Introducing Food to Baby Solid Food

Introducing Food to Baby: Solid Food and Beyond!

Great Baby Feeding Equipment is Vital when Introducing Food to Baby: Particularly Purees & Solid Food

As a Speech Pathologist with a particular focus on babies, infants and children that have feeding difficulties when foods are introduced to them, I am aware that good "feeding equipment" can go a long way to making introducing solids SO much easier in the long run. Our Infant and Child Feeding Clinic supports babies and children with all kinds of feeding difficulties from problems with breast and/or bottle feeding, to difficulties when children are transiting to the introduction of solids; through to fussy eating older children.  Feeding skills grow as children grow and they typically hit different feeding milestones as they get older. The chairs, bowls, cups, spoons & utensils and types of food all change as the baby's needs change as you introduce different food to them. 

The following are some Feeding Equipment that I have found useful for different children - from typically developing children through to those with notable feeding difficulties. It is always advisable to talk to your Medical Practitioner and a Speech Pathologist with experience in feeding development if you are concerned about your child's nutrition, growth or feeding skills.  One recommendation of feeding equipment does not fit all. The following discusses some equipment in order to highlight the factors you may need to considered when deciding on the feeding equipment you will provide to your child.

Of course the best "equipment" a baby can have when you are introducing food are their HANDS!​

It is important, particularly when you are first introducing solid food, to let the baby "experience" the food BEFORE you it goes in their mouths. This includes putting a blob of puree, yogurt or baby porridge onto their high chair table top for them to touch.

Messy play is a must 🙂

Encourage them to put their fingers in the solid food. See if they bring their fingers/hands to their mouths to get a taste of the food. If you playfully touch some of the food to their outer lips, do they smile, lip smack, lick it or wipe off with the back of their hands. All of this is experiencing food. They get a feel of it's texture and can can smell the foods! Take you time when introducing foods. Babies and children often have to "experience foods" many times (15-20) before it becomes familiar to them. Of course some babies will LOVE food and scoop it by the hand fulls or happily open their mouths wide to any food offered. Remember learning to eat is a skill and all babies will be different in their approach and oral skills.  Again, if you have concerns please seek help or ask questions early. When introducing food to a child negative patterns or rejection can set in very quickly. GO slow when introducing food and give them time to build up a love for the food.

Equipment is key for setting up good feeding routines and this may include: High chairs, children table & chairs, spoons & other utensilts, bottles & teats, sensory toys.​

Feeding Environment when Introducing Food to babies and Children

The feeding environment is SO important. Infants and babies thrive on routines. Setting up excellent feeding routines, particularly when introducing baby to foods that are solid foods (puree, spoon foods, thicker drinks), is key for learning new oral and eating skills. While we need to look out for hunger signs in the infants, ultimately adults are the ones that decided WHAT, WHERE and WHEN babies and children eat. The where is key when you are first establishing solid food eating routines.

Children ideal should be in a stable upright sitting position when solid food is introduced to the baby. This is why choosing a highchair right for your baby is important. If a infant or child has to do lots of work to stay sitting upright, are slipping out of the chair or falling to one side, while you are offering new foods, the likelihood of success mealtimes are reduced.  The big body and head muscles need to be secure so that the little mouth and tongue movements can work well. Supported seating positions also allows the child to more easily use their arms and pincer grips to pick up food & bring it to their mouths.

High chairs should ideally have tall backs that provided head support. High chairs that only come up half way to their back is not going to give as good a feeding positions as is ideal. ​Ideally the feed are supported and not swinging madly. I will often place towel rolls or cushions down the sides between the infant and the chair if I feel they need more stability when they are sitting up. Make going in the high chair fun! This might mean play and talking time in the high chairs when food is not even offered,

solid food

High Back High Chairs are key!

Feeding Chairs should have High Backs and supportive sides. Make feeding comfortable and fun. Hard low back chairs can make eating more difficult.

introducing food

Adjustable feet position can be important

High chairs that have feet rest & side adjustments can add postural stability for children with eating concerns.

introducing food to baby portable chair

Portable Chair: on dining chairs.

Not as ideal as a highback chair. However also having a portable chair means you can take your feeding routines where every you go.

