4. Introducing textured foods

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Find out more about baby-led weaning, managing lumpy food, finger foods, gagging and choking.

How should I introduce textured foods?

In the past, it has been common to offer only smooth, runny foods from a spoon at the start of weaning

More recently, “baby-led weaning” has encouraged starting with soft solid foods that a baby can pick up and eat by themselves. You can start trying this once they can sit upright or be helped to do so.

It is good for your baby to have opportunities to feed themselves whenever possible. This could be by letting them feed themselves with a spoon or with their fingers, so they learn how different textured foods feel before they put them in their mouth.

Whichever way your baby is weaned, they will start to take more textured foods at some stage, either from a spoon or by finger feeding.

It is useful to encourage your baby to try mashed foods by, or around, 7 months corrected age if you can. They may take longer to learn to manage lumps if you leave it until they are older.

Babies take time to learn to chew and often push lumpy food out of their mouth with their tongue at first. Don't worry, this is normal and gradually your baby will stop doing this.

Good to know

When first learning to manage textured foods, your baby may push food out with their tongues and gag.

See our section below about gagging and choking.

Above all, don't panic if your baby doesn't take to eating straight away. They will get there in their own time. Top tip - bananas are great!

Joanne, mum to Albert, born at 32 weeks, and Ernest, born at 30 weeks.

If your baby is taking a smooth food from a spoon, and they are familiar with the taste, try to make it into a thicker texture.

Alongside spoon feeding, give some soft finger food to encourage your baby to explore and bring food to their mouth using their hands.

Ready-made baby foods are usually sold in different age ranges, with different textures. Some baby foods, sold as 7-month or 12-month foods, can have quite hard lumps in a runny puree.

This combination can be difficult for babies to manage, so these foods are best avoided. A better option is to introduce texture by mashing soft foods with a fork.

The importance of being with your baby during mealtimes

It’s not safe for babies to be left alone with food. Watch your baby carefully, both when you are feeding them and when they are feeding themselves.

You can reduce the risk of choking by looking to see how your baby is managing more lumpy foods. You can help to make sure they don’t take lumps which are too big for them.

You can see your baby’s reaction to foods, and you can join in eating a little of any new foods they may not be sure about. Babies learn by copying others, so if they see you enjoying food, it will help encourage them to try it.

During feeding and mealtimes, your baby will communicate with you about how they are feeling so watching them helps you to see all these cues.

Finger foods

I found that baby-led weaning let him play with food, and see that food is fun and not something to be feared.

Rebecca, mum to Jack

These are foods that your baby can pick up and feed to themselves. This is an important stage for your baby to develop more control of their eating.

Try finger foods as soon as you can see your baby is able to pick up things and put them in their mouth.

To start with, finger foods should be about the size and shape of an adult finger. They should also be soft, so they can be easily squashed.

Giving a choice of finger foods from the family meal helps to include your baby in family mealtimes and lets them share the same types of food.

They can explore food and decide how much or how little to eat, and how quickly. Being offered finger foods helps to develop chewing skills as well as your baby’s hand-eye coordination.

Good to know

Babies need to practise a lot before they can eat independently, and it can take many months. During the early months of weaning there are no set amounts you baby should eat; take it slowly and go at their pace – and keep giving their usual milk when they ask for it.

Fruit comp 2 bigger

Some ideas for finger foods

  • Ripe and peeled soft fruit, like banana, pear or peach.
  • Cooked soft vegetables, like carrot, courgette, parsnip or sweet potato.
  • Well-cooked shredded meat or flaked fish, with all the bones removed.
  • Fingers of toast, pitta bread or chapatti, with butter or other similar spread*
  • Well-cooked pasta shapes.
  • Pieces of falafel or garlic bread**.
  • Cheese, either in thin slices or grated**.
  • You can find more ideas on Weaning Recipes & Meal Ideas | Start for Life and Eating well: the first year

*This can help your baby swallow these foods more easily but you don’t have to add much - and you can give them dry once your baby is more skilled at eating.

**Some of these foods can contain a lot of salt, so don’t give them too often. Also, remember to avoid adding salt to any cooking water.

Gagging and choking

Gagging is a reflex which helps to stop food getting into the airway, or big lumps being swallowed before they’ve been chewed. It’s very likely your baby will gag many times while they are learning to eat solid food. Choking is much more serious - but it’s also very rare.


Gagging in babies is triggered when food touches the middle of their tongue. It can look as if your baby is spitting out foods - but it's not because they don’t like the food, it's because of an automatic gag response.

Gagging happens more often when babies begin to eat lumpier food: at first, they may suck the food, meaning that a lump gets to their throat before being chewed. They will then gag to bring it back into their mouth.

As they grow older, they will develop the skills to move food around their mouth and to chew lumpy food to a size they can manage. This skill helps reduce the gag reflex.

It’s a good idea not to leave it too late to introduce lumpy foods as it may take longer for your baby to learn how to manage them.

The NHS Start 4 Life website has more information about gagging, including a useful video on what gagging looks and sounds like.

When your baby gags on their food, try not to panic. They may react to your panicking and become upset. Gently reassuring them while they work it out for themselves is the best way to help them learn how to manage lumps.

Foods that are a mixture of liquid and lumps (e.g., firm cereals with milk) may be more challenging to start with. They can lead to more gagging, as your baby may find them harder to chew or control in their mouth.

If your baby gags a lot on these foods, leave them for a couple of weeks then try them again.


Choking is different from gagging; it is what happens when an object gets lodged in the airway, blocking the flow of air. It happens rarely but it needs swift action.

The NHS Start 4 Life website has more information about choking on their website.

You can reduce the risk of choking by avoiding hard foods and making sure small round foods (such as peas, sweetcorn, and blueberries) are squashed or mashed.

Remember: Make sure you always stay with your baby and keep watching them while they are eating.