Monday, September 24, 2012

Transitioning Your Baby (or Toddler) to Table Foods {Part 2}




This is part 2 of transitioning your baby to table foods, since I had so much to say on the subject!  In the last post, I reviewed starting off with puffs and moving to soft cubed foods like bananas and cooked vegetables, if you missed it, check it out here. In this post,  I will lay out how to completely make the transition off of baby food, avoid choking hazards, and what to do when it isn't going well.  

Bye Bye to Baby Food

After your baby has had some practice eating, in most cases a few days, start to regularly serve at least one crunchy but meltable food, like puffs or towne house crackers during meals.  Encourage your baby to feed themselves these finger foods, but certainly give help as needed.  If they are managing these types of food well, it is time to move onto some softer foods that require a little more chewing.  How do you know they are managing foods well?  When they are chewing it with little to no coughing, choking, or  gagging, and swallowing easily (not hard gulps), consistently, for a week or two.

Some examples of softer foods to move onto are (increasing in difficulty): avocado, banana, scrambled eggs, boiled potatoes, muffins, pasta, deli meat, cheese.

At this point you can also try pairing crackers and other crunchy foods with spreads like jelly, hummus, and cream cheese to maximize exposure to table foods and different textures.  Spread right on the cracker or show them how to dip it into a glob on their tray.  Then, start giving them these foods first at a meal and allow them to eat as much as they want.  If you feel they haven't eaten enough of the actual table food then give them some of the baby food.  Keep presenting more table foods slowly and as they eat enough of them give less and less baby food.  There will come a meal when you will say, "I think they ate enough of the toast, eggs, and strawberries.  I don't think they need the baby food."  Once you reach this point, it is okay to dip back into baby foods for a meal here and there, but ultimately you have to take a leap into letting go of the security baby food gives.  Keep trying different table foods.  If you are looking for inspiration, see my Mega List of Table Foods

I have been mostly focusing on actual cubed food that babies can easily feed themselves, but as they eat those softer foods and the spreads well, you can start to slowly experiment with mixed textures like soups and casseroles.  Again, you will want to keep this slow, maybe starting off with macaroni and cheese, and then moving to spaghetti and meatballs and then chicken noodle soup.  The latter has a lot more changes in consistency in one bite of food.  You can give baby a couple of pieces on the tray of these types of food, but will probably be mostly feeding by spoon.    

Helpful Tips

  • The best way to present most of these foods is in a small cube shape.  This will make it easier for them to pick up and control the size of the bites they are eating.  Babies will often choke as they are learning to eat, it is normal, but we can minimize risk by giving them smaller pieces until they are ready to manage more.  
  • Puffs have next to no calories.  They are great to use when they are just starting on table foods, but as you pull away from baby food they don't offer enough to fill their little bellies.  
  • I am using the word "transition" intentionally.  Getting your baby onto table foods is a  process that is a little like a dance, taking a few steps forward and then one back.  Many parents find this to be a challenging time.
  • Hot dogs, grapes, marshmallows, large dollops of nut-butters, nuts, lettuce, popcorn, hard candy are all potential choking hazards.  Hot dogs, grapes, and marshmallows can be cut into small pieces.  Spread nut-butters thinly on foods.  Food larger than a pea could get lodged in the airway.
If You are Having Difficulty Making this Transition

Some children have a hard time moving onto table foods.  Often these babes were pros at baby food, but turn their noses up and refuse many or all table foods.  It is common for this to be related to sensory defensiveness and/or difficulty chewing.  Generally speaking, as every child has specific instances and circumstances, it would be helpful to encourage play with food.  If there is sensory defensiveness, this will help break it down.  Try bins of dry foods like rice, beans, and birdseed first.  As they tolerate this, move onto wet bins such as cooked noodles (Check out Sensory Bin ideas here).  Depending on the age of your child, this will require close supervision.  Also, try playing with their food during a meal. Take the pressure off of eating and make a game out of those bananas they won't touch. See Exploring New Foods for more help on this.

