one of my friends recently posted a question on facebook. she is a first time mother of a 12 month old little boy and she was asking which foods she could/should be feeding her son. my initial snarky self wanted to respond "steak" but then i reconsidered and tried to remember what it was like to be a first time mom having to learn everything by trial and error.
i'm no expert. i'm not a doctor. i do, however, have five kids and they are all healthy and happy. that being said, here's my advice regarding feeding finger foods to your baby.
my children's pediatricians have told me with each child that by the age of one, the goal is to have your child eating what you eat...just cut into small portions. with that as my goal, i start working with finger foods at about 7 months. you'll have to gage for yourself if your baby is ready for finger foods or not. if they can sit up by themselves and can hold their heads up well, they should be ready to start.
here's my first tip: don't freak out. it takes practice for your baby to learn how to eat solid foods. they will gag. they might even cough. don't panic. resist the urge to hit them on the back. just let them work it out. they will figure out the swallowing thing with time. think about how we chew and swallow. we don't chew until our food is pureed. we chew until the food is small enough to swallow. we had to learn that as well. be patient and try to let your baby figure it out.
i like to start with baby foods that nearly dissolve in the mouth. there are a lot on the market that are specifically for infants who are just starting finger foods. i like any kind of puffs and the yogurt/creme bites to start. they get the mechanics of eating finger foods down but still dissolve some to make swallowing easier.
once your child has mastered the dissolvable finger foods, it's time to move them on to the next phase. if you have fed them something in pureed form, try it in a finger food. just remember to cut up each item into pea sized pieces to make swallowing easier.
here's my list of go-to items for my now 11 month old son.
- oatmeal - i use quaker at this point. it's a lot cheaper and i can mix it with anything i want.
- bananas - at first i cut the bananas up into pea sized pieces. i still do sometimes. now, however, he likes to take half of the banana himself and take bites out of it.
- raisins - i use raisins all the time. he love them and they are quick and easy.
- other fruit - almost any fruit will do if it is cut up small enough. my favorites are strawberries, grapes and melons because they are usually soft and easy to swallow. firmer fruits like apples are better when your child is a little older or steamed a little to make them softer.
- toast - if the other kids are eating toast, my baby will want some. i just cut it up into small pieces or i'll give him a piece of it cut in a strip and he'll work on it bite by bite.
- whole grain frozen waffles - these are great for a child who is teething...just give it to them frozen. in the mornings, my son likes one toasted. he gnaws his way through it.
- muffins, pancakes, waffles, french toast - these i have to cut up into small pieces so he can get it down but he absolutely loves these!
- cheerios or other bite sized cereal
- scrambled eggs - you are technically supposed to wait until your baby is one to try these. they are a great finger food once your child is ready.
- baby yogurt
- cheese - any type will do if you cut it into pea sized pieces
- puffs & yogurt bites
- i feed my baby whatever i am eating - this might sound harsh but i want to expose my kids to all the foods i am eating. if we're having fish, so is the baby. tonight we had a roasted turkey so the baby got little pea sized pieces of turkey. vegetables like peas and corn are perfectly bite sized and ready to serve. green beans and other veggies can be cut up. most side dishes can be made baby friendly as well.
- slightly modify what you are eating - if we are having fajitas or something hard to eat, i might give the baby a piece of meat cut into small pieces, some black beans, a quesadilla cut into small pieces, some diced, cooked, bell peppers. there are very few meals that cannot be converted to feed your baby as well.
- don't be a short order cook - the sooner your child can learn to eat what is served, the easier your life will be. get out of the habit of cooking special meals for your baby as soon as possible. trust me, you'll thank me later.
here is my biggest and most important tip of all. purchase a good broom and remember, this stage will pass. i have heard stories of parents who are still spoon feeding their three year old because they don't like to clean up the mess after each meal. trust me, i get it. i'm not going to lie, it sucks to clean up a high chair and the floor after every meal. it is the only time i wish i had a dog. still, you are working to create independent children and you don't want a kindergarten aged child who cannot use a spoon or a fork. let them learn, try and make a mess in the process. get a great vacuum. my three year old is a pro at vacuuming up cherrios with our dyson. the stage will pass and you'll have successfully created an independent eater...yet one more unsung accomplishment of mothers and fathers everywhere.