Safest Finger Foods to Start Baby On
What are some of the safest foods to start finger feeding? My almost 13-month-old has been eating purée food, puffs, and teething crackers. I want to try finger food again. A few months back she was not ready and the find food resulted in gagging that lasted too long. I have tried salmon and avocado; however, I am trying to switch her to finger food. She only eats food if I blend it or mash it.
How to Feed Toddlers Foods with Nutritional Value
Shape Young Tastes
This means you want to feed your toddler foods that have the most nutritional value and the ones you want her to eventually crave. Building your baby’s “crave center” for healthy foods is one of the healthiest investments you can make into her long-term health future. Commit to feeding her only real foods. These are the ones that are grown on the land and swim in the sea, not those made in a food processing plant and put in a box.
In my experience as a mom, it takes a couple of years of persistence to help your toddler grow that crave center, but it will happen. Many of my friends have said that when they started with veggies at six months their children craved these foods when they were older. I applaud you for beginning with avocado and salmon. These are two of the most nutritious starter foods and the ones top on the list as taste shapers.
You want feeding to be a pleasant event for your toddler, and yourself. Therefore, it’s best to encourage her toward finger foods. Yet, if she still enjoys blended or mashed foods celebrate this desire and go with it for a while. Some babies with a more sensitive gag reflux need time to transition from mashed and blended foods to more solid finger foods.
Add in “Sneakies”
The benefit of blending her meals is you can add what I call “sneakies.” You can sneak in foods that she would not accept as finger foods, such as kale and broccoli, and even blend in chokable foods, such as nuts and seeds. You can also add what we call “mix ins”. Finely dice raw, leafy greens, broccoli, chard, spinach, and other veggies into tiny bits and mix them into the mashed foods she likes.
Try Very Soft Foods
One finger food we have seen our daughter, Erin, introduce to her 9-month-old is very ripe pear (try it without the peel to start off). Also, very well baked sweet potato in small bits is a good bet. If the texture still bothers her, then she will at least get a taste of it, and eventually, she will learn to accept soft and juicy food bits. Toddlers who continue to gag too much may need to be referred to an occupational therapist for help.
An exciting developmental feature that matures between nine and twelve months is the ability of toddlers to pick up things with their thumb and forefinger. By letting your toddler be in charge of putting the tidbit into her own mouth (resist the urge to “help” her along), she will understand better what to do with it once she gets it into her mouth and onto her tongue and is carefully tasting it. When self-feeding, babies enjoy using their thumb and forefinger like little chopsticks.
Try soft and squished organic blueberries, tiny cheese bits, and tiny pieces of salmon that she can grasp with her fingers. Remember, babies are copycats. So, grab a piece of the food that’s on your plate, such as a blueberry, piece of salmon, or fruits and veggies, and then exaggerate your “yum!” and watch her copy.
Also, usually around fifteen months of age toddlers love to dip, such as taking a vegetable and dipping it in hummus, guacamole, or yogurt. If nothing else, she can enjoy dipping her own hand into the dip and getting that to her mouth for a taste. Nothing here would set off her gag reflex. One rule about letting babies learn to self-feed: have a good sturdy bib and don’t think of it as a “mess” – think of it as “doing science”.
Enjoy this creative feeding stage, as it will soon pass.
Written by: Martha Sears RN
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”