How do I teach my baby to chew?

Yet another thing to add to the list of stuff babies should be able to do! So what's the deal, how do you teach a baby to chew?

Dear Is This Normal,

My son is 10 months old and has 8 teeth already, he can bite when I hold the food, but when he holds the food, he just stuffs the whole thing in his mouth, how will he learn to eat in steps?


Chew-less and struggling

Dear Chew-Less,

Ah, yet another thing to add to the list of stuff babies should, in our ideal world, be able to do! We’ll add it alongside going potty in the toilet, knowing instinctively not to stick stuff up their noses, and sleeping a solid eight hours a night without waking up or needing us to twirl their hair for an hour. It’s kind of funny, when you think about it, what we actually have to teach our kids. Sure, a lot of these skills are somewhat innate and develop over time—but with A LOT of help from us! Don’t worry, mama. Your little guy isn’t always going to scare you half to death with his food-shoveling tactics. His chewing skills are coming along, but let’s talk about how you can help speed them up.

First things first: being able to chew has nothing to do with how many teeth your guy has. In these early stages of learning to chew solids, they’re mostly relying on their tongue and gums to break down pieces of food. Babies start to use teeth for chewing when they get their first set of molars, typically between the ages of 10-16 months, but sometimes as late as 2 years. You don’t need to teach him to chew with his teeth—it’s more about helping him develop his jaw and tongue reflexes. When babies first start eating solids like purees, they will mimic the chewing motion with their jaw; if you stick your finger in their mouth and gently press down on their bottom jaw, they will instinctively bite up and down against that pressure.

It sounds like your son has an idea of how to use his tongue and jaws to “bite” and chew food, if he’s able to bite off pieces. What’s most likely happening is that he’s food pocketing. In other words, he’s getting so excited by the prospect of feeding himself all these new flavors and textures that he gets impatient and just shoves it all in at one time. This is totally normal, and pretty common! Babies and toddlers don’t exactly have the best judgement, you know what I mean? But that’s OK, that’s why they have parents!

There are a few things you can do to help stop him from food pocketing, and start taking smaller bites that he has to chew. First off, don’t give him more than a couple of small pieces of food at a time on his high chair tray; rather than place a plate of portioned food in front of him, give him 2-3 pieces of what he’s eating. Or, you can start even smaller, and only give him one piece at a time to make him really consider each piece. Offer water to sip on between each bite, or let him try to feed himself with a child-friendly utensil; this will help slow his eating speed and force him to wash down his food between bites. Make sure he’s not distracted at meal times, so he can focus on what he’s doing. And try to eat with him and demonstrate how to take smaller bites of food—be very exaggerated in your actions and talk about what you’re doing. If there’s one thing babies love to learn, it’s mimic what they see mom and dad doing.

He’s going to eventually get the hang of it, with a bit of practice and guidance. Even something as natural as chewing food doesn’t always come naturally to babies! Try the suggestions above, and let me know how it goes! He’ll be biting off just as much as he can chew in no time.

One Bite At a Time,

Is This Normal


Want to know if whatever you’re going through is "normal"?

Ask us anything

Want to know if whatever you’re going through is “normal”?

Go ahead and ask us anything, staying anonymous is fine 😉
If you’d like to ask a question to a specific expert on our Expert Panel or to one of our contributors, head to our Advice Column and select an advisor.


    Looking for more tips on parenting, nutrition & all the WTF moments of this life stage? Sign up for our weekly Is This Normal by Little Spoon newsletter.