The Importance of Texture in Your Baby’s Diet

April 27, 2020

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It seems to be well documented that infants are ready for complementary foods at around 6-months of age; [1] [2] however, the importance of introducing different textures around 9-months is not as well known. It makes sense that this transition should naturally occur if the goal for infants is to enjoy a variety of foods and textures by one year of age; [3] but how are we supposed to know whenand why our infants are ready for this progression? According to an expert panel review, introducing finely chopped foods at around 9-12 months is recommended (provided that your infant shows signs of developmental readiness). [4]

Why is this age so critical? 

As infants develop, the gastrointestinal tract and immune system change to accept foods other than maternal milk or formula. Changes are also occurring in terms of oral motor abilities. 

  • The oral cavity and lower jaw is smaller in newborns, while the lower jaw is also drawn back 
  • The tongue is relatively large for the mouth in infants while the fatty tissue of the cheeks limit tongue movement (which provides stability for sucking)
  • The larynx is closer to the epiglottis and soft palate in infants, which helps protect the airway [5]
Diagram: Infant vs. Adult Airway Differences

Diagram: Infant vs. Adult Airway Differences

As the infant grows and the anatomical structure of the oral cavity develops, basic reflexes change and the infant’s movements become more voluntary. The oral cavity expands to allow more room for the infant’s tongue (due to an increase in the size of their head, downward movement of the jaw, and absorption of the fat pads in their cheeks). Infants are eventually able to perform more lateral and up and down movements with their tongue, versus the front-to-back type of movements that are part of the initial sucking reflex. This change usually occurs between 6 and 9 months and allows infants the ability to manipulate semi-solid foods rather than pushing them out due to their reflex. Once the infant collects the food and pushes it toward the back portion of their tongue, a swallowing reflex occurs; this is why it is important to ensure foods are appropriately sized for the infant to prevent choking. [6] In addition to learning how to chew, it is further noted that the introduction of a lumpier texture helps infants develop their fine motor function. [7]

Infants also display changes in trunk, shoulder, and neck control, allowing them to sit up and independently control their head. See our blog on “When Should Babies Start Eating Solids”, where we explore how to know when your infant is ready for complementary foods.

baby holding fork and variety of food textures: tomatoes, blueberries, soft noodles

Tidbit for Your Tiny One

Not only is complementary feeding a time of constant growth for infants, their demand for important vitamins and nutrients increases. There is evidence to suggest that a delay in introducing a variety of textures by 9-10 months of age could be associated with feeding difficulties later on. 
[8]

Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • The gastrointestinal tract and immune system change to accept foods other than maternal milk or formula
  • Infants oral cavity changes to allow for more room and movement of the tongue usually around 6-9 months
  • Lumpier textures can help infants develop fine motor function
  • A delay in introducing different textures can lead to feeding difficulties

The following recipe poem is an excerpt from our upcoming book Recipes for Growing Me ~9 months:

sample page from recipes for growing me ~9 months, baby's first cookbook series, "Did You Know?", happy face number 9 character illustration with glasses holding a fork on grey background with rice, bow tie pasta and spinach, black lettering poem

Did you know?
As I transition through foods
From 6 to 9 months old
Think of adding more texture
Because I’m stronger and bold
Instead of foods that are

A mashy old mess
Provide me with more texture
And I will do best
Iron remains important
As do many vitamins too
In this recipe book are many
Helpful suggestions for you

We hope we’ve contributed something beneficial to your baby’s diet, and remember…DON'T HOG THE BLOG...share with new parents today!

Have a bloomin’ day!
Sarah & Karen


*Bibliography:  

[1] DynaMed, (2017). Feeding the term infant: overview and recommendations. Dynamed. http://www.dynamed.com

[2] Government of Canada, (2015).  Nutrition for healthy term infants: recommendations from six to 24 months.  http://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canada-food-guide/resources/infant-feeding/nutrition-healthy-term-infants-recommendations-birth-six-months/6-24-months.html

[3] Government of Canada, (2015).  Nutrition for healthy term infants: recommendations from six to 24 months.  http://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canada-food-guide/resources/infant-feeding/nutrition-healthy-term-infants-recommendations-birth-six-months/6-24-months.html

[4] DynaMed, (2017). Feeding the term infant: overview and recommendations. Dynamed. http://www.dynamed.com

[5] Naylore, AJ, and Morrow, A., (2001). Developmental readiness of normal full term infants to progress from exclusive breastfeeding to the introduction of complementary foods: reviews of the relevant literature concerning infant immunologic, gastrointestinal, oral motor and maternal reproductive and lactational development. Washington, DC: Wellstart International and the LINKAGES Project/Academy for Educational Development. https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnacs461.pdf

[6] Naylore, AJ, and Morrow, A., (2001). Developmental readiness of normal full term infants to progress from exclusive breastfeeding to the introduction of complementary foods: reviews of the relevant literature concerning infant immunologic, gastrointestinal, oral motor and maternal reproductive and lactational development. Washington, DC: Wellstart International and the LINKAGES Project/Academy for Educational Development. https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnacs461.pdf

[7] Boop, Cheryl, (2020). Is overuse of baby food pouches a problem? Nationwide Children’s. https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/700childrens/2020/02/baby-food-pouches 

[8] Fewtrell, M., et al. (2017). Complementary feeding: A position paper by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (Espghan) Committee on Nutrition. JPGN 64, (1), 119-132. https://journals.lww.com/jpgn/Fulltext/2017/01000/Complementary_Feeding__A_Position_Paper_by_the.21.aspx

 
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about Watch Me Bloom, you can buy our Recipes for Growing Me ~6 months book, say hello on Facebook or follow us on Instagram. If you liked this blog, share it with a new mom. Reading this for the first time? Subscribe and receive a complimentary digital download of our ‘Love Me Forever’ Digital Print to frame in your nursery or child’s room.




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