Lastly, your baby watches you closely and will be motivated to imitate.  Show them how to chew by leaving your mouth open and dramatically chewing for them to see.  Be positive about foods they try, even if they refuse or spit it out. Keep presenting it over and over, at least 12 times.  

If you continue to struggle with moving forward with this process, consider my consulting services.

Do you feel like your ready to tackle table foods?  Need any more specifics or have questions? Let me know!  

41 comments:

  1. Thank you for this blog! I just found you the other day and you have some great posts! I was especially excited to see the Part 2 of this post today and am looking forward to trying some of your tips with my son. He is 17 months and does good with certain table foods. Mainly ones that have a dry texture, but when it comes to cold or squishy textures he won't touch them and will even refuse if we try to feed him them. We also have some other feeding issues, but I won't write a novel. It's been frustrating, but I am thankful to have found your blog and the advice and the peace of mind it offers!

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    1. Thank you so much! I see the avoidance of squishy textures all the time. Another tip, break it down, and give those things mixed in with other foods. For instance, warm up pasta salad and put small pieces of cheese in it... that is if he eats noodles. But, the idea is to mix it in with things he likes, slowly!

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    2. Great idea! He not into the noodles yet, but he likes the little star shaped pasta mixed with mixed veggie stage 3 baby food, as long as I feed it to him. Maybe I can try this idea with that. Thank you!

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  2. Great to read your suggestions! My son is 10 1/2 m o and isn't fussy when eating but likes me to place the food in his mouth! Will feed himself with rice snacks & biscuits but picks up everything else & throws it on the ground. Very frustrating!! Maybe I just need to keep trying (over 12 times) and at every meal like you suggested.
    Great tips though :)
    Megan

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    1. Yes, Megan, keep trying! Buy different brands/flavors or similar products to the rice snacks and biscuits to try and build on what he is already eating. This will help him start to branch out a little more. Sometimes, babes go through that phase of throwing everything on the floor. Keep trying to give him a few pieces of foods he likes and tell him "no" when he throws. He will get the hang of it!

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  3. I am so thankful to have found this blog. My 14 month old son is great when it comes to pureed foods -- he'll eat nearly anything as long as it's all or mostly pureed. We continue to offer him pieces of food, usually at the beginning of each meal, but so far he has shown very little interest (except cheerios!). Do you have any advice for guiding him towards self-feeding?

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    1. Thank you, Karin. Since, he is still on purees try giving him a small bowl while you are feeding him with his own food. Then, dip his hand into the puree and take it to his mouth. This may seem a little foreign to him, so keep trying if he is a little reluctant. Even though this isn't a finger food it will help him get the idea that he can take food to him mouth himself. Once he gets the hang of that, then start to take his hand to the cheerios. Also, try modeling it for him. I hope that helps! Let me know how it goes!

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  4. Alisha, thanks for your response! Looking back at my question, I was probably less than clear. :)

    Things he will eat:
    - nearly any puree that we feed him
    - purees with a bit of soft texture, such as quick-cooking oatmeal
    - yogurt from a bowl with a spoon (though his aim could use some work!)
    - cheerios, pretzels
    - bread, plain or with a thin smear of peanut butter

    He will occasionally eat cut up adult food, such as diced meatballs or apples, but this is relatively rare. He often refuses to put pieces of things into his mouth, and if he allows us to put something into his mouth, it often comes back out. We have tried all kinds of different foods served this way with little success.

    He does not have molars yet. Is this relevant?

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    1. No, the molars wouldn't have anything to do with it, that is a common misconception. He is able to chew most foods with his gums. To get him to eat more table foods, build off of what he is already eating. Try other flavors of cheerios, other brands of pretzels. Try other toppings on bread like hummus or cream cheese. Does that make sense?

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    2. Yes, thank you very much!

