This study examined the effect of meals varying in amount, size, and hardness of food pieces on the development of the chewing capabilities of 8-month-old infants. The study also examined changes in shivering, gagging, coughing, choking, and their ability to eat from a spoon. In an in-home setting two groups were given commercially available infant meals and fruits, purees with either less, smaller and softer or more, larger and harder pieces. Both groups were given these foods for 4 weeks and were monitored several times during this period. After the 4-week exposure period infants in both groups were given the same five test foods. Structured questionnaires with questions on eating behavior and the child's development were conducted 6 times in the 4 to 12-month period and video analyses of feedings were conducted 4 times between 8 and 9 months. After the 4-week exposure period, the group that had been exposed to the foods with more, larger and harder pieces showed a significantly higher rating for chewing a piece of carrot and potato for the first time, but not for a piece of banana nor for mashed foods. Shivering, gagging, coughing, choking, and ability to eat from a spoon were not different between the two groups. These results contribute to the insight that exposure to texture is important for young children to learn how to handle texture.
Practical applications: (a) The study shows the feasibility of testing the effects of texture interventions on chewing capability and oral responses such as gagging, coughing, and choking in infants. (b) The study contributes to the insight that exposure to food texture to learn how to handle texture is important for infants and showed that exposing children to a higher amount of larger pieces improves their chewing capability for a piece of carrot and potato, at least immediately after the intervention.