When Should My Baby Eat Finger Foods? – Baby Cues & Timing

Chubby with a good appetite to boot, Lilly quickly transitioned from spoon-feeding to self-feeding, grabbing anything and everything in sight like lightning, my dinner steaks being her biggest casualties, and just with the same speed, gag on it. Ahh! Even though she put everything into her mouth, trying to figure out the mechanism of maneuvering food into the mouth was messy and frustrating on both sides of the high chair. 

Finger foods help your baby learn fine motor skills and allow her to engage in the experimentation through her sense of touch and her senses of sight, taste, and smell of the wonder and fun that food is. When your baby reaches between 7- 8 months of age and has a pretty good pincer grasp, you may have to prepare to start offering finger foods. Eating finger foods is fun for your baby and an important step towards independence as it helps her figure out how to gum, chew, and move food around in her mouth- all essential skills for a developing eater. 

Exactly what they sound like, finger foods are individual pieces of food that are bite-sized, easy to eat, and soft,  that a baby can pick and eat with their hands. You do not have to restrict your baby to just fruits and vegetables.

You have lots of other options in grains, dairy, and other foods. In this amazing article, we will take you through some simple tips, tricks, and ideas to help you and your baby make the transition from spoon to fingers.

When can I introduce finger foods to my baby?

When can I introduce finger foods to my baby?

Most parents, mums to be precise, who follow the baby-led weaning route, introduce finger foods as soon as their babies start weaning at the age of six months. Still, some mums begin by weaning their little ones into a puree and then introduce finger foods at a much later stage, around eight or nine months.

Before deciding to offer your baby finger foods, here are a few tips to help you determine the right time.

  • When your baby makes a chewing motion when they eat thicker mashed baby foods.
  • When your baby can pick up food and put it in their mouth.
  • When your baby seems to be losing interest in their pureed food.
  • When your baby has developed her pincer grasp. 
  • When your baby can sit upright completely without support or assistance.

How do I introduce finger foods to my baby?

If you are waiting for your little person to sprout teeth before moving on from puree, then think again. Babies don’t need teeth to learn how to chew and eat solids. Have you ever let your baby teeth on your finger? Then you have an idea of just how powerful their soft gums are. They are perfectly capable of mashing up soft solids.

  • Start with foods that require minimal chewing as your baby may not have teeth yet. 
  • Introduce new foods one at a time in case there may be concerns about allergies.
  • Chop all foods into small bite-sized pieces, ½ inch or smaller.
  • Keep up your breastfeeding or formula-feeding program. As your baby begins to take more solids, they will naturally decrease their milk intake.

Best finger foods for babies

Best finger foods for babies

While these finger foods are as appropriate for six months old babies as they are for a one-year-old, you can begin to offer larger pieces that they can bite off themselves as they build their confidence to feed unassisted.

Here are a few best healthy finger foods options to start your baby off on the right path of healthy eating whether they have teeth or not.

  • Pasta. All recipes recommend cooking pasta al dente, but you may want to overcook it slightly when it comes to feeding your baby, so it’s nicely soft. Initially, serve it plain, but as you continue to introduce your baby to more food, you can toss the pasta in butter, olive oil, or tomato sauce.
  • Scrambled eggs. Contrary to some doctor’s advice on waiting to introduce eggs, AAP now recommends early exposure to potentially allergenic foods. Scrambled eggs are ideal early finger food. Just cook the eggs thoroughly, avoiding the runny yolk, and don’t add salt.
  • Soft fruit. Most well-ripened fruits are naturally soft, making them some of the best finger foods for babies. Watermelons, peach, ripe bananas, cantaloupe, and soft pears cut into small pieces are great finger food options.
  • Tofu. Cooked or raw, tofu is an amazing plant-based source of protein and makes perfect finger food for babies. Opt for firm tofu, which is still soft as opposed to the soft tofu, which is messy and will fall apart.
  • Beans. For vegetarian protein-rich baby finger foods, opt for beans. For convenience, go for low sodium canned beans, but you can still soak and cook raw beans yourself. Smash them just a bit between your fingers when first introducing them.
  • Cheese. If your baby hasn’t shown any sign of dairy allergy, then it is perfectly well to introduce soft, non-stinky, and less sticky cubes of cheese as early as six months.
  • Cooked vegetables. Vegetables offer the perfect finger foods for babies, and to get the most out of them, cut them into small pieces, then steam or roast them until soft. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower are a few healthy vegetables you can experiment with and slowly move into making wedges out of them as your baby grows older.
  • Meat. Pediatrician-approved next-stage finger foods for babies after soft foods are diced chicken breast and ground beef. Just cut into small pieces and ensure that they are thoroughly cooked.
  • Avocado. Even though avocados can get messy real quick, they are one of the best first finger foods as they are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acid, which is paramount in boosting your baby’s brain development.
  • Fish. Like eggs, Fish is another allergenic food that doctors now recommend for introduction to your baby before she is a year old. Opt for low-mercury fish like cod or salmon, and be sure it is thoroughly cooked but most importantly, make sure to remove any tiny bones.

Which foods should not be given to a baby?

  • Foods that require chewing beyond what the gums can do.
  • No nuts and seeds.
  • No meat sticks, including got dogs.
  • No fruit chunks, like apple chunks.
  • No raw vegetables.
  • No whole grapes.
  • No popcorn.
  • No hard or sticky candy.

Baby finger food safety tips

Baby finger food safety tips

You will want to follow these tips to ensure your baby’s safety before, during, and after starting them on finger foods.

  • Never leave your baby unattended when serving baby finger foods or any other chunky pieces of food.
  • Do not offer your baby finger foods if she can not hold her head up and sit unassisted.
  • Your baby should always be sitting upright when offered baby finger foods to avoid choking.
  • Baby finger foods should be mash-able between the gums.
  • Baby finger foods should be age-appropriate.
  • Avoid any colorful sugary cereals.
  • Mashing or pureeing may make eating vegetables easier for your baby when they are first transitioning from a liquid diet to solids.
  • Do not stop breastfeeding or bottle-feeding as your baby starts to transition. 
  • Fried foods are not a good choice for babies and if you must offer them at all, do so rarely.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is the pincer grasp important when offering finger foods?

The pincer grasp is the coordination of the index finger and the thumb to hold an item. To a baby, it represents the coordination of the brain and muscles necessary to help them gain increasing independence.

If your child is older than 12 months and hasn’t shown signs of a pincer grasp yet, talk to your pediatrician to discuss a timeline of such milestones given your child’s overall development, as doctors may interpret this as a delayed development.

Why are finger foods important?

Finger foods are not simply an exciting diversion for purees, and they play a vital role in your baby’s development.

Introducing finger foods early helps your baby get used to different food textures, improve coordination and encourage self-feeding. 

What about choking?

Babies may shove food in too far or not chew on it well before they swallow, making it common for them to gag when getting used to eating finger foods. While gagging is frightening, it’s certainly a natural reflex that stops babies from choking. 

In 99% of cases, your munchkin will clear the blockage by herself but it is sensible for all caregivers to take an infant’s first aid course to learn how to react in emergencies such as choking.

Take away

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that self-feeding be a part of your baby’s meals right from the get-go, but some parents may still choose to wait.

If that’s you, be sure your baby is getting finger food at every meal at least by 8-9 months. Stay calm and have faith in your child’s natural born instincts.

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