Eating Environments for Older Children:

As babies and toddlers get too big or are ready to be out of a high chair it is important to transition them to new feeding environments to re-establish routines. Many families find this hard, as children now can exert their independence by getting down from their chairs and leaving the table. Having boundaries and expectations from the beginning is important to establish successful mealtime routines. Children eating as they walk around is not the best way to establish good food exploration and mealtime effectiveness.​  

Some of the high chairs and booster high chairs can adapt to work with dining tables. Alternatively you can obtain stable booster cushions that can be used with any dining room chairs. I strongly recommend that the children furniture is characterised by chairs with backs and that are stable (i.e, stools & benches can make it hard for the child to sit comfortable and may result in them wanting to leave the table interrupting meal times).

solid food on booster cushion

Booster Cushions for Dining Chairs

Added high offered by the cushion means toddlers & young children can join you at the table.

introducing solid foods at kids tables

Kids Tables and Chairs

Multi purpose kids size tables and chairs. Use for meals and encouraging table top games. Small feet on the ground is key.

introducing food outdoors

Add an outdoor eating environment too.

Keep the eating routines the same if your indoor or outdoor! 

Spoons & Utensils when Introducing Baby to Food

As a Speech Pathologist that works A LOT with babies and children that find the introduction of solid foods challenging, I am often asked what spoons I would recommend. While I have my "go to" spoons and utensils I think the features of the spoon is more important. When introducing solids it is important not to just "shove" the spoon into a baby's face and expect them to eat. It is important to let them look and hold the spoons, so have a few spoons so that if the baby reaches for the spoon wanting to hold it, you can use another one. It is expected that the baby will be interested in spoon.  

Spoons when first introducing solids to a baby should have a very shallow bowl. This makes it easier for the baby to take the food off the spoon with their lips. As they mature you can increase the size and how the deep the bowl of the spoon gets. There are so many different spoons out on the market. At times I may recommend particular features of spoons depending on the baby's oral & physical skills and their sensory reaction to goods. I particularly like the baby "dip feeding spoons" that do not look like spoons at all. These can be good if children are developing an aversion to the spoon. The "stick" like spoon is easily coated with food, but the baby is less likely to feel overwhelmed by the food as small amounts enter their mouths at time.  Plastic spoon and plastic coated spoons feel less cold and gentler on their mouths than metal spoons. Spoons such as the Maroon spoons are strong and can be good for children with bite reflexes. Young babies and those that find bringing the spoon to their mouths may benefit with the bendable spoons. You can bend the spoon to an angle that assists the child.  Spoons with wide handles or looped handles can also make it easier for the young child to grasp the spoons.

introducing solids to baby with dipper spoon

Dipper Spoon

A great first "spoon" to encourage tastes! No up or down for food loss!

introducing food to baby with bendable

Bendable Spoons

Help babies get the food to their mouths!

Introducing foods when child has bite reflex

Maroon Spoons

This are firm plastic spoons that can be good for children with bite reflexes. They come in small and large size spoons.

squirt spoon for solid foods

Squirt Spoon

Feeding babies from the commercial tubes is not great for early development of their mouth and tongue  muscles. This can be an alternative.

introducing hot food to baby

Is the food too hot?

Soft tip shallow bowl spoons with the added bonus that the spoon tip turns white when baby's food is too hot. 

Introducing food easy grip spoon

Larger handle = Easy Grip

Large handles and tilted spoon presentation assists self feeding.

introducing solid food to older children

Novel Utensils can inspire reluctant eaters.

As children get older novel utensil sets can be fun!

character sets for baby food

Character Sets make eating fun.

Spoons and utensils with know characters can link fun with meal times -> meal times need to be fun for fussy eaters

Bowls  for Introducing Solid food to Baby 

There are SO many bowls for babies when introducing solid foods to babies and children. From the practical to the too cute to be true.  Again, it is more about matching the features of the bowls to the needs of the individual child - their physical capabilities (e.g., easy scoop bowls), sensory preferences (e.g., needing to keep foods separate from each other) or simply linking a high interest to meal-times. Novel plates that match a child's high interest, whether's that is dinosaurs, super heroes or princesses, can keep them engaged while consuming enough food for their nutritional needs.    Of course we should also consider mum when deciding on plates and bowls: are they microwaveable, dishwasher safe, can the stick to the table top so they don't go flying? 

Feeding toddler best bowls

Stay PUT bowls

Bowls that stay put with suctions provides stability for children learning to self feed - AND reduces the mess from tipping bowls

Fussy eater divided bowl

Fussy Eaters often don't like foods mixing or even touching!

