So, your baby is finally ready for finger foods! Or is it? Pretty much any type of bite-sized pieces of food that your baby picks up and eats on its own can be classified as finger food. Finger foods are a fun addition to a baby’s diet and their introduction is a clear sign of a baby’s growing independence, but introducing finger foods too soon can pose a potential choking hazard for young babies. That is why it’s important to understand when it’s okay to start offering your baby finger foods, how to introduce them into your baby’s diet, and what types of finger foods are appropriate to start with.
Introducing Finger Foods
Ideally, finger foods are offered to babies when they show signs of being ready to feed themselves, which is usually around their 7th or 9th month. If your baby attempts to take hold of the spoon you’re using to feed it with, or if your little one tries to grab food off your plate, then your baby should be ready for finger foods.
Since babies starting out on solids and finger foods have yet to fully develop their chewing and swallowing skills, it’s important to make sure that your baby is sitting up properly to reduce the risk of choking. For the safest results, place your baby in a highchair or make sure that they are seated upright. Avoid feeding your baby in its stroller or car seat, and don’t feed a baby that is crawling or moving around as doing so can increase the risk of choking. Once your baby is properly and securely seated in its highchair, place 4-5 pieces of your chosen finger food on your baby’s plate or on the highchair tray and wait until your baby eats them before adding a few more pieces.
Never, ever, leave your baby unattended while it eats; choking can occur within minutes, so it’s important for a responsible adult to be present at all times when a baby is feeding itself. When starting out, try picking finger foods that your little one shows preference for, and gradually add new items, making sure to leave an interval of 3 days between the introduction of each new finger food to make sure your baby isn’t allergic. The greater portion of your baby’s daily diet should consist of pureed foods, but gradually – over the course of a 6- or 8-month period – shift the focus onto finger foods.
Suitable Finger Foods
The important thing to remember when introducing your baby to finger foods is to choose foods that are soft enough in texture that your baby can mash them between its gums or ones that easily dissolve in your baby’s mouth, since your child has yet to grow the teeth it needs to handle tougher foods. Finger foods should also be small and easy enough for your little one to swallow to avoid choking .
Teach your baby about food texture, taste, aroma and color by offering it a variety of different kinds of finger foods. Good food options include but are not limited to:
• Small pieces of ripe banana or other ripe and peeled fruits like peach, mango, or plum
• Bite-sized pieces of properly cooked spiral-shaped pasta
• Very small pasteurized cheese pieces
• Small pieces of soft, cooked vegetables like potato, carrots, broccoli, or peas (crushed or cut in half)
• Pea-sized bits of soft meats or chicken
• Small pieces of crackers
On the other hand, finger foods that you should avoid giving to your baby before its first birthday include:
• Uncooked raisins
• Raw vegetables such as carrots or hard fruits