Should I move away from purees and start with textured food?
I started my seven-month-old on solids about three weeks ago, and she's doing quite well. However, I've read that texture is important for her development, so I'd like to know when I should move away from the rice cereal and smooth purees to start introducing textured food, meat and finger foods?
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Tammy Wolhuter (registered dietician) answers:

Well done on the successful introduction of solids! As your baby’s oral-motor maturation proceeds, her rotary chewing ability develops, which indicates a readiness for more textured foods. This will occur about three weeks after introducing her to puréed foods, in her case around seven to eight months.

Babies develop differently, and some may be ready for more textured foods sooner than others. By introducing your baby to more textured food, you teach her to chew with either her teeth or gums, which is important for oral-motor development. When certain areas of the mouth are stimulated with different foods, your baby may learn to coordinate and strengthen the mouth or jaw muscles
necessary for speech development. If you offer only puréed foods for an extended period, you may find that she becomes unwilling to accept lumpier textures, and feeding problems may develop.

Feeding more textured food also helps with the development of finger coordination (or the pincer grasp), since babies may want to explore their food further by grasping it. More textured foods that
you can offer include: oats porridge; mashed vegetables and fruit such as potato, sweet potato, peas, paw paw, mango, raspberries, banana and butter beans; and soft cooked carrot, cauliflower and broccoli pieces.

At this age, meat and fi sh can also be introduced; you can offer your baby mashed fish such as tuna, salmon or hake; mashed lamb or chicken that is tender; and mashed mince.

Your baby learns to grasp with the palmer grasp now, moving on to an inferior pincer grasp that indicates a readiness for fi nger foods. By encouraging your baby to eat fi nger foods, you teach her fine motor development skills including the coordination of the eyes, mouth, arms and fingers. Examples of finger foods include ovendried toast, rice cakes, peeled cucumber sticks, green beans, thickly sliced tomato pieces, fi ne carrot sticks; mangetout peas, potato wedges and soft pieces of fruit (strips of mango/banana/softened apples and pears/orange/naartjie). Ensure that the pieces of food you offer are not too small or too large, which pose a risk for choking. Foods to avoid include whole grapes, peanuts and other whole nuts, pumpkin seeds, popcorn, whole olives, cherries and small sweets.

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