Can Babies Have Food Texture Issues?
Babies can definitely have preferences about the type of food textures they prefer -- including which ones they refuse to even touch. Some food textures can cause sensitive babies to gag or even vomit when they eat them 1. If you have a baby sensitive to textures, progress slowly from one type of food to another and let him approach new foods on his own terms 2. Avoiding textures completely, however, may not help.
The first solid foods your baby eats have a smooth texture and feel in the mouth, similar to milk. Because they're familiar and not likely to contain lumps that cause choking, most babies handle the texture of early baby foods well. However, if you give your infant these smooth baby foods too early, he'll push them out with his tongue. This isn't because he doesn't like the texture; it's because he still has a strong gag reflex and tongue-thrust reflex that goes into high gear, pushing the food out when you try to put it in his mouth before he's ready.
If your baby balks at new textures, take the spoon away and let him use his fingers 2. Babies often do better with new textures when they can pick up the food themselves first. Handling a food with their fingers first gives them an idea of what it feels like. Babies often do well with very firm foods they can gnaw on, like zwieback, or with foods such as crackers, which dissolve quickly in the mouth. Solids that dissolve are less likely to trigger the gag reflex than lumpy foods.
Some foods that you might consider smooth can contain lumps, such as mashed potatoes or oatmeal. If your baby has a very sensitive gag reflex, lumpy or stringy foods can trigger his gag reflex 1. When helping your baby adjust to textures, increase the texture by adding substances such as finely ground cracker crumbs or wheat germ, The Hospital for Sick Children recommends. Keep the texture level consistent throughout, carefully removing lumps. If you avoid giving your baby anything but smooth foods, he won't learn to chew properly and can develop a long-term aversion to chewy foods. Children who don't chew properly try to swallow chewy foods without breaking them down enough, which can lead to gagging and vomiting. Chewing helps develop muscles used in speech.
Babies who have aversions to certain types of foods often show signs between 6 and 12 months of age, according to the ZeroToThree.org. If your baby seems to have a strong gag reflex or refuses certain categories of foods, gradually introducing him to the feel of different things in his mouth can help. Try brushing his teeth to help reduce his gag sensitivity, The Hospital for Sick Children recommends. Teething rings that have bumps or different textures can also help reduce gag sensitivity. Speech therapists often work with children who develop food or texture aversions.
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