When Your Baby is Ready for More than Baby Food

Babies grow up quickly. As they leave behind the milk, they begin to eat cereal and baby foods. It’s not long before they have outgrown even that and are looking for more substantial foods that have texture and can, of course, be played with. What’s the fun of eating if you can’t play with your food?

It’s time for finger foods!

Self-Feeding Baby Eating Stage

Junior can’t be a baby forever. He has to grow up and tend to himself eventually. This begins with eating. When he gets to the self-feeding stage, he wants a little control over what goes in his mouth and when. Eating is very important to a child so this logically is where that self-control starts.

Think about it! Do you like getting something that looks like strange colored pudding with a variety of taste and no texture always being shoved in your mouth whether you liked it or not? NO! You want to explore. Junior wants to explore the culinary worlds.

At this stage of your baby’s life, he is learning how to control his hands. It’s not all about eating. It is about learning to use his hands and use them well. We take for granted how to use fingers and have complete control over where our fingers go and do. Junior is just learning that. You continuing to feed him with your own hand actually prevents him from learning valuable motor skills.

This is an important part of his growth and should not be taken lightly but with fun.

The Best Finger Foods

As stated above with steak, not every “finger food” is good for Junior. Remember that this is something new to him. Look at his little hands. They are pudgy and small. They are awkward. He needs foods that are easy to handle yet can challenge him.

Here’s what you’re looking for:

  1. Is it soft enough to be eaten without needing teeth? Keep in mind that baby might a tooth or two, but that is all. They need food to gum. Examples: baby peas, oat cereal, small pieces of cheese (though not too much), pieces of soft bread, small pieces of fresh fruit without skin, scrambled eggs, small pastas. You get the picture.
  2. Can it easily be picked up with the fingers? He can’t use utensils very well now. He only has his fingers. Mashed potatoes are not eatable finger food. It is a play with your food art source. Cut up anything like a banana into little pieces he can grip. Not too little! But not so big that he will choke on it as he shoves the whole thing in his mouth.
  3. How easily can he get choked on it? You don’t want foods that can choke your baby. You want ones that his mouth will turn into much quickly. Crackers might not be ones you think of, but they are soft and usually begin to break down as they enter the mouth. By the time he finishes exploring the weird texture of it, the cracker is mush.

Dangerous Foods

There are many foods out there that are small, can be cut up, and Junior can handle very well. That doesn’t mean they are good for him. Think of yourself. How often have you put food in your mouth and found that you forgot how to eat properly and began to cough and choke? And you’re the experienced adult!

Some foods pose a choking hazard such as popcorn. It is small and fun to eat but it has kernels in them that can easily get in the wrong passage. Been there and done that! You don’t want Junior having to go through that.

Many foods present allergy problems. Nuts are great finger-foods but can cause choking and life-threatening allergy potential. Until you know your child is not allergic to nuts, avoid them.

Skin on fruits and vegetables should be avoided. Yes, the grapes are soft and easy to pick up but their skin is so flexible that it can shimmy down the wrong pipe and cause lots of problems.

The Right Eating Environment

As they begin to venture into the finger-food stage, make sure they are  sitting in a comfortable high chair like Graco 4 in 1 high chair or a type of booster seat so Junior is sitting like the adult he is growing up to be and can easily use his hands. He needs to be focused on the eating and not on playing with toys. Never leave a baby unattended in either one of these seats. They need to be sturdy, safe, and comfortable.

Future Eating Stages

As the baby’s teeth come in and they develop better motor control, you can expand these food ideas into the nuts, the popcorn, and the grapes. They aren’t banned forever but until Junior can handle them. Baby steps are needed in all parts of their lives.

Laura Cecil, mama to three kids, created livesnet.com where shares her reviews and parenting experience with her friends. Whether she’s writing her reviews, sharing her tips or just telling her stories as a single mom on her site,she just want to take care of her kids better and help parents live better with their loves. Please visit her site and read her latest review on her love stroller Uppa Baby Vista 2011.

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  1. Reading this article makes me think about my baby when she was still a baby. It was really tough especially if you are a first time mom and I felt so helpless and I just don’t know what to do next. The internet somehow is a good source of information which I know a lot of mom’s out there would be happy to know of.