preferences more like mom.
If your child has gotten to 12 or 13 months of age with only purees and milk, you may also need to teach your child to properly place and collect food with the tongue as well as chew foods. You can find this information in another Q & A on my website:
About the Author
Diane Bahr is a visionary with a mission. She wants all children to have good feeding, speech, and mouth development from birth. For 36 years, she has treated children and adults with feeding, motor speech, and mouth function problems. While she is a speech-language pathologist by training, she has also honed her skills as a feeding therapist, published author, international speaker, university instructor, and business owner. Diane co-owns Ages and Stages®, LLC with her husband and business manager Joe Bahr. She is a mother and a grandmother.
Diane Bahr, MS, CCC-SLP, CIMI
Specializing in Feeding, Motor Speech, and Mouth Function
Author of Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) That! Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development