This week’s Tuesday Tip for Picky Eaters: Don’t wait too long for lumpy food.
Recently, I have had several conversations with mommies who are waiting to introduce solids until after their baby is one year old. It is true that most babies do not need the nutrients from solid foods before they turn one. Learning to eat, however, is about more than just nutrition. Sharing a meal together is a cultural and social experience, as well as an important developmental milestone. Research also shows that waiting too long to start solids can have unintended consequences, including increasing the likelihood that baby will become a picky eater.
|Henry chews on an apple.|
It turns out that learning to chew is a critical step between six and nine months of age, regardless of whether your little one has teeth. Babies who are introduced to lumpy foods (foods that require chewing) during this stage develop into less picky eaters later. Whether you choose chunky purees or finger foods, babies need to learn how to move food around in their mouth and how to chew.
A 2001 study found that when babies were introduced to lumpy foods at 10 months of age or later, they were more likely to be difficult to feed at 15 months of age. These toddlers also ate a more limited diet and developed stronger likes and dislikes for food.
A follow-up study in 2008 revealed that the finicky toddlers were more likely to grow into finicky 7-year olds. They had significantly more feeding problems and ate a less varied diet. In addition, these 7-year olds were less likely to eat fruits and vegetables than the 7-year olds who had been introduced to lumpy foods before they reached 10 months.
|Henry munches on mushroom and cucumber.|
It can be scary when your little one’s gag reflex jumps into action. Yet, letting your baby learn how to chew before they reach 10 months of age is one step you can take to help prevent a prevent eater.