These suction plates allows foods to be separated for convenience & for building sensory acceptance of foods.

best baby plates

Bowls that don't Break make meal-times relaxing

Unbreakable & Stackable! So versatile & they come in a container to take anywhere! 

best baby dinner plate set

Non-slip+divided options

A lovely versatile set with non-slip+ bowls and divided plate +  soft coated spoons!

Novel Plates add to the fun!

Bring them to the table with a Brmmm, Brmmm!

Kids plate game fussy eater

Games to introduce new foods - Spinner Plate!

Can help children try new foods when mixed with favourites and New foods - or just add some fun to Afternoon tea!

Picky Eater plates

Dinner Winner Plates

A visual prompt to show there is a start and an end to the tastings/meal. Can be good for Picky Eaters. Put easy foods at the start and end and trickier ones in the middle!

best bowl scooper hand control

Scooper Bowls - help your toddler to scoop food onto their spoon.

"Gives an edge" for baby eating solids ie., they can learn to scoop food themselves as the curved side helps food load onto the spoon.

Transitioning from Breast/ Bottle  to Straw & Cup Drinking.

Whether you are breast or bottle feeding, offering babies from 6-7 months of age sips of water from your open cup is a great way to being the transition from bottle to cup drinking. While there is no age limit for breast feeding, it is often a good idea to transition bottle feeding to cup options at about 12 months of age. Breast fed children should also be offered a range of cup options.

Why is it important to move to cup drinking?

Children use different tongue, lip and sucking motions when breast/ bottle drinking to cup and straw use. Sucking needs to transition to controlled drinking skills. Transitioning from bottle to cup (for all liquids other than directly from the breast) will allow your baby to exercise face muscles (lips and jaw), tongue, and soft palate, all of which are connected to speech and feeding. Oral skills built during cup drinking are important for effective chewing and for speech production. 

You will notice I will not put in examples of spout cups. Why? Spout cups encourages the tongue to move forward into the mouth and sit on or near the spout; in a similar position as to sucking or suckling on a breast or bottle. The ongoing forward tongue position is thought to encourage tongue thrust and even possibly "lisping" (eg The /s/ sound is said with the tongue coming between the teeth).   

Going from bottle to straw drinking can be a good option.  Children often can instinctively use a straw from 12 months, while other may need a lot of "practise" mastering it more at the 18 months age. Children with some oro-motor difficulties may need some assistance with straw drinking options with valves the hold the liquid up so that they do not have to suck the liquid up as much. Below I have put in links to some of example of these. These can be great for children struggling to breast or bottle feed. They can be used for all types of liquids from expressed milk to formulas. Remember you need to expose a child to these new drinking techniques before they can master them. SO offering just 10-20 mls then finishing with their "old" way (bottle/breast) can help them transition without the stress of worrying if the are "getting enough"

Using both straw and open cups at similar times is OK for a lot of babies from 6-7 months. Some children will show early preferences, while others will take whatever is offered. There are a number of cups shown below that can assist children to successfully learn to drink from cups (easy to hold, cut away cups, large handled cups, stable cups).  If spillage is a real issue, the 360 cups are good non-spill options without the spout. They may be more likely to encourage the tongue to say in the back of the mouth for drinking as you want to see with on open cup.

Open cup drinking is messy at first! 

When you first offer cups to young babies or those with oral motor difficulties, expect a mess. At first they try to suck at it like a breast or bottle. The tongue may dart into the cup, they might try to bite down on the edge to stabilise their jaws. Continue to offer, tilting the cup to encourage good drinking oral postures.

baby cup 360 cup

360 Cup

NO SPOUT spill proof cup for baby! Teach better tongue positioning from the start!

baby cups cut away cup

Cut Away Translucent Cups

Great early cup! No need to tilt head back as cut away allows you to tilt to the drink touches their lips. Translucent so you can see the fluid for safety!

baby cup honey bear straw cup

Honey Bear Straw Cup

Great early straw cup that allows control of fluid amount. Straws encourage a back positioned tongue -> thought to reduce speech and oral issues.

baby straw cup weighted

Weighted Straw Cup

Easy holding handles. Weighted straw allows toddler to hold the cup at any angle. Flip-tip lid is great for when you are on the go!

