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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Posted in EATING
Tagged diet, health
Baby Safe Disposable Feeder
BABY GEAR TO ASSIST WITH EATING SOLID FOODS
A teething feeder is a very simple and inexpensive baby product for parents with babies who are refusing solid foods. Just take a small piece of food and place it in the mesh container which has a ring on it for baby to hold. Baby will place the mesh surrounded piece of food into her mouth and suck on it. She will receive much of the nourishment of the solid food by sucking on it. When baby is having difficulty chewing and/or swallowing solid foods, this is an excellent option. The baby milestone of eating can be challenging for some babies and this feeder helps them through the transition. It is also great for introducing new flavors to baby’s diet and these feeders come with a convenient storage cap for travel.
WHEN TO INTRODUCE SOLID FOODS TO BABY
Recent research shows the best time to introduce solid foods to baby is at age six months. It is important not to introduce solid foods before baby is ready to sit up, chew and swallow the food. Foods that are a bit soft such as strawberries, banana, watermelon, or cooked zucchini are best to use with this feeder. Keep the food temperature not too hot or not too cold. Remember to always check with your pediatrician to see what foods are best for your baby.
FEEDING BABY ON THE GO
Parents are always looking for ways to feed baby when traveling. The teething feeder comes with a cap which allows moms to prepare the food ahead of time by placing it in the mesh container and covering it with a cap until it is time for baby to suck on it. This mesh cover also prevents choking hazards as you feed baby solid foods. The mesh keeps the solid part of the food from getting into baby’s mouth which can possibly cause choking. Sometimes both parents and child are easily distracted especially when outside the home environment, so always keep your eyes on baby when when she is eating.
WHEN TO INTRODUCE SOLID FOODS TO BABIES
This week the New York Times published an article which clearly identifies the best time to introduce solid foods to babies. “Infants Are Fed Solid Food Too Soon, C.D.C. Finds,” was published on the heels of a research study published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers discovered that many parents are feeding their baby solid food long before the infant’s system can handle it. Some parents fed their infant solid food as young as early as 4 weeks. The recommended age for feeding babies solid foods is six months, states the New York Times article.
MYTHS ABOUT FEEDING BABY SOLID FOODS
Researchers found some common reasons that parents feed babies solid food before they were ready. The article identifies the following myths which are not reasons to feed babies solid food: to help improve sleep, because they are hungry, baby is growing rapidly, it helps baby put on weight, or because it is easy to feed them a small portion of the meal prepared for the family. In fact, studies show problems such as obesity can result when babies are fed solid food too soon. It is very important for parents to understand not to feed baby solids until he is 6 months old.
BABY DEVELOPMENT FOR EATING SOLID FOODS
The development of a baby includes the achievement of certain milestones which prepare baby for the milestone of eating solid foods. These important developmental skills enable a baby to sit and chew food that is taken from a fork or spoon. These skills include:
- ability to sit
- ability to keep his head lifted or upright
- ability to chew
- ability to close the mouth when food is put into it
- development of gut bacteria in the intestines (not a motor skill)
Once a baby has acquired these abilities and is 6 months old, check with your pediatrician to confirm that it is time to start feeding him solids. Remember to ask the pediatrician for a list of recommended solids to feed baby and a list of foods to avoid feeding baby.
Baby with Lollacup
INTRODUCING AN IMPROVED SIPPY CUP: LOLLACUP
Several month ago I was watching Shark Tank, one of my favorite TV shows that provides entrepreneurs with the opportunity to pitch their idea for a business or product to a group of venture capitalists. If they are fortunate, they leave the tank with an investment. One of the baby products pitched on the show that received an investment is Lollacup. The husband and wife team who developed Lollacup excitedly observed their daughter drinking from a straw at the age of 9-months-old. Their pediatrician recommended weaning her to a straw cup rather than a traditional sippy cup. However, the liquid in these cups would always sink to the bottom of the cup while the straw would float up to the top. The clever parents saw an opportunity to create a new and improved sippy cup and that is when they created Lollacup. Lollacup is a sippy cup with a weighted straw so the straw sinks to the bottom of the cup with the liquid. This cup makes it possible for baby to drink out of a cup with a straw, even when the cup is tilted. The twist off handles make it possible to place the cup into a diaper bag side pocket for moms and babies on the go. Lollacup is also made in the USA of BPA-free and phthalate-free materials and sports an adorable bird design that babies love.
