A Safe, Skills-Based Progression From Purees to Solids
There's a common misperception that unless you go straight to solids, as in the popular Baby Led Weaning approach, you'll spend the second six months of your baby's first year spoon-feeding your baby mushy pureed foods.
But before you run out and buy a specialized baby food blender or a cart-load of puree pouches, you may be interested to know that most babies don't usually need to eat pureed food for more than 3-8 weeks (and sometimes even less).
The Fast Track To Solids Approach to Feeding Baby
Using my Fast Track to Solids approach's sequential progression of foods from puree to solids, most babies quickly transition from purees to solids because they master new feeding skills quickly due to the "just right challenge".
No throwing baby into the deep end of the pool and watching them struggle to learn to swim and no hanging in the shallow end for the foreseeable future. My approach is more like giving your baby swimming lessons for the most safe and pleasurable pool experiences.
As we discussed in the first post in the Fast Track To Solids series, this approach includes three key features:
- a progression from pureed to soft solid foods based on individual signs of readiness
- self-feeding skills encouraged at every meal
- baby eating similar, but not identical, foods as the family
In this post we'll take a closer look at the first key feature and get an overview of how to implement this approach.
Rapid Progression From Purees to Soft Solids
Here's a video overview of my approach with examples of each of the first 5 phases described in the rest of this article and, in much greater detail, in my online feeding course for parents:
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Phase 1: Tastes (around 6 months)
When your baby starts to show signs of readiness for solid foods, begin the Tasting Phase. Dip baby's spoon in a smooth puree of your choosing. Offer baby the spoon to grab and help her guide it to her mouth for a little taste. Or, give baby the spoon and let her mouth, tap, and play.
In these initial phases, introduce 1 food at a time for 3 days and monitor for reactions before introducing another food.
One sign of readiness for Phase 2 is when your baby shows interest and pleasure in tasting and opens her mouth when the spoon is near.
Phase 2: Spoonfuls of Purees
Offer first real "bites" of pureed foods. But don't stock up on purees and baby cereals! Your baby likely won't be in Phase 2 long.
Choosing thicker purees will challenge baby to do a bit more with her mouth than just suckling thin purees off the spoon (suckling is the movement babies make with their mouths to drink from a breast or bottle) and will decrease the messy splatter a bit as baby experiments with self-feeding from a spoon.
To thicken purees, add powdered baby cereal like Happy Baby Multigrain and NurturMe Quinoa. For homemade baby foods, simply puree to the texture of yogurt or pudding or add powdered baby cereal to thicken.
One sign of readiness to move to Phase 3 is keeping most of each bite in his mouth.
Phase 3: Fork-mashed Solids
Fork-mashed solids have the consistency of "pre-chewed food" (gross, but true). Fork-mashed foods begin to introduce texture to baby's diet and help baby increase "oral awareness," which is important for a baby learning to use cheek, lip, jaw and tongue muscles to move food around the mouth.
Note: Fork-mashed solids are NOT the same as Stage 3 store-bought baby foods.
One sign of readiness for moving to Phase 4 is when you notice your baby keeps some fork-mashed foods in her mouth and swallows them. You may see some "munching" jaw movements (a precursor to mature chewing), some opening and closing of the lips or baby's tongue moving front to back or side to side.
Phase 4: Dissolvable Solids & Mesh feeder
Dissolvable solids are a safe way to introduce solid chunks of food because they soften even if baby doesn't chew yet. Add a few dissolvable solids like Happy Puffs and Happy Yogis yogurt bites to baby's mealtimes.
Another great way to promote chewing and let your baby experience different textures and tastes is to use a mesh feeder like this Munchkin brand mesh feeder.
Your baby may be ready to move to Phase 5 when you start to see your baby chewing.
Phase 5: Soft solids
Your baby has been exposed to new flavors, textures and temperatures of food and has gotten good practice chewing foods, so now you can safely and confidently move on to soft solids.
In my online feeding course for parents, Food Before One, I break Soft Solids into 2 categories - mashable solids and easy chewables and crunchables and share how to know your baby is ready for each.
Small bites are easiest for your baby to move over their gums to mash, chew and chomp. In order for baby to bite off and chew up larger chunks of food and tougher solids, he'll need to develop the most mature chewing skills, which usually don't emerge until 15 month or later.
Because of babies' decreased ability to metabolize salt and to chew tough meats, fibrous fruits and veggies and other foods, Phase 5 meals can consist of many of the ingredients of your family meals, but may not look identical. For example, baby's taco dinner might include seasoned but unsalted ground meat, shredded cheese and very small cubes of avocado and tomato. This omits the added salt and the too tough or chewy hard and soft tortillas.
Some signs of readiness for Phase 6 are when your baby has reached 15 months of age and is showing efficient chewing of larger, more firm soft solids.
Phase 6: Family table foods
Now that your baby is getting older and is a more experienced eater, she can eat *most* all table foods that your family does.
Be very cautious offering very chewy foods like meats and continue to cut solid to bite-sized pieces until you've consistently observed your baby's ability to chew a smaller bite off a larger piece (i.e. giving your baby a whole cracker to take bites of).
Young children may over-stuff their mouths, bite off larger chunks than is safe or accidentally inhale foods when talking, laughing or coughing. Close supervision at mealtime is important for young children.
Progressing From One Phase To The Next...
It's important to remember that your baby won't ever fully "graduate" from thick purees, fork-mashed foods, dissolvable solids and soft table foods. She'll naturally encounter all of those textures in a normal diet so don't feel like you have to be completely done with each phase. Just add foods from the next phase when your baby shows readiness.
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Just listen to how excited, confident and successful first-time mom Molly was on her FIRST DAY of feeding her baby:
"We started solids today and are following your Food Before One course. Today when I handed her a pre-loaded spoon with butternut squash, she went to town! So exciting!"