How to introduce finger foods to your baby
From when to what, this is your guide to baby finger foods.
While you may have started your baby on puréed foods, it’s important to introduce more textures early on in weaning, from around six months of age. In Weaning Sense, occupational therapist Meg Faure and paediatric dietitian Kath Megaw explain that foods with textures “impact jaw action, tongue movement, speech development, fine motor grasp, hand-eye coordination, fun and independence”.
What finger foods to offer your baby
Many fruits are naturally soft and great first options as finger foods – think bananas and avocados.
Other fruits, such as apples and pears, as well as vegetables, such as sweet potato, can be steamed until soft. (Uncooked apples and pears pose a choking risk.)
Your baby may also enjoy sticks of low-salt biltong or dried mango, especially when teething. Just be sure to give them a big enough piece for them to be able to grip themselves.
How to introduce finger foods
Between six and nine months, your baby may start indicating that they’re tired of being spoon-fed, and this is when you want to start with finger foods. Meg and Kath recommend a phased approach:
- Gradually start puréeing foods more coarsely.
- Mash foods instead of puréeing them, leaving slightly bigger lumps over time.
- Offer whole steamed foods from your own plate.
- Follow the two-bowl approach: feed your baby mashed food from one bowl and, at the same time, offer whole food from another bowl so that they can self-feed.
Concerns around introducing finger foods
Many parents worry about finger foods and choking, but most babies will naturally use their tongues to push out food that poses a choking risk. The risk is greater when adults intervene by sticking their fingers in the baby’s mouth, for example, or by feeding baby pieces of food. Rather allow your baby to feed themselves and offer younger babies bigger pieces of food so they can hold it themselves. You can test whether a food is soft enough by gently squeezing it between your fingers. If you can squash it, it’s soft enough.
It is also a good idea to take a CPR and choking course before your baby starts solids, and encourage any other caregivers to do it too. Do the Get Confident with Choking course, which can be found in the Parent Sense app.
Another concern is that most babies won’t have teeth by the time they start eating solids. But babies’ gums are actually strong enough to chew most foods. In any case, molars usually come in only once your child is a toddler, and it’s those teeth that are used for chewing (not the incisors, which come in first).
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