It is sheer delight to notice baby’s responses to our talk to them, and very special the day they say “mum or “dad”. Usually everything goes well with eating too, but not always. We all enjoy noticing a baby’s development towards learning to walk. If a baby has problems swallowing food or managing sounds we can get help from speech therapists. If there is coordination delay we can obtain the help of a physiotherapist. If there is general developmental delay we see an occupational therapist. What is the important idea here? It is that there is variation in how long some children take to manage all these important developments. Some children are up and running at 8 months and others take their own time and walk at 20 months. Did you realize that these are both within the normal range? Yes, the variation amongst children is that wide. Not only that, if you see one of these therapists they will explain that there are different aspects to any developmental problem and there can be a process building on what your child can manage and steps to progress where delay happens.
What has this got to do with eating? It is that there is also progression in managing eating. If we think about it we can see that eating progressions are not as obvious as the other developments. Nor is slower speed of eating progression a big problem in some ways. All babies do learn to have food so we may not think about it as a part of development. We may have thought about babies reaching the stage of “being ready for solids”. But we may not have thought about other eating progressions equally worthy of being described as developmental milestones.
What is the important idea? It is that each baby progresses through many paths of eating development. There is a path where more and more tastes are managed. There is a path where more texture is managed. There is a path where increase and decrease in temperature is managed, in thickness, strength of smell, and so on. Each baby takes its own time to progress through all of them. The sum total of all these progressions is called “eating development”. The detail of eating development is outlined in Chapter 2 of Fussy Baby with a description of each one on its own, how you can encourage management and enjoyment of that development in your baby.
What is the upside of this idea? It is the realization that where a baby is taking more time to progress through one or two of these there is no reason to feel anxious. It may just that your baby is one who, for example, is not interested in food warmer or cooler than other babies you know are. When you realize that there are several different pathways you can look at all of those that are progressing and take little steps to encourage the one you think needs a little more support. There is an Eating Development Summary Chart at the end of Chapter 2 to note where your baby is up to in each development. You can enjoy realizing how much your baby is managing in the complex world of all the parts of eating food! The other plus is that the normal range of management of strong flavours, scratchy foods, very warm or cold foods, and all the other parts of eating development, is from a few months to 2 years! If you are gradually progressing with all the different pathways there is no reason to feel there is a problem that is outside the normal range, until after 2 years!