Some Techniques for Instituting Munching and Chewing Behavior
A major step in a child's development of feeding skills is the emergence of biting and chewing skills.
Biting develops first, followed by munching, and last, rotary chewing. Munching is an up and down movement of the jaw. In rotary chewing, the jaw moves in a circular and side to side motion in order to grind food up in the mouth and gather it into a ball for swallowing. Here are some different ways to introduce biting and chewing:
Use a chew stick or feedbag.
- A feedbag allows a child to practice chewing without having to swallow food since the food is enclosed inside the bag. Wrap gauze around a soft food, leaving an extra section of gauze with no food in it. Place the section of gauze that is wrapped around the food in the child's mouth between the molars (back teeth). Hold the extra section of gauze in your hand.
- Encourage your child to bite down or chew. If necessary, show him by biting or chewing on a piece of food yourself. Start with soft foods such as orange sections or banana slices and then advance to more textured foods such as apple pieces or cookies. Commercial feedbags can also be purchased for this purpose. Biting on the feedbag or chew stick can be made into a play activity.
Use a Nuk Brush.
- Dip the brush in pureed food or crushed cracker and then place it between the upper and lower molars (back teeth). Encourage the child to bite or chew on the brush. If you don't have a Nuk brush, you can use a small baby size toothbrush.
- Food that is mashed, such as cooked carrots or raw mashed bananas, can be placed in between the molars (back teeth). The food should be soft, but not totally smooth. Encourage your child to bite down and chew. You can physically move his jaw up and down to show him what to do.
- Crunchy foods, such as rice cakes, can also be used to teach biting and chewing. You, the parent, can demonstrate the bite and then tell your child "now you take a bite." Small pieces of rice cakes or crackers can be used for this activity. Or try using a piece of cheese wrapped around a small piece of cracker. These foods will help your child learn to associate the taste of the food with the crunch or noise of the food. Repetition of this type of activity is very helpful in stimulating biting and chewing activity.
Introducing Foods With More Texture
- To introduce foods with more texture, mix small bits of fruit or cooked vegetable into junior baby foods to produce "chunky" foods. Or try cubed pieces of soft fruit or cheese. Start with a few bites of these foods and gradually increase the number of bites you offer over the next days, weeks, or months.
- You can also pair a new texture of food with a familiar texture. Give your child several bites of familiar food and then give a small bite of a new food that has more texture. Continue alternating several bites of familiar foods with an occasional bite of the new food. Gradually over the next weeks, increase the number of bites of new food.
- Keep a log of your child's progress so you can see changes over time and also identify any sticking points. If your child is sick, don't carry out the feeding techniques. If you run into any problems or have any questions, please call us.