Why Feeding Therapists Love 'Food Teethers'
'Food teethers' are large, hard, stick-shaped foods that can be offered to baby as soon as they start solids. Feeding therapists love the many benefits they offer, including:
Stimulating jaw growth and strength
Encouraging side-to-side tongue movements in preparation for chewing and swallowing
Practicing hand-to-mouth coordination
Moves the gag reflex further back so baby is better managing all textures
"Maps" the mouth so baby learns where to put food
Increases mealtime sensory experience
Adds diet variety and greater opportunities to consume iron
What kinds of foods could be offered as 'food teethers'? The list is long!! But some of our favorites pair iron-rich foods with Vitamin C rich foods, for optimal nutrition and absorption. Why do we care about iron? Iron is important for so many reasons, one major one being cognitive development. Babies are born with iron-stores that last about six months. And while infant formula may be fortified, breastfed babies receive very little in their milk diet. For this reason, we want early food exploration to have a big nutritional impact. Pairings we love:
Rib bone cleaned of meat + red bell pepper cut into strips
Thick cut steak strip + sugar snap peas
Chicken drum stick (with meat and small bone removed) + broccoli florets
Carrots with hummus
Celery with bean dip
Note that babies should always be closely supervised during food exploration. Food teethers should never be offered round. For example, carrots can be quartered lengthwise, cut to handheld size, with the fat end offered. Once baby is strong enough to bite off pieces of hard solids, discontinue food teethers. This is usually around 8 months. Want to know where to go next? Follow along on our Instagram for more info on texture progression, or join our Intro to Solids Play Groups! Play groups are a fun way to get all your feeding questions answered by a pediatric feeding therapist and nutrition professional, while giving your little one time at the table.