Expanding baby’s palate to finger foods is exciting and scary. They are fun for baby and help develop independence, fine motor skills and coordination. They also free up some time for mommy, so let’s get this process started!
The average age for introducing finger foods is between seven and nine months of age. My baby is well on his way to nine months old, so it’s time. I knew I had to get him used to eating chunkier solids but I never really thought about having to teach baby to feed himself. So it’s a two stage process. First, I began by chunking up his purees at seven months old to get him used to the textures and chewing. He definitely preferred smooth foods and required lots of face to face modeling of chewing and positive encouragement to keep him from spitting the chunky foods out.
Next, I had to put his high chair tray on. Talk about a mad baby, the pictures don’t do it justice. I love our Peg Perego Siesta high chair but up until a week ago, we never used the tray because baby was too small and the tray too high for eating and drinking. Baby’s still too small, but I needed to get him used to the tray being on in preparation for finger food training, so we elevated him on towels. After two days of training by being very positive and putting the tray on when I fed him, he was conditioned!
After that, I began placing soft finger foods on his tray. This has been a big change for both mommy and baby. Introducing finger foods is scary! As a speech-language pathologist, I’m schooled in swallowing anatomy and physiology and work with swallowing difficulties, so I didn’t think it would be a problem for me. But that’s not the case, I’ve been very cautious in the firmness and size of the food I’ve presented my baby and I’m still freaked out! I started by placing finger foods on Fisher’s tray at meals and snacks (five times a day for three days) just to peek his interest. I did lots of direct demonstration of self-feeding and chewing. Along with some mouth clamping, head turns, and fussing, he showed no signs of interest in the foods for several days. I had to make him touch them and when he did, he just swiped them off his tray. I began thinking, “this is never going to happen, he just wants me to feed him with a spoon and he wants his foods smooth.” To get Fisher started on accepting finger foods we had to place them in his cheek, model exaggerated chewing, and then he would chew, swallow, and enjoy it.
And just when I was about to throw in the towel and call it quits……
This amazing little guy surprised me. The hard work paid off. I had to scramble to get my video turned on in excitement. Voila, the art of self-feeding!
How do you know when baby is ready for finger foods:
- Baby should be able to move jaw in a chewing motion to mash food with gums
- Sit up unassisted
- Crawl on hands and knees
- Should have a good pincer grasp (ability to grasp and hold objects between thumb and index fingers), babies need this established so they don’t get frustrated with trying to pick up foods
- Transfer items between hands
- Show interest in foods
- All babies are unique, introduce finger foods when you feel your baby is ready
- Make sure baby is supervised and sitting upright, firmly in a chair for all eating and drinking
- Starter finger foods should be soft, small cut and mashable between fingers
- Provide foods you know baby likes
- Demonstrate what you want baby to do
- This requires a lot of time and patience, do not attempt when you’re in a hurry-it will take baby time to chew the foods
- Feed baby when he/she is well rested and in a good mood
- Babies learn about taste, aroma, texture and color when they are eating, provide them a variety of nutrient-rich foods
- Continue purees along with finger foods to start
- Tell babies what they are eating, this will help build language skills