One minute your little one is cooing and existing happily solely on a liquid diet, and the next minute she is reaching for your plate and side-eyeing you eating real foods jealously. Knowing how to switch your baby from solids to food can seem overwhelming and, quite frankly, terrifying. I should know—I just went through the entire process with my daughter! While the experience is still fresh on my mind, I wanted to share everything I learned with you all, along with some finger food ideas for baby that aren’t overwhelming or scary.
When Should I Introduce Solids to My Baby?
There are a few tell-tale signs your baby is ready to move into the world of solids. Here are the basic signs to watch for in your child:
- Age. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should be introduced to food other than breastmilk or formula when they are about six months old.
- Your child can sit properly. This means he or she can sit up straight and unsupported and control his or her neck.
- Your child shows an interest in food. Perhaps most importantly, your child should show you they are interested in eating. This can look different for every child but in general, watch for your child to lean forward when you eat, or even open his or her mouth!
5 Tips to Help Babies Transition From Purees to Solids
One of the most stressful parts of trying some finger food ideas for baby is knowing exactly when they can handle anything outside of purees or mashes. First of all, did you know that many parents choose to skip the puree stage altogether and go straight from milk to table food? This is called Baby Led Weaning (BLW).
If that seems totally overwhelming, here are some finger food ideas for baby to help you guide your little one towards solids:
- Enjoy family meal time. In case you haven’t noticed, babies LOVE to imitate! That’s why letting your little one sit with you and watch you eat can be one of the most helpful things you can do during this whole process.
- Amp up the thickness. Instead of solely feeding your child watery purees, start slowly increasing the thickness of their food. This can be easily done by adding a few spoonfuls of baby cereal.
- Switch to mashes. Once you feel confident your baby can handle thicker purees, it’s time to switch to mashes. Take something like a sweet potato, steam it and mash it with a few spoonfuls of breast milk or formula.
- Stock up on teethers. One of the best things we did to help my daughter (and us!) get more comfortable with solids was to let her gnaw on teething crackers. These are airy and specifically made for young babies—they basically turn to mush as soon as they are in your mouth. The goal here is to let your baby develop “chewing” which for them will be more like grinding gums together and moving their tongue around.
- Give your baby something to gnaw on. A banana is one of the greatest finger food ideas for baby. They will love the sweet taste and it’s a food soft enough that you can allow your baby to hold and gnaw on themselves.
And just like that, your little one is eating table foods! See, it’s not too scary.
5 Foods to Avoid When Introducing Solids to Baby
Before you start giving anything outside of milk or formula, it’s important to know what to avoid so you aren’t giving your child potentially harmful substances. Knowing what foods to avoid can literally be a matter of life or death in some cases! That being said, the good news is there are only a handful of foods doctors recommend avoiding at first:
- Grapes that aren’t cut. Grapes are one of the most frequently choked on foods—they are just about the exact same size as a child’s windpipe. You should cut your grapes into quarters if you decide to give them to your baby.
- Foods that aren’t cut to a safe size. You want to make sure your child has their food cut into either bite-sized pieces or longer sticks they can easily eat. This blog post has excellent visuals you can view!
- Honey. Honey is not recommended until the age of one due to the risk of botulism.
- Any foods that are sticky or do not dissolve easily. This includes popcorn, whole nuts, giant spoonfuls of peanut butter, and syrup.
- Salt and salty foods. A baby cannot process sodium the same way we do, so you should avoid salt, and foods that contain it. This includes items such as hot dogs, taco seasoning and lunch meat.
12 Starter Finger Foods for Babies without Teeth
Ready for some finger food ideas for baby? Thankfully the list of what your child can eat is significantly larger than what they can’t. Here are some easy, baby-friendly foods to get you started for babies with and without teeth!
- Puffs and dry cereal
- Bread – remove the crusts and let them chew on the soft bread, or make them toast cut into long strips they can gnaw on
- Soft fruits – so many good soft fruits out there! Just make sure they are ripe and soft. Bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, raspberries and peaches are great starting points.
- Baked apples – these were my daughter’s favorite. Peel an apple, cut it in slices and toss with a few tbsp of olive oil and a dash of cinnamon, then bake until soft. So good!
- Scrambled eggs – experts recommend introducing eggs early on to help ward off potential allergens later. Scrambled eggs topped with cheese is a healthy protein-filled meal your little one will love!
- Cheese – small bites of non-stinky, non-gooey cheese. Some good examples include monterey jack or cheddar.
- Cooked veggies – keep nutrients intact by steaming or roasting them. Some favorites include sweet potato, broccoli and cauliflower.
- Pasta – don’t serve it al dente, instead, overcook slightly. Mini shells are a great shape to try, but you can also cut up spaghetti or penne.
- Avocado – a messy but good food full of Omega-3 for healthy brain development! You can serve avocado alone or spread it on toast.
- Tofu – shoot for firm tofu, which is still very soft. Super soft tofu like silken tofu will fall apart in your baby’s hands and be a frustrating eating experience for everyone involved.
- Fish – some experts recommend you introduce fish early to avoid later allergies. Whenever you decide to serve it up, make sure you remove all bones, especially the tiny bones found in fish. Use low-mercury fish (especially with female babies) like flounder, cod, and salmon.
- Meat – yes, babies with no teeth can eat meat! Just make sure the meat is not tough, but make sure it is cooked correctly…and cut into the appropriate size. Your baby isn’t ready for a steak just yet, but ground beef pieces and strips of chicken will work fine.
6 Finger Food Recipes the Whole Family Can Enjoy
Now that you’ve got a good list of what types of food your baby can eat, let’s combine them into healthy, delicious meals the entire family can enjoy! No more separate meals – here are some finger food ideas for baby the entire household will love.
- Helen’s sweet potato and red pepper stew. This tasty meal combines vegetables into a tasty stew that you can easily add chunks of chicken to. To make it baby-friendly, simply scoop out the simmered veggie and meats, cut them smaller and watch your little one eat!
- Michela’s ham and cheese pasta. Who wouldn’t love this simple dish with ham, cheese and pasta? If your child is very young and you want to start out a bit slower, set aside some pasta to be cooked a bit longer and serve to your baby.
- Fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Feel like enjoying brunch at home this weekend? Make these incredible buttermilk pancakes and let your baby enjoy tiny bite-sized pieces (sans syrup). Add a few scoops of scrambled eggs on the side, too!
- Chicken tacos. There are a lot of yummy ways to make tacos out there, but I like this taco recipe for a family with a baby because of all the veggies! To make this totally baby-friendly, make some of the ground chicken without spices and skip the chorizo all together due to nitrates.
- Pull-apart pizza bread. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like pizza—even if they are under one year old! Skip the sodium-filled pepperoni for your little one and make this yummy pizza recipe to teach them the magic of cheese and bread.
- Baked salmon fingers. This recipe will help even the pickiest of eaters to love salmon! This freezer-friendly cheesy, crispy fish recipe will be sure to make your weekly meal rotation.
Which one of these finger food ideas for baby are you most excited to try? I might have to make them all! :)
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