Trouble transitioning to table foods from purees

Hi everyone,

I was wondering if anyone else was struggling with switching from purees to table food? My son will only eat about a tablespoon at most of any food and then will either gag or refuses any more. I have to supplement the rest of his meal with a puree. He eats a little better if he picks it up himself, but never enough to be full. 

My son is also a preemie (30 weeks) so I don’t know if its related to that. He is 12 months adjusted age right now. 

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If you haven’t already, I would checkout the website “Solid Starts”. Really informative for baby led feeding. 

+1 to Solid Starts. Their instagram channel is also very helpful. 

There's also Feeding Littles, which I've heard great things about. I purchased their infant course but the toddler course might be more appropriate for you.

My son was also a very preemie at 29wks, so I delayed a lot of transitions as well, including purée to solids. I don’t think the extremely early birth had that much of an impact, but depending on what developments may have been delayed, such as muscular (tongue being a muscle), it could delay it. Around 12months, he had his first taste of very soft bread, then plain pasta (over cooked), rice in broth, and oatmeal-type—basically food that are very soft, but not quite purée. We continued to supplement his solid “meals” for another 4 months with purée and gradually made the puree a little bit more chunky (i.e broccoli, apples, squash, spinach, carrots, meats, etc...), but still overcooked and soft. Before 18 months (maybe around 16ish), he was able to eat enough solids and only had purées as snacks or just because he wanted them. Your son probably just needs some time to get used to the texture of solids. AS long as he’s getting his nutrients, don’t worry too much as when he will completely transition. It’ll happen. Hang in there!

You don't just switch from puree to regular food.

Start with stuff like cheerios which are bite-sized and soften when they get wet.

Start adding little "lumps" to the puree like couscous, rice or cooked ground meat. Over time introduce things that are "lumpier". But make sure that anything that's not really soft (like meat) is cut into really small pieces. And even soft veggies should be cut really small.

Your son needs to get used to the different textures and that doesn't happen overnight.

Is his pediatrician concerned?  How is his growth? In my experience (as an occupational therapist), it is common for children born early to have some challenges with feeding.  How did he do with breast/bottle feeding?  Did he struggle at all adapting to purees?  Managing solids requires more tongue mobility than purees, so I wonder if anyone checked to see if he might have a tongue tie that limits his tongue mobility.

But I encourage you keep the pressure off - let him eat what he can manage, while trying slightly more challenging things, and honor his current skills.

If strategies suggested by some websites don't help (one good one: after an honest try, you might consider getting an evaluation.  

Do not sweat it.

If he eats ground food, feed it to him.

I have similar issues with my older son. It caused me much grief at the time. He is 9 years old, still alive, still preferring ground soup (I just stopped telling this to my pediatrician)- and I do not sweat it! For me, the key is that he eats and does not gag or vomit his food. The eating has improved in the course of months and years...not weeks. Nowadays we can even eat out, before COVID. So there is hope at the end of the tunnel. Small advices: 1) ground less so the food pieces are bulkier, 2) add butter/oil to make it smoother, 3) excertise your child's upper body strength (monkey bars or the like), it helps to keep the food down (I am not sure if you have that problem). Give your child time. Every child is unique and does not have to fit readily to the pediatrics standards. We were even referred to dietician (child was under 1%) and food therapist: drove me mad, improved the situation marginally...

We never did purees and instead did Baby Led Weaning from the start since our friends gave us this book: It's never too late to start and our kid will eat anything now. No need to supplement as Baby Led Weaning is about him learning to eat until he is full (instead of what us parents think is enough). We also taught our kid the signs for "more" and "all done" so he could communicate to us if he needed more food.

However, he still didn't really start eating a lot until he was 12-13 months (normal since mama milk/formula is their primary food source until 12 months) and the thing that made the biggest difference was adjusting our own schedules so that we ate meals with him when he was at home. That was huge so he was watching us eat the same thing that he was eating.