      We had a huge breakthrough this weekend -- he ate a whole meal by himself! White beans, diced roasted squash, and a whole wheat apple mini muffin. I don't know whether it will last, but it's certainly very encouraging!

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  5. Thanks for the ideas in this blog. I have a 13 month old that will eat yogurt and any puff, cracker, creal bar, cookie (etc.) that you put in front of her but basically refuses any other type of table food. She will eat stage 3 foods with pasta in them but will not touch it stand-alone. We've recently started her on dipping her little cookies/biscuits in her yogurt so hoping she would be more inclined to explore more additional foods herself, but it is a slow going process.

    I have noticed that she is inclined to play with the food more if she thinks we are not watching her at all....is that typical?

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    1. Yes, it is typical! Try to eat together as a family and not to make her the center of the meal, sometimes that adds pressure and that may be why she does some things while your not looking. Make sure you look at "picky eater tip: expand on what your kid is eating". There is a new tab in the top menu that says "article index"... you can find everything there! Good luck and let me know how it is going!

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  6. So glad to have found this blog! I have an 11 month old that we started on Gerber puffs and then on to some other table foods, including squishy ones... But she seems to have back-tracked and now gags regularly when eating. I think we moved too quickly into other textures. I will try some of your suggestions and see if we can get back on track. Thank you! Candice

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    1. Candice- keep me posted! There is a lot of information so take your time and let me know if I can be of any other help!

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  7. Hi Alisha,
    This is very helpful. My 10.5 month old mostly wants to feed himself but his pincer isn't very good yet so he struggles - especially with food that is slippery or small (the right size for him to eat). Then he gets frustrated and won't eat at all. Once in a while though, he only wants to be fed and more often doesn't want to eat what he usually likes. Any advice would be great. Thanks!

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    1. Yes, this is very typical. Put some down on his tray for him to try and feed himself, but you can feed him too so that he doesn't get frustrated. Try to focus on some drier food for him to pick up on his own. You can also hold up the piece of food for him to grab one at a time, which will really help with his pincer grasp. Keep trying he will get there! Let me know how it goes!

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  8. Thanks so much for all of this information.
    I am having the most difficult time feeding my 20 month old son. He eats two or three pieces of cut up diced food (on the good days), otherwise i still have to puree his food. And then if the puree food is to lumpy, he will gag and throw up.

    I tried to introduced table food when he turned a year old, and we had so many weeks where he would just gag and throw up. It was traumatic! And i backed off, went back to puree foods.

    For the last few weeks he's also rejecting the puree foods (he had a notorious ear infection, but hes okay now). He also lost some weight as a result of the loss of appetite from his meds while recovering from the ear infection.
    As i mentioned earlier, he will eat maybe three of four diced up small pieced of carrots of potato. But its rare. He enjoys grapes and coco puffs - but thats really it. I am loosing my mind. Your advice would be valuable!

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    1. Also - most table food will be chewed and spat right out. No swallowing

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    2. Hi rp- are you in the states? I have a lot of helpful info on here, but I would recommend getting him a feeding eval. Your state is required to offer a free early intervention program for such issues. I can help you more with that. I am also available for consults- see the top menu bar.

      It sounds like there are some underlying issues going on, which I see very commonly- so you are not alone! Take it slow and try to give him scrunchy foods that melt right away. He has to get use to textures and chewing slowly. Keep things as positive as possible. Please let me know if I can help anymore!

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    3. Oh, there is also an article index in the top menu as well. See the title picky eater and check out 5 Reasons Why Kids Don't Eat. That will help you to get started.

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  9. Hi Alisha,
    Thank you so much for your response. I will read up on the articles and links you mentioned.
    I tried Coco Pops with him and they were a bit of a success. He ate a couple and then chewed and spat out some (same thing that he does with other foods).

    He also eat at his high chair (and yes, we have the iPad on).

    I keep offering the pieces of food, even as I feed him Puree in case he decides to eat.
    He will eat anything sweet, but again - things like custard, melted ice-cream etc.

