Chewing is a complex set of skills that will take years to refine and develop. Offering safe and supervised practice now is a great way to help your baby learn, says pediatric occupational therapist Rachel Coley.
If you started your baby on simple purees and they’re now swallowing most of each spoonful, they may be ready to graduate to fork-mashed solids, says Coley, who also leads Lovevery’s “Food Before 1” parent course.
The benefits of mashed solids for your baby
Fork-mashed solids do more than make purees thicker and less messy. The added texture can increase your baby’s oral awareness, giving their brain specific information about the food’s temperature and where it is in their mouth.
When babies first start eating solids, they often use the familiar suckling movement to draw smooth purees off a spoon and into the back of their mouth. Introducing fork-mashed solids can encourage your baby to try chewing their food. Even if your baby isn’t consistently chewing yet, this texture is safe to swallow, so you don’t have to worry at mealtimes.
15 foods to mash for your baby
Coley suggests offering your baby these fork-mashed fruits, vegetables, and proteins.
Ripe, soft fruits
- Fresh figs
Soft, cooked vegetables
- Butternut squash
- Sweet Potatoes
Iron-rich, soft foods
- Black beans
- Chicken, strained from a soup or stew
- Scrambled eggs*
- Soft, flaked, de-boned, low-mercury fish (catfish, cod, crab, flounder, salmon, tilapia, trout)*
*Potential allergens—see the safety note below
How to prepare and serve fork-mashed solids
With your fork, thoroughly mash several spoonfuls of food. The texture should resemble food that’s been blended almost to the consistency of a smooth puree. You may need to add a splash of liquid (water, breast milk, formula, or sodium-free broth) to reach the desired consistency. Based on your baby’s interest and self-feeding ability, you can offer preloaded spoons for them to bring to their mouth independently. This can get messy, but it’s an excellent opportunity for your baby to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. You can also spoon-feed them or provide assistance as needed.
Learn more about the research
Simione, M., Loret, C., Le Révérend, B., Richburg, B., Del Valle, M., Adler, M., Moser, M., Green, J. R. (2018). Differing structural properties of foods affect the development of mandibular control and muscle coordination in infants and young children. Physiology & Behavior, 186(1), 62-72
Starting solids safety note
Lovevery cares about your baby’s well-being during the exciting transition into solid foods. Child safety is of utmost importance. Please consult your child’s pediatrician before introducing your child to solid foods. They will be able to give you individualized recommendations on the best age to begin, taking into account your child and your family’s health history.
All parents and caretakers should complete a baby CPR and first aid course from a certified instructor. This will help keep your child safe and give you additional peace of mind while exploring solid foods.
Solid food can present a choking hazard. Please use caution when experimenting with solids. Always ensure your baby is seated upright, in a highchair, and serve appropriate foods based on your baby’s skill level. All food should be thoroughly cooked and never forced into your baby’s mouth. If choking occurs, please administer first aid based on your training and call 911 (or your local equivalent) immediately.
Closely monitor your baby’s reactions when experimenting with common allergens. If you notice a significant physical reaction such as hives, swelling of the lips, wheezing, or repeated vomiting, please seek immediate medical attention and consult with your child’s pediatrician before experimenting further.
Allergic reactions can be genetic in origin. If your child’s birth family has a history of significant allergies, please consult your child’s pediatrician and/or a pediatric allergist before experimenting with foods other than breast milk or formula.
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In our Food Before One Course, led by expert Rachel Coley, MS, OT/L, you’ll learn a modified baby-lead weaning approach that fits into your family’s life, the hierarchy of solids, signs that your baby is ready for more challenging foods, and much more.Learn more
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