Article: Swallowing and Chewing
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For the first few months, your baby can only suck. As part of the sucking mechanism, a baby's tongue pushes outwards, and this is called the extrusion reflex. Babies cannot take food from a spoon while they still have the extrusion reflex. It disappears around four to six months - it is not until then that solids should be offered. Once the extrusion reflex has disappeared, solids can be given because your baby can pass food to the back of his mouth for swallowing.
Around eight months babies make strong chewing movements and can accept foods with more texture. At first your baby will 'gag' which is a natural reflex to prevent choking. It happens because food catches at the back of his throat causing him to cough it up. This prevents the food from getting stuck in his throat and blocking his airway. It is quite normal for small babies to 'gag' a lot at first until they learn to chew food a little more before swallowing. Even if he gags, persevere because if you continue to feed only pureed food to your baby, he will have difficulty learning to chew.
Chewing is very important to help with teeth and jaw development and for speech later on. By eight months most babies should be well on the way to eating foods with more texture. If this is delayed, babies often have difficulty with chewing and will reject lumpy foods.
From eight months your baby will enjoy finger foods. Avoid foods that can cause choking like raw carrot, raw celery, raw apple, whole grapes, nuts, sausages, popcorn and hard candies.
When starting solids, start with an iron fortified rice cereal as it is the easiest to digest and the least likely to cause an allergic reaction in your baby.