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Introducing Finger Foods

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

The Kid’s Doctor iPhone App is great and we are getting a lot of good questions that I will continue to answer! One mother (Samantha) wrote in asking about beginning finger foods for her 11 month old.  She wasn’t sure what she could offer her daughter.

Finger feeding is a very important developmental milestone for babies and usually begins around 8–10 months of age, depending on your baby and their interest.

You often realize that while you are trying to spoon feed a baby of that age, that they are reaching out to grab the spoon or grabbing at your fork as you put something into your own mouth.  This naturally occurs as you baby explores the environment around them, and they are always putting things into their mouths, so it would seem logical to start finger foods.

The easiest way to start finger feeding with your baby is by giving them small pieces of “mushy” food that you are already feeding them, but rather than putting it on a spoon to feed them, put the food on their high chair tray and watch them as they “scoop” it into their hand and then it goes straight to their mouths.

Every child is different too. So, some immediately love putting foods with texture into their mouths and will happily feed themselves almost anything. Then there is another group that doesn’t like the “texture” or feeling of having non pureed food in their mouths. This group happily picks up the food, but once it hits their lips, out is comes as if it was some sort of “poison”.

As with so many things, every child is different, so don’t push it, but at the same time continue to offer bite sized pieces of mushy table food.  Let your child explore the textures of different foods as this is integral to becoming familiar with different textures.  It is easy to let a child’s natural hunger help drive them to taste things too, so while you are preparing their meal, put a few things on their tray and see how they do with finger feeding.

There are really no “rules” as to what you can give to your child for finger foods, as long as the food is well cooked, soft, and is in small bite sized portions. Children (similar to old folks “without their teeth”) don’t chew their food, but gum it, so you need to be aware of offering foods that might pose a choking hazard.  So any fresh vegetable that is well cooked, like carrots, green beans, peas and corn are easy for a baby to pick up and eat.

Same thing for fresh fruits, with blueberries and pieces of ripe pineapple, or kiwi, or banana.  It is easy to offer a baby the “over ripe” fruits that you previously threw away as being too mushy. Babies love it all and truly need to experiment with the different textures of foods.  Other good things to try are pieces of pancake, pasta, scrambled eggs and beans and rice.  Do NOT offer peanuts, popcorn, hard candies,  chips, or chunks of meats, as these may cause choking and aspiration risks.

By the time your child is around 1, they will really be mostly finger feeding and you will only be spoon  feeding the yogurt, applesauce, cereals that cannot be easily finger fed. By that time too your child will no longer be “scooping” the foods, but they will be using their pincer grasp and are quite agile at getting everything in their mouths.  The next milestone will be as your child begins spoon feeding themselves!!

That’s your daily dose.  We’ll chat again tomorrow!

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

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