BABY DEVELOPMENT: BABY CHEWING

TODDLERS AND CHEWING

My baby can not chew and is two years old.  Help, please!

Although stellarcaterpillar.com address primarily topics related to infants and first year milestones, we would like to respond to this question for toddlers from a reader.  We love questions from our readers and believe mothers of infants may learn a lot from this discussion.  To answer the question of how to teach a toddler to chew we look first at what is learned in infancy to facilitate the skill of chewing.  The same techniques applied to teaching babies to learn to chew will help your toddler learn to chew as well.  Chewing is a coordinated skill of moving the jaw and tongue so that a solid piece of food is broken up into tiny pieces and eventually is swallowed.  Many teething toys that babies use while teething generate this chewing action.  While their teeth are coming in they are already preparing their body to carry out the action of the teeth to chew food.  Let’s take a look at some of the items baby may be introduced to that facilitate the chewing action. For the baby in the above question, try some of these activities and see if it helps baby learn to chew.

5 TOOLS FOR BABY DEVELOPMENT OF CHEWING

  1. TEETHING TOYS THAT SQUEAK:  Some teething toys make a fabulous squeak sound when chewed.  The sound motivates baby to bite the toy repeatedly.  Each time she bites the toy her jaw opens and closes.  The movement of the jaw improves with the use of these teething toys.  One favorite is the Vulli Chan Pie Gnon which also develops fine motor skills.
  2. TEETHING FEEDER:  Place a piece of food such as a strawberry into the mesh sack and give baby the ring holder of the teething feeder.  She will place it in her mouth and suck the food through the mesh cover.  The action of sucking also strengthens overall use of the mouth for the skill of chewing.
  3. TEETHING BISCUITS:  One of the first firm foods baby is introduced to is a teething biscuit.  The hard texture requires baby to bite a small piece off of the biscuit and then to move the piece around in her mouth with her tongue.  The tongue is also involved in the action of chewing and eating a biscuit begins to coordinate the tongue with the movement of the jaw.  If the biscuit is not firm in texture, baby does not need to use her tongue and jaw to break it up into small pieces.  
  4. INFANT GUM STIMULATORS:  Resembling a toothbrush without bristles, an infant gum stimulater has tiny bumps on the brush-like tip.  Baby holds the handle and rubs it against her gums.  This stimulation helps her to be aware of this part of her mouth and to use her gums in the action of chewing.
  5. VISUAL DEMONSTRATION OF CHEWING:  Babies love to imitate.  When feeding baby, have a bowl of food for you to eat nearby.  Take a bite and exaggerate the movements of the chewing so baby can see what you are doing.  They will observe you and want to do the same.  

For extra guidance you can work with a feeding therapist.  It is worth the effort to find a good one and invest in some lessons as soon as possible.

Special thanks to our reader who wrote in with this question!

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