DRINKING WITH A STRAW AND MOTOR SKILLS
Lollacup is the perfect cup to teach baby to drink through a straw. The action of drinking with a straw is beneficial for both babies and adults. Why? Because the action of sucking uses the sphincter or ring muscles in the body. When we use one ring muscle it activates all of the ring muscles. This action of sucking is familiar to baby since this has been her technique for eating food from the bottle or breast. The action of toning all of the ring muscles can be soothing because they feel it through their entire body, and this why babies feel comforted when they use pacifiers. Sucking also uses more muscular action than a sippy cup, which is beneficial for speech development. Make the sound of the letter “O.” Exaggerate the sound, “OOOOOO.” You make the same round shape with your mouth that you do with the action of sucking through a straw.
THE SIPPY CUP AND BABY POSTURE
In order to drink from the Lollacup or an ordinary sippy cup baby sits with good posture. This is one of the differences between drinking from a bottle and drinking from a sippy cup. Baby can still recline when using a bottle. It is more difficult to recline with a cup. At around 9 months old, the next step in the development of a baby is drinking in the upright posture. When baby holds the handles on a Lollacup or sippy cup, he connects his arms into his spine. He coordinates his arms, hands, mouth, and torso as he moves the cup up toward his mouth to take a drink. Observe the baby’s posture in the above photo. He needs to sit up with good posture to drink from the cup, and holding the handles enables him to do so.
Photo courtesy of Lollaland.
As many parents and children celebrate Halloween, we would like to offer some tips on how to have a healthy Halloween for baby’s future years. First, choose festive activities over candy-collecting (a.k.a. trick-or-treating) which is much better for children’s health. Many communities now offer fun family Halloween activities on the weekend prior to the holiday as well as on October 31st. Just read your local papers and check the nearest Moms Club calendar for listings. This year our neighborhood offered a costume contest at a local restaurant, a carnival with camel rides and a bounce house, a pumpkin patch, a haunted hayride, and a carnival at a local school. Who needs to go trick-or-treating with so many fun activities to attend?
If you take your toddler trick-or-treating, try and keep some healthy options mixed in with the candy. Buy a healthy treat to give to kids who come to your door so you will not be stuck eating left-over candy. Today, CNN offered some tips we would love to share: “Make better candy choices.” Here are our favorite suggestions:
TOP 3 TIPS FOR HEALTHY HALLOWEEN TREATS
- Choose healthy food such as unsalted nuts for trick-or-treats.
- Give a non-edible treats such as stickers, or trading cards.
- Donate part of your candy to Halloween Candy Buy Back.
Remember one of the most important facts is that sugar creates cavities. The hard candies such as lollipops are the treats that do the most damage because they stick to the teeth. Encourage brushing the teeth immediately after eating candy, if possible. For more information about teeth that is specific to babies, please read our posts on how to promote healthy teeth for baby:
HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY, AND SAFE HALLOWEEN!
When developing baby’s first library please include a few counting books. One of Stellar Caterpillar’s favorites, of course, is Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” We love all things caterpillar because it is a symbol of both articulated movement and transformational growth. In Carle’s book the caterpillar of the story has a big appetite prior to going inside his cocoon and eventually breaking free as beautiful butterfly. Several pages in the book are designed to help baby learn to count. They are cleverly shortened and each item of food has a hold punched in it to assist in counting. This uses baby’s sense of touch to learn counting. As you model the touch by taking your index finger and poking each of the holes as you say “1, 2, 3,” she will soon learn to touch the holes in the same way. The variation in page width engages baby’s curiosity and one of the reasons young infants love this baby book.
The story is about the caterpillar’s appetite. The reader counts the foods, both healthy and unhealthy, that he eats. There is a subtle message about baby health and how eating green foods make you feel better as the caterpillar recovers from a binge on pie, cake and other sweets by eating a nice big green leaf. Another subtle diet message is about the need to eat in order to grow. The caterpillar’s appetite turns ravenous prior to the creation of his cocoon. This is useful as baby enters the toddler years and embraces her strong will at the dinner table with forceful expressions of “No.”
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is also a very colorful book. The prominent colors are bright colors that baby sees easily: red, green, yellow, and blue. For the young babies, point out the colors and as you name them, “Red.” Watch the beautifully animated video above from Mandy Banester’s youtube channel, and you will see the colors of the story are the bright colors from the natural world around us. Colors include those of the sun, plants and beautiful fresh fruits.
With every book you read to baby, find two or three words that are simple first words for baby. Each time you read the book, say those words clearly to her and invite her to repeat them. A few easy words in the caterpillar story are egg, sun, leaf, and apple. This is the beginning of speech development for baby. With repetition, she will enjoy saying the words too!