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Help! My child won't eat lumpy food

Is your little one that child who just won't eat lumpy food? There is so much information out there about how to wean your baby, sometimes it can be overwhelming! One of the most common reasons parents contact us is for difficulties moving from purees to lumpy foods. Spoon-led weaning is a very common way to feed your baby but what happens when they cannot transition to lumpy foods?

Why are lumpy foods difficult for some children?

There are many reasons why your child may find lumpy foods difficult:

  • They have a heighten gag reflex

  • They want to eat what you are eating

  • They have had negative oral experiences including vomiting or breathing difficulties

  • They have independent personalities (you may experience some stress with smooth purees too)

Does my child need to learn to eat lumpy purees?

This may be an unpopular opinion but no, your child does not need to learn to eat lumpy puree. Let's think about what foods that you eat, how many of them are lumpy purees? The classic lumpy purees we buy and make for babies? Probably none. You might be thinking: 'I do eat lumpy foods like some soups or dhal, the sauce in a chicken pie mixed with veggies, maybe a white sauce mixed with some mince or even yoghurt with some chia seeds and flaxseed.' I prefer to call these, mixed consistencies. These are foods that you eat that have more than one consistency, and of course these foods are helpful for your child to learn to eat. BUT they feel different to lumpy purees in the mouth. Give it a go yourself if you won't believe me...

Now that we understand the difference between lumpy foods and mixed consistencies (and that our child doesn't actually need lumpy foods), I bet you're thinking that if your child can't cope with lumpy textures, they won't cope with mixed consistencies. The first thing to notes is that mixed consistencies don't actually teach your child to chew and are more difficult to eat than finger foods. Purees require us to move the food upwards and backwards. Finger foods require us to move the foods from side to side with our tongues. Mixed consistencies? Well you need to do both. So really it makes sense to only start eating mixed consistencies after you have mastered purees AND finger foods. This is generally around one year of age. So if your 9 month old hasn't quite got it? That's okay!

What to do?

  • The best thing to do is to ditch the lumpy purees and move straight to finger foods. Finger foods will help your child develop their chewing skills and desensitise their gag reflex.

  • I prefer the real food approach to weaning: offer your child the foods that you eat! If you're not going to eat it, why should they?

  • Ditching lumpy purees doesn't mean getting rid of smooth purees if you don't want to. I recommend trying to offer puree foods that YOU eat, but sometimes when you're out and about or have a busy day, convenience wins, and this is okay.

  • Offer mixed consistencies to your child but remember that they may not quite get it until around one year.

  • Allow your child to feed themselves. I love PandaEar cutlery for the self-feeding of puree consistencies.

The summary? If lumpy foods are making mealtimes stressful... well just ditch them, your child will be fine without them!

When it's just not working...

If you have tried everything but nothing seems to be working, seek help. The earlier you get help the better. Children who struggle with solids may have a good reason for this and some need individualised or more specialist support. The best professional for this is a Speech and Language Therapist specialising in feeding. Learn to Feed is able to provide virtual consultations worldwide or home visits in Surrey, United Kingdom. Contact us to book an appointment.

won't eat lumpy food

Share your weaning journey in the comments below.

If you would like support with your child's feeding, contact us to book an appointment.

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