What to Do When Your Child Refuses to Chew?

October 14, 2022
This article has been written and endorsed by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias
Have you noticed that your child refuses to chew? If that's the case, a number of remedies should be implemented.

Chewing is a skill that’s acquired during the early stages of life. Babies can usually begin to eat chunky foods at 8 to 9 months of age, even though their teeth aren’t yet fully developed. At the same time, it’s not a good idea to delay the introduction of solids in their diet for too long, as this could lengthen the learning process of chewing. But what if your child refuses to chew?

It’s important that children get into the habit of sitting at the table with the other members of the family early on. Little by little, they’ll become familiar with the food and its organoleptic characteristics, which will help prevent rejection in the future. This will ensure that their diet is as varied and balanced as possible.

How to act if the child refuses to chew?

It may be that after two years of life, a child refuses to chew. In this case, the best thing to do is to progressively increase the texture of the purees, so that the child will gradually find chunks, which at first will be easy to process. Little by little these solids will be less and less mashed, causing the child to increase the effort they make.

At the same time, you can include small pieces of food that easily fall apart in the mouth. Noodles that are overcooked, roasted fruits, or cookies soaked in milk are good options. However, these foods shouldn’t be overly present in the diet either. Many of them have a lot of simple sugars in them, elements that have been shown to be harmful to health in the medium term.

The next step is to start offering foods mashed with a fork, such as boiled potato, and then increase the size of the pieces or chunks. Examples of foods that could be introduced at this time are rice with sauce, minced meat, meatballs, and casseroles. All of these preparations are easy to chew.

A mother helping to feed her young son.

Some older children refuse to chew

It may be that children older than two years also have a problem with chewing, refusing to perform this act. There may also be a neurological difficulty that prevents correct feeding, so it’s important to rule out alterations related to the central nervous system.

In this case, it’s best to prepare different types of soft and cooked vegetables, as well as pieces of fruit or cheese. Also, French omelets can be a good option to offer. All these foods are easy to mash in the mouth without the need for intense chewing. In addition, they usually have plenty of nutrients in them.

This difficulty can cause a deficit of certain essential nutrients that condition growth. It’s important to try to cover your child’s protein requirements. These can exceed one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day during the early stages of life, as stated in research published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism.

Similarly, it’s important to achieve an adequate intake of fats and carbohydrates. However, this may be easier, as the foods that contain them tend to have a softer texture and are easier to process. The inclusion of pasta, rice, or healthy oils in the diet should cover the daily requirements.

A baby refusing a spoonful of puree.

Optimize the diet when children do not want to chew

Children refusing to chew is a relatively common problem. Sometimes this happens because of the pain caused by the eruption of the first teeth. However, there are conditions at the level of the central nervous system that can cause the learning of chewing to be delayed. In any case, an optimal nutrient intake should be ensured to avoid developmental problems.

Keep in mind that if after the age of two years the child refuses to chew, it may be necessary to consult a specialist to take the most appropriate solution. The specialist will perform a series of tests to determine the existence of a psychological problem that may be the cause of this behavior. If this is the case, a medium-term solution will be proposed with the help of pharmacology or behavioral experts.

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