I’ve written about finger foods for your baby many times but have felt recently, since weaning my own son, that I owe my readers another blog on this topic.
For years I recommended certain finger foods for your baby, without really having any experience of seeing them being eaten. However, some finger foods really do work better than others, and this blog is meant to be a “thinking outside the box” guide to offering finger foods to your baby, especially in the early days.
First up – let’s be honest – offering finger foods can be really scary!
After years of telling parents not to worry about offering finger food, that babies won’t choke and that “starting with soft options” is the way forward, I found myself slightly terrified of offering them to my boy. I decided to delay their introduction until around 6.5-7 months of age. This was to give him enough time to get confident with solid foods, to be used to feeling a spoon in his mouth, and to have really got to grips with swallowing. This delay worked really well for us, but even after this time, I still was nervous when it came to offering him sticks of food. It is very easy for babies – with those tough gums – to bite off chunks and then not know how to deal with them.
Gagging is completely normal
There were plenty of times when Raffy gagged on chunks he’d bitten off and the food came shooting straight out, but for a few seconds (during gagging) it can be extremely scary. Two times Raffy also struggled to get the food back out, until his diaphragm kicked into gear and he vomited ALL his food back up, gagging lump included.
It’s important to realise that this is all completely normal, babies do gag on food, some for longer and more frequently than others. Gagging is natural as a babies’ gag reflex is more pronounced than ours as adults, it’s also further forward. They are very efficient at getting food back out and choking, thankfully, is very rare. However it doesn’t stop it being frightening!
Finger food solutions
For me, I decided to wait a little to build my son’s confidence around food. I moved on to thicker textures after a week of solids and then onto mashed textures after around a month. After this, I finally began offering him finger foods. At first I tried a few options to see which worked and below are the ones that I found really worked for Raffy for his early finger food options.
Broccoli – Well cooked broccoli is ideal as it gives them a stick to hold and there aren’t any large lumps that can come off and get lodged in baby’s throat. Raffy initially sucked the head of the broccoli and then, once he progressed at little, went on to tearing bits off with his gums. He now eats the whole thing, stalk and all.
Cucumber – As a first food this is a good option if you chop off the tough skin and focus mainly on the soft jelly like section in the middle. This is also nice and cool on baby’s gums.
Banana – Cut lengthways in strips, banana is a great food for them to grasp between their fingers. You might find the first few times that bananas simply get mashed in their hands, but eventually you’ll see them sending them to their mouths too. Banana is soft enough to dissolve slightly in their mouths and unlikely to get jammed in the back of the throat.
Fuseli pasta – Well cooked pasta (after 6 months of age due to the gluten) is a great option as a finger food and something that Raffy really enjoys, even now. As long as it’s soft enough and they can grasp it in their own hands, they are unlikely to choke on it as it falls apart quite easily in the mouth.
Kiwi – this is another one that’s easy for babies to tear apart with their gums, it flattens as it gets into the mouth and so it’s unlikely to get stuck down the throat.
Orange slices – with the skin on – these were good options to offer to Raffy initially, as they allow him to get a grip on the orange and suck the orange juice from the middle. However, it’s a good idea to remove the top layer of skin off the orange slice, so that it doesn’t get stuck down their throat.
Bread fingers – offering bread but without the crusts is a good idea for babies. Soft sliced bread works well as it almost dissolves in the mouth and they are able to use it to learn how to chomp and chew quite safely.
Avocado – this is a bit of a tricky one. I almost didn’t include it as I’ve always said that this is a great first finger food. However, it was incredibly hard for Raffy to hold as it slips out of his grip. However, after a time he’s got more used to it and now is competent at feeding himself little strips of avocado. It is a great food though and mashes down easily in baby’s mouth.
Let me know if you have any ideas to add re Finger Foods For Your Baby. Please remember that you should ALWAYS sit with baby when they are eating, especially eating finger foods. If you find they are reluctant to bite and chew, try doing some role modelling and let them see you biting and chewing some finger foods for yourself.