Like any new parent, you are eager to begin solids with baby! It can be such an exciting time to finally introduce actual food to your little one. Though, how do you know where to start? Finding the right baby finger foods isn’t as hard as you think!
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests starting solids with baby around six months of age. Depending on your baby’s development, your pediatrician may recommend beginning closer to four months old or urge you to wait until the six-month mark. It is important to look out for the signs that baby is ready to ensure safety while eating! Just remember though that during the first year of life, milk is the most important source of nutrition. Get our breastfeeding tips here.
When to start solids with baby?
Some of the signs that show baby may be ready for real food include the following:
- Baby is between four and six months old
- He or she has stopped reflexively thrusting out their tongue
- Baby can hold their head upright and steady while sitting
- He or she shows interest in what you are eating
If your little one is displaying these signs and your pediatrician has given you the green light to begin food, you can start planning baby’s first meal!
How should you feed baby?
Some parents decide that the puree route is the best option for their baby at this time. This is known as the Stage Method.
In this method, parents wait until their baby has mastered eating purees at Stages 1, 2, and 3 before introducing finger foods. These stages range from smooth to chunky purees. Essentially, we are easing baby into more solid foods at their own pace.
On the flip side, there is a whole community of parents that live the baby-led weaning (BLW) life. This method entails starting finger foods from the baby’s first bite! There is a gigantic resource library at your fingertips through the internet for learning more about BLW but I recommend starting with this book.
Purees and Finger Foods
Then, somewhere in the middle, some parents settle on a mixture of the two by exposing baby to both purees and finger foods. There are many variations in the way parents decide to introduce foods to their little babes.
If you decide on finger foods from the get-go, you may wonder how to start.
Purees? They are easy! If you find yourself having trouble with puree ideas, there are numerous recipes out there for puree preppers like you!
Finger foods on the other hand…
Which foods do you give first? What size should these foods be cut into? Can spices be added to these foods?
How to start finger foods
If you thought purees were easy, wait until you open up the world of finger foods. It may be intimidating at first and you may have questions. Once you start, however, you’ll be happy you did!
Starting finger foods is a time of exploration and learning for babies. You may find that they eat their food, push it around, smash it, throw it, or simply don’t have any interest. Never fear! Baby will let you know what they are thinking when it comes to mealtime. If they eat, don’t hesitate to give them some more!
However, if baby becomes upset during this time, you can stop the meal and try again at another time. If you are a parent that also offers purees, try giving baby a puree now instead.
Since this is a time of learning, you don’t want to overwhelm your little one. Let them go at their own pace and explore how to get the food into their mouth and chew. It can be quite different than the breastmilk or formula that they are used to eating.
How to prepare baby finger foods
Soft foods are best
First and foremost, it is important to consider whether baby will physically be able to eat the food you provide. Finger foods should be soft enough for a baby to be able to gnaw on given that they will have only a couple of teeth (or no teeth at all)!
With this being said, how are you going to give baby hard vegetables like broccoli? Most vegetables and hard fruits will need to be cooked for baby before eating to ensure he or she can break that food down and eat it!
Finger food sizes
One of the most crucial things parents need to know about giving baby finger foods is the size of the food that is given. When giving baby finger food, they either need to be cut into very small pieces (think around the size of a pea) or into 2-3 inch strips.
When cutting finger foods into these sizes, it lessens the risk of choking for baby. Again, baby is learning how to eat. It requires practice chewing and getting food into the back of their mouth. Sometimes, along the way, baby may gag or choke on the food they are eating. By cutting finger foods for babies into appropriate sizes, parents can lessen the risk of these foods being choking hazards.
Choking is a topic that many parents fear. Rightfully so!
It is necessary to let you know, however, that your baby will gag on finger foods at some point. Though, the difference between gagging and choking is important for new parents to know!
Gagging versus choking
Gagging is very common in little ones learning how to eat. When exposing baby to finger foods, new parents should anticipate this experience.
Gagging is where baby is actively trying to get the food back up. This may sound like a deep cough or almost like baby is about to throw up.
This is good practice. Parents want babies to experience this to learn how to eat.
Choking, on the other hand, is not. Choking can be silent and baby may turn a shade of blue.
No parent wants to experience their child choking. That is why finger food size is crucial to providing the safest eating experience for baby!
First finger foods for baby
Avocado is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Why is this weird term important to us? Well, it can help boost baby’s brain development!
Another great benefit to this finger food is that baby doesn’t necessarily need teeth to enjoy its flavor and benefits.
Some of the best veggies to give baby may include carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet potato. To get the most nutrients out of the vegetables you give baby, make sure to steam or roast them until they are soft enough to serve.
For example, you can steam broccoli or cauliflower for roughly 5 minutes or roast them at 425 degrees F for around 20 minutes.
Don’t forget to cut these delicious veggies into the appropriate sizes for baby’s safety!
Other vegetables that are ideal as baby finger food are:
- Red, yellow, orange, or green peppers
- Green beans
- Butternut squash
When fruit becomes ripe, they naturally become very soft which makes for perfect finger food for baby! Ripe bananas, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are some of the best finger food options for your little babe.
Other options for fruits:
The AAP recommends early exposure to potentially allergenic food which makes eggs one of the most ideal finger foods for baby. Not only are scrambled eggs super easy to make, but there are many health benefits baby receives by eating them!
Since your little one will most likely be eating a ton of fruits and veggies, incorporating eggs into their diet will be a perfect way to get baby all of the necessary protein they need. Serving up scrambled eggs also provides important nutrients like vitamins B6, B12, and D!
Puffs or dry cereal
Who hasn’t heard of giving babies Cheerios? Baby finger food like puffs and O-shaped dry cereal reap one very important benefit. That is, helping baby practise fine motor skills like their pincer grasp. Your little one will pick up these smaller pieces of food one at a time and practice putting them into their mouth. It is an important developmental milestone that can be practised at mealtime!
Aside from scrambled eggs, exposing babies to various types of meat can provide ample protein to their growing bodies! Diced chicken breast or ground beef are two of the best meats to expose baby to as they advance through mastering finger foods.
With giving baby meat such as chicken and beef, it is crucial to make sure they are thoroughly cooked through and cut into the recommended sizes to ensure baby’s safety!
Again, make sure to thoroughly cook any fish that you give to a baby and remove any tiny bones that could be present! These could be serious choking hazards. However, fish is an excellent finger food for baby and allows exposure to another allergenic food. The best fish to give baby include any low-mercury fish such as salmon or cod!
Exploring baby finger food can be intimidating for new parents! Let me tell you, it doesn’t have to be. If you are a new parent eager to start solids with baby, look out for the signs that baby is ready. Then, let the fun begin!
There are so many baby finger foods to try. In the end, though, make sure that the food you give baby is properly prepared to provide baby with the safest mealtime experience!