Episode 7: My Opinion about Why more and more Children are Having Difficulty Chewing Solid Foods
In today’s episode, I am going to tackle, my opinion on why more and more children are having difficulty chewing solid foods. This is happening a lot to a point where I feel it is a concern. I am encountering a lot of 2 and 3 year old children even up to 4 years old who are not chewing food. All they do is just swallow while they are being fed.
The parents of these children are forced to mash foods and any particle in the food is not tolerated by the child, who might spit it out or cause them to gag and vomit or even vomit.
This as you can imagine causes quite a lot of distress to not just the child, but also the parents.
Here is my opinion about why this is happening. It is true that a lot of these children who are having difficulty chewing solids foods may also have additional language delays but still we have children who have no problem chewing food.
The reason why more children are having difficulty chewing solid foods
I will go out on a limb and say that one contributing factor to this problem is our “modern living”. By modern living, I mean the advent of the blender.
The transition between the completely soft food to textured food is not happening fast enough. So at 6 months when a child is supposed to be given for example the rice cereal i.e. the very very soft foods almost like the cerelac type you see this child still being given cerelac or that rice cereal later at like 9 months or 7 months.
How to smoothly transition your child from soft foods to solid foods
You can start to give your baby very soft foods at 6 months, and 2 weeks or a month lateryou should start to add a bit of texture. A bit of texture means that if you were used to giving them rice cereal, you start to give something that is a bit “chewer” like Weetabix .
Giving your baby food that has bits of solid particles helps their brain to have a very smooth transition as they will start to realise that there is something more textured coming into their mouth.
And you will see that even if your child isn’t yet chewing, one day if you give them something chewy they will not suck on it. They will instead try and chomp on it with their gums as a reflex like the same way suckling is a reflex. A baby knows that they are supposed to suckle, no one teaches them how to. The same way, nobody actually needs to teach a baby how to chew if the transition happens right away.
Your baby’s brain is very smart. If your baby gets used to being given very soft food at 6 months, 7 months, 8 months, 9 months, 10 months. It decides that since it is being given soft foods it doesn’t make sense to chew anything. So now at 1 or 2 years you the parent have a crisis because you are trying to introduce solid food when baby’s brain has had a good 18 months of swallowing soft foods. When you give them solid food their brain is like well, I don’t have this function, this function was never taught to me. Their brain registers this as the transition from soft to solid foods did not happen smoothly or seamlessly.
Why your house-help may be contributing to your child’s difficulty in chewing solid foods
In my opinion, blenders have largely contributed to the difficulty in transitioning children from soft to solid foods. This is particularly likely to occur if your child is being cared for or fed by a house-help. But this is not to say that it is only house-helps that are feeding children. I am speaking to our context here in Kenya or in Nairobi. We also have parents feeding their children.
The reason why I am giving the example of a house-help is because a house-help who is swamped with chores may find it easier to feed your baby soft food to make it quicker for them to move to the next chore. Increasing the texture of your child’s food may not be motivating to your house-help as it may take longer to feed your child solid food as opposed to the soft foods.
Read this article on why your house-help may be contributing to your child’s language delay.
It is best to have a gradual increment of textures to enable smooth transitioning from soft to solid foods. You can have a chart that you use to communicate with whoever is feeding your child to start this increment. There is actually a pulse button on your blender that you can use to soften your baby’s food which leaves it having enough textured particles. You can start pulsing from as soon as 6 and a half months.
There is also another way of introducing textured food that is called baby-led weaning where you don’t mash food but soften it by boiling. This may surprise you but a 6 month old baby or younger if given a very soft carrot, say an overboiled carrot will actually chomp at it. They may suck on it initially but they will slowly start to chomp at it using their gums.
Anyway, I am not recommending or asking that anybody out there go and do something extreme as not actually mashing the food. What I am saying is that if you are ever in doubt that your child might not tolerate texture you can rest assured that they will. And if you are going to go into baby-led weaning, your child needs to be very well supervised during meal times because everything is actually in solid form- very very softened solid
So there you have if it, that is my opinion about why more and more children over 2 or 3 years are having difficulty chewing solid food. And one last thing that I feel is very important to add at this juncture is that the same muscles that are used for eating are the same muscles that are used for talking. That is why I am coming in saying that children should be exposed to as much texture because they need to exercise those oral muscles which are responsible for not only chewing but also for talking.
Please feel free to check out any of our other resources to learn more about any of the new topics this series has raised for you.