For most babies, transitioning from liquid to pureed foods is an easy task.  However, some children with medical, physical or touch-sensitivity issues can find it difficult to adjust to the process and texture of eating purees.  Some children have a hard time with tongue control due to muscles that are too tight or weak.  Still others don’t like changes in texture and can’t properly handle the feeling of purees in their mouths.

If your child refuses purees or consistently gags, coughs or chokes during mealtimes, here are some tips to help ease the transition:

Proper Positioning

Make sure that your child is sitting comfortably in a position that is well supported.  If sitting is uneven or uncomfortable or if you child’s muscles are tight or tense, your child will focus less on eating and more on his/her body.  If your child is small in the highchair or leans to one side, try rolling up baby blankets or towels and place next to your child to provide added support.

New Tastes from a Familiar Source

Your child is used to feeding from a nipple, so introducing a new taste, texture AND spoon may be too much change at once.  Try adding a small amount of puree to milk or formula in a bottle to give your child the new taste.  Your child may also be receptive to trying a new taste or texture when given a small amount on the outside of the nipple.  Dip the nipple in a small amount of strained food to give your child just a taste.

Liquid on the Spoon

The same idea of familiarity applies when introducing your child to the spoon.  If your child has a hard time getting used to this new method of feeding, offer familiar liquid tastes from the spoon, like formula or juice.  As your child gets used to the spoon, gradually change to thicker textures.  Another approach is to give your child a dry spoon and allow him/her to explore and play with the spoon without puree.  

Allow Your Child to Explore New Textures

Your child may need a little time to investigate the new texture and feeding method on his/her own.  Try putting some puree on the high chair tray and encourage your child to touch it and bring his/her fingers to mouth to taste.  You can also dip a toy in puree and allow your child to mouth and explore the toy while getting the new taste.

Offer Choices

When your child is given choices, he/she may naturally decide when it is time to make the transition.  Offer both the bottle and the spoon at feeding time and pay attention to your child’s reaction.   A child may feel frightened of intimidated when there is a loss of control.  These feelings could make your child’s reaction to new foods and textures even worse.

It is also important to remember that each new pureed food should be introduced by itself with three to five days in between the introduction of the next food.  This will help you determine if your child has an allergy or negative reaction to a certain type of food.

If you’ve tried different tactics at your child’s pace and are still experiencing resistance to the transition, consult your pediatrician.  You may be referred to a feeding specialist or Speech Language Pathologist.  Together you can work to figure out the problem and create a more enjoyable mealtime for your child and the whole family.

Are there any tried and true tactics that you’ve found helpful in transitioning your child to strained foods?  If so, we encourage you to share them here:

Delaney, Tracy A., Ph.D. and Marsha Dunn Klein, M.Ed. Feeding and Nutrition for the Child with Special Needs. San Antonio: Therapy Skill Builders, 1994. Print.

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