Mixing it up: why different food textures are so important for babies

July 19, 2016

Have you ever been on a juice or liquid "diet", or eaten salads for a few days? Do you then crave new flavours and textures, having gotten so bored with the same taste and feel?

Well, apparently babies from around the age of six months aren't that different, but instead of needing different textures and flavours because they get bored, they need them for development. True story. Babies need food consistency and variety and it's not just to make us as parents work a bit harder. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that lumpy foods should be introduced between 6 and 9 months of age. Research shows that babies who are not introduced to new textures during this time are less likely to accept new foods later in childhood.

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Speech development

Food variety is important for speech development. This is because different textures require different oral motor skills, which are important for speech development. For example, lumpy or pureed food encourage chewing. Chewing helps develop the use of the tongue, which is important for many different speech sounds, i.e. t, d, k and g. Solid foods help develop and strengthen the jaw, as well as the tongue muscles and lips, which are necessary for speech. The lips also help to keep food in the mouth, and are important for sounds m, p and b.

A delay in introducing solids with different textures as baby develops, can lead to a fussy infant, unwilling to accept new tastes and textures, as well as a delay in chewing and muscle development. This can affect speech sounds later on.

What to feed

According to my dietitian Abby Courtenay of Nutritional Solutions, who has a strong interest and expertise in child nutrition, says that food consistency and variety should increase as a baby gets older, starting with pureed, mashed, minced, or ground semi-solid foods at about six months and progressing to finger foods at six to eight months (when your baby starts ‘munching’ and making chewing movements) and a variety of chopped, ground or mashed family foods by 12 months.

"This recommendation is based on typical neuromuscular development of a healthy baby. There is a suggested critical window of opportunity (8-10 months) for the introduction of texture-modified solid foods to prevent the risk of feeding difficulties later on," says Abby.

She also advises that children younger than four years of age should not be given foods that are choking hazards. Foods likely to cause choking include hard, small and round, or smooth and sticky solid foods such as: raw vegetables, nuts, viennas, hard candy, cough drops, gum, raisins and other dried fruit, grapes, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, fish with bones, popcorn, marshmallows and peanut butter spread thickly or served on a spoon. 

A brilliant and convenient food option that ticks the boxes with texture and variety is the Happy Family range, which I've been sampling since they launched here last month. Happy Family is one of the largest and fastest growing organic food brands to offer a comprehensive line of nutritious foods for babies, toddlers, kids and adults.  All the Happy Baby products contain 100% organic fruits, vegetables, grain and meats, and include everything from cereals, purees (stages 1 to 3), teething biscuits and rice cakes.

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The products are distributed by Fountain Medical, and can be bought at Baby City or online stores like Takealot. There will be a smaller range for now, while more will be introduced locally soon. For more information,click here or head to Baby City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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