You are a month or two into the thrilling days of introducing solids to your baby and you’re wondering “When can I add finger foods to the menu? Are finger foods necessary or important?”
The answer to both is: YES!
Offering your little one foods he can pick up with his fingers is helpful on many levels. Finger foods can benefit babies in many ways, but you may want to consult your baby’s pediatrician first because all babies are different.
The typical age to introduce solids in the form of finger foods is around seven to eight months. Some parents begin with small amounts of pureed solids while others skip the puree and head straight for the finger foods. This is known as “baby-led weaning” and greatly encourages hand-eye coordination.
In order for them to enjoy finger foods, it helps if your baby has a well-developed pincer grasp (between thumb and forefinger) as well as the ability to sit unassisted in a highchair with a tray.
It takes at least two to three years for the average human to learn how to eat. Exploring foods at a young age promotes this remarkably. While your baby’s main consumption is breastmilk or formula, adding in small bits of finger foods is less about nutrition and more about food exploration.
Set out finger foods for baby and eventually the food will end up in his mouth! Allowing him to push, poke, squish, smash, feel, and play with various foods supports the development of different skills. Your baby will not only experience new tastes but new looks, smells, and textures as well.
Introducing finger food is important to aid in these developmental skills:
Self feeding and fine motor skills are developed.
Jaw strength is greatly promoted when finger foods are added in. The development of the tongue movement is also greatly affected; it will learn to move side-to-side in addition to forward and backwards.
Your baby is going to experience all of his senses during this time: sight, touch, movement, sound, smell, balance. Your baby’s brain is processