Getting Chunky

Going from slurping to chewing can be a tough transition for a baby. Suzanne Evans Morris, Ph.D., a speech pathologist and feeding expert in Faber, VA, says that's understandable, given that the tongue movements involved in suckling and in grinding are very different, To help him take his lumps:

Start smooth. No matter how eager you are to get him chewing, don't just spring the hard stuff on him. Ease into it by progressively thickening his puree.

Practice. Gnawing on toys with varying textures will teach your baby to move his mouth in diverse ways. Consider this his pre-high-chair workout.

Go around When feeding him a soft piece of food, place it at the side of his mouth instead of in the center so he has to use his tongue to move it over. This may also produce less gagging.

Test your baby's food. Make sure the chunks aren't too big or firm. With jarred food, taste It to see that the gravy isn't thinning out too fast. No one likes a mouthful of dry lumps.

Let him lead (to a point). If your baby's not getting it, Morris says, there's nothing wrong with moving back to an easier stage. Just keep an eye on the situation: Studies show delaying chewing past the 7-to-9-month window may cause problems later. —Kathryn Sucich

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