    Let me read the links and see if I can work things here with my son, and will get back to you. Thank you again Alisha, for all your advice and help!

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    1. That is good- yes keep giving him food and having him try foods even if he spits them out is progress. It is ok to use the iPad for now, but ultimately I would try to move away from that. Make sure you check out my post from last night too....http://www.yourkidstable.com/2013/09/help-for-infants-and-toddlers-early.html

      Keep me posted!

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  10. Hi Alisha
    I am happy to report that we have had some progress. I eliminated his puree/mashed up food at dinner, and gave him some boiled egg. He ate only the whites, while dipping in ketchup and some in chocolate sauce. I have been consistently presenting that option for dinner for a week now. Most days are okay. One or two days he didnt want any food. He eats a couple pieces himself, then i have to help.

    Do you have any idea about portion size for a 19 month old. I know this varies ofcourse - each child is wonderfully unique. But any general guidelines? Is one boiled egg enough for a meal?
    And he seems to like hummus. How many spoons (teaspoons) ought to be a good portion size. He doesnt want any after just two or three bites some days

    Thank you so much.

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    1. That's great! Generally speaking kids need 1 tablespoon of a protein, a carb, and a fruit or veggie at each meal for every year of their age. So a 2 year old would need 2 tbsp of each, I would give your son 1 and 1/2, assuming there is 4-5 meals a day (that includes snacks). One egg is more than enough protein, hummus is also a protein. Does that make sense?

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  11. I'm having a difficult time feeding my 13 month with the transition to table foods and I was thankful to read your blog today. Over the past week, my LO has slowly made progress in eating new foods such as bananas and string cheese. Interestingly enough, he does not like to eat cubed pieces of food. Instead, I give him half of a banana or 1/3 of string cheese that he can hold in his hand and gnaw on. He'll also take bites of apple slices and then spit it out. But since he is selective with his table foods, I'm still feeding him baby jar food too. Today, I tried offering him several different table foods for lunch: steamed diced veggies, shredded chicken, cooked chicken slices, and cucumber sticks - all which ended up on the floor. :( I know the transition will take time but at times I feel horrible for feeding my LO so many processed snacks (Mum Mums, cheerios, baby crackers, graham crackers, goldfish).

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    1. I here you, it sounds like you are on the right track. If he is chewing well then keep trying different foods- give him just one or two pieces so it all doesn't go to waste. Also, really try to demonstrate eating this food and making happy faces. Leave your mouth open so that he can see how you chew it- gross, I know, but it is really helpful for a lot of kids. If you are in the states, see this post, I would get an eval just to be on the safe side. I'm also available if you want to talk more in depth. http://www.yourkidstable.com/2013/09/help-for-infants-and-toddlers-early.html

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  12. I have been reading your blog since last night and the first thing i went to this morning when my son went down for his nap. It is so amazing and you give such great advice! We have been having such a difficult time with drinking and eating. My son just turned 1 and has never been a great drinker, from a bottle. He can do it, he just will drink 1 or 2 oz at a time and then stop and push it away and we keep have to encouraging him to drink. Now that he is 1, a whole new problem with sippy cups, or actually the same problem. I wouldnt be so concerned, if he was eating more, but that seems to have also slowed down. The worst is breakfast. When he wakes up, I give him some time and then offer a 4 oz bottle, he will take maybe 2 oz with encouragement and will not touch any food...today however he wanted nothing to do with drinking out of a bottle or sippy, but did eat some cheerios in milk, that I fed to him. I am so lost about what to do. He will eat a few bites of things during the day and definitely does better if I feed him, but by no means is he eating "meals" and only consuming maybe 4-5 oz of any liquid independently. Therefore I feel like I need to rely on feeding him a bottle before nap and bed to compensate. I feel like picky eating is "normal" but not drinking too?? I am stumped....