Oral Sensory Issues and introducing solids to Baby

Even new borns will often suck on their fingers. Babies typically are born with a suck reflex. They need this reflex to to feed from day one. Babies  however do not only suck to fill their tummies. Babies also do what is called “non-nutritive” sucking; this kind that rhythmic suck acts to soothe them. This is why many young babies will suck on their fingers or a dummy! If you introduce a dummy it is important to considered the type of dummy and deciding on a dummy that suits your baby - size, shape, length of teat so not to trigger gags if you have an oral sensitive child. If a child is tube fed, a dummy or mouthing toys may be recommended as they receive a feed. This can allow the child to make a connection between oral feelings and the sensation of their tummies being filled. All children with tube feeding should be linked to a feeding clinic or health professional team for a Tube Feeding plan in order to reduce tube feeding dependency issues.

As Babies get more hand control they begin putting things in their mouths, otherwise known as mouthing. This is typical behavour and signals a growing interest in the world around them. In fact if a baby between 6 & 9 month that is NOT mouthing things may need to be monitored. It can be a red flag to take a closer look at their development! 

In the first year, children explore their surroundings through their senses -- seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, and tasting. The more they explore, the more they learn how things can vary - soft vs hard? Yummy vs yukky? Food or not food? What shape is it? What  texture is it? Can I eat it? Does it make a sound or does it light up?. To get all of this information a baby is going to want to put the object /food in their mouth. Mouthing helps babies learn all about different shapes and textures. Their lips and tongues are the most sensitive parts of their bodies! It is a key way children learn about the world....so if a baby is not mouthing or is not allowed to mouth things, learning can be impacted upon.  Children with physical difficulties that reduce their ability to get their hands or objects to their mouths, often are placed on an oral sensory programmes.

Mouthing is also important for introducing baby to solid foods. Mouthing toys and objects with different shapes and textures encourages children to move their lips round the shapes and their tongues move and prod the shapes and textures. This oral "exercising" gets baby ready for when foods are introduced. Early solid foods introduced to children will have varying flavours, smooth textures, grainy textures, lumps of various firmness and shapes. Mouthing before and during the introduction of solid foods helps the child to cope with the bombardment of sensations that occurs when new foods are offered. Some "fussy eaters" find the sensations of foods overwhelming and need support at feeding and /or developmental clinics to help them process sensory inputs.

​Allowing and encouraging oral mouthing of safe toys is vital to reduce this risk. 

​Oral Sensory Exploration - Safety is KEY

Infants may typically continue to mouth things even up to 2 years of age. The mouthing phase will vary for different children. It can be a dangerous phase! If something is in reach of your baby or toddler it is likely to go their mouths! We must be on constant watch about what is in our children's reach to keep them safe. It is natural for them to put ANYTHING in their mouths. Offering a range of mouthing and teething toys can help children to engage in oral exploration safely. These oral sensory toys have all different shapes and have lots of different textures for little tongues and lips to explore (bumps, ridges, raised circles). For older children that continue to show oral sensory seeking behaviours, there are options like chewy tubes and chew necklaces. 

Orthodontic dummy tube feeding

Dummy ->

Match Child's oral and sensory needs

Orthodontic dummies vary in size and teat shape - they can provided good oral positioning. 

dummy for teething

A Teething Dummy!

For front molars & the textured surfaces can massage sore gums. Water filled chambers can be cooled in the fridge.

teething mitten baby teething

Sensory Teething Mitten.

the variation of shapes & ridges allows their tongue & lips to explore new sensations. Strap means baby can't drop the teething toy.

Teething toys sore gums

Make teething toys varied for new shapes & texture exploration.

Mouthing toys of all shapes & sizes.

Other Potentially Useful Food & Sensory Items to help the introduction of solids to baby easier
Food pacifier to introduce solids to baby

Add fruit, ice chips, & more to the pacifier teat section

Good for encouraging mouthing, can help soothe sore gums & can help introduce tastes for children that find lumps in their mouths difficult.

Fresh food feeder introducing solids no choke

Fresh Food Feeders

The fresh food feeders can also act as a teething ring. Won't matter which end goes in their mouths - new sensations ++

baby first toothbrush sensory tool

A First Toothbrush can help with sensory acceptance.

Fun toothbrush that is great to encourage new sensations with the baby's mouth + introduce tooth brushing early!

chewy tube sensory seeking

Chewy Tube Oral Motor Stix - Chocolate Flavour!

Good for older children - oral sensations but without the food - good for fussy and fearful eaters.

while Items shown have affiliate links the main purpose is to demonstrated examples discussed.

Sandra McMahon

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