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    1. Thank you so much- I'm so glad your kid's table has been helpful! It sounds like there may be some underlying difficulties- I can't be sure of course, but maybe muscle weakness or he could be tongue tied? I always try to give parents at least one tangible thing they can do, but in this case that is really challenging without more info. Are you in the states? He would qualify for a free feeding eval, and I am available for consults as well- no pressure though. Email me if you have more questions.

      Check out this post, if you haven't already:http://www.yourkidstable.com/2013/01/5-reasons-kids-refuse-to-eat.html

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    2. Hi! Thanks so much for getting back to me. He seems to have the muscle strength and the doc has never mentioned anything abt being tongue tied. We are supposed to have an eval with EI in a couple weeks. Originally I had called EI, because it was more of a motor skill concern, he is unable to sit up from laying down on his own and not crawling. I understand all kids progress differently in that area, so I wanted to wait until he was 1 to see if there were any changes. He seems to be reaching for things better while in a sitting position, however if I put him on his belly, he usually just screams until I pick him up. I really try to work with him, but he gets very upset with any tummy time activities. He is very good with his hands, can stack rings and cups and get a snack out of the little munchkin cup, but the gross motor skill is where he refuses to try. He can also stand and hold onto something every well if I put him in that position, however he will not pull up to get in that position.
      Well that is just a little piece of where we are right now with the gross motor skills.
      Sorry to get off base. To give you a little more info on the eating/drinking. This morning, abt 20 min after he got up, I gave him a 4 oz bottle (1/2 milk, 1/2 formula) in his high chair, (need to recline the chair to drink). he drank 1 oz and was done. would not drink anymore even with encouragement. He ate a few bites of cheerios in milk and a couple bites of banana that I fed to him on a spoon. (better than normal)
      after that he turned his head and started to get upset.
      after being up for a couple hrs, I offered him 3 more oz of milk in a bottle. He drank 1 oz laying on a pillow. (He has never drank a bottle sitting up).
      tried all different kinds of sippy, straw, regular cup etc...but nothing seems to work so far. even the bottle.
      I was going to try rice milk today to see if it is a taste thing? He can also hold up a sippy cup with handles, he just doesnt want to drink from it.
      I would love to discuss more with you about a consult.
      Thank you again.

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    3. on as side note, on a whim, today I gave my son rice milk, which he actually drank 3oz out of a sippy cup! and also ate some cottage cheese and fruit when he got up from his nap. Do you think it is the taste of the milk that could be the issue? Are there any major reason why I should not give rice milk as long as I make sure he is getting enough calcium/vit D from other sources? this was much more of a success than with formula or milk or mixed... but not sure I should give up on the cows milk so easily??

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    4. Right I wouldn't give up on cow's milk so easily- there is so much fat in there is great for brain development, but the rice milk is an option.

      Glad you are getting an eval- I think it will be helpful for you. You should get lots of info, plus strategies to get things going in the right direction. If you would like a consult, I'd love to talk in more detail. There is a tab in the menu bar at the top or you can email me at yourkidstable@gmail.com Either way, let me know how it all goes!

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    5. Thank you! I just sent you and email now.

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  13. Hi, Alisha. I just came across your blog when searching for information on this topic. We are trying to transition our 12-month-old little girl to table food, and we're having a few issues:

    1. She will eat pretty much any cubed table food we give her, as long as we put it in her mouth. She has a great pincher grasp and will play with the food all day, but she will not bring the food to her mouth by herself. She even fusses if we put her hand to her mouth.

    2. I did some reading and found that a good table food portion size is 1 tbsp per food group at a meal. She will only eat about 1/3 to 1/2 of that before she starts screaming and doesn't want anymore. Should I follow up with baby food to be sure she's eating enough?

    3. She's now on all cow's milk, and we're giving it to her after she's finished each meal. She was drinking around 32 oz. of formula per day before we transitioned her to cow's milk. The recommended daily intake of cow's milk is only around 16-20 oz., and she wants far more milk than she's getting, especially at nighttime. Should we give her more? She'll drink small amounts of water but is not very fond of it.

    Your blog is extremely informative, and any advice you could give is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

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    1. Hi Sarah, I would definitely recommend cutting back on her milk wherever you can. You wouldn't believe how much that can fill their little tummies. It is most likely that she just needs to learn to eat more at meals. Give her lots of praise when she eats something and try to change up the environment if you can. Have someone else feed her, move her high chair. This will help her get out of her habit of throwing a fit. I would temporarily give the baby food, but really be trying to move away from it- don't use it as a crutch. See the most recent post: Toddler portion sizes. It really is important to trust them in their appetite. This will also teach her that she needs to eat when the food is there.

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  14. Thank you, this is very helpful. I have an almost 1 year old, and she used to eat puree like a champ. She'd eat 3 jars at each meal. Now that I have been trying to move to table food, I'm finding it very hard. She tries to put everything in her mouth at once and often I still see the food in her mouth minutes after she puts it in. So, now I sit there and dole out a piece at a time and wait for her to swallow. I don't think she really chews either, so it's very disconcerting. I have come to dread mealtimes, it takes forever now! And I'm terrified of her choking since I think she tends to swallow whole and she tends to cough as she's eating. Is this normal? I'm wracking my brain for foods for her to make a meal of that are very easy to swallow so my go to's are yogurt, oatmeal, soft ravioli pieces, scrambled eggs, etc.

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    1. I would say there are some red flags here and that your instincts are right. She probably isn't chewing and anything more than an occasional cough is unusual. I'm glad she is motivated to eat, but refer back to these posts and follow steps to show her how to chew. Put food on her gums where she should be chewing. I would also recommend getting a feeding eval- don't worry that isn't as scary as it sounds. I'm also available for consults- no pressure- if you want to come up with a specific plan for her. If you are in the states see the article index and look for the post: Early Intervention. This will tell you how to get a free in home eval. If you need any help with this let me know!

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  15. Hey! I am just looking for some advice. My 11.5 month old seems to be making transitions without me and I'm not sure how to proceed. She was never a picky eater...loved every puree I gave her and is really good with textures from a spoon. Recently she has largely refused all food from a spoon - even things she always loved. I have found that if I let her play with something, sometimes she'll open her mouth for a spoonful, but it's very inconsistent. And it seems she's not in to textures if she has to feed herself. She'll eat cheetos and cheese and peas, but nothing squishy. Even things I know she likes (like avocado or blueberries). It's making me very paranoid that she's not getting the nutrition she needs but I don't want to make meal times a negative experience! I don't know how to move from here..
    Jessica

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    1. By the way, as clarification..
      A) By "play with something" I meant toys, not food
      B) I make my baby food, so she's been getting herbs and complex combos since she was a wee one...
      C) I don't feed her Cheetos (haha)! I meant Cheerios :-)
      Jessica

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    2. Hi Jessica! Sorry, for just responding as I just saw this. As you've read I'd be trying to move away from baby food. It sounds like she wants to be done anyways. I would also avoid toys at the table, I know it works not, but trust me it can turn into a monster. Try to build off of what she is eating well and slowly build a bridge to new foods. In the article index see in the menu bar see: Picky Eating Tips- Expand on What They are Eating, and Exploring New Foods. If this problem has persisted I would also consider an eval, see the article Help for Babies and Toddlers. I hope that helps and let me know if you need anything else!

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  16. my little boy is 7 months old and got no teeth but chews really well the public health nurse told me to start him on table food ( things i eat ) i give him yogurt(minigos) cheerios, toast, eggs, banana , corn twists ,baby puffs, mum mums but i don't know what else to feed him meal wise like for dinner and supper can you give me some ideas im a first time mom :)

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    1. Oh I have a whole post on that, see the side bar under popular posts or the article index in the menu bar at the top. It is called Mega list of baby and toddler foods.

      Think of cooked potatoes, noodles, soft pizza, tortilla shell, fish, etc., just to name a few. Let me know if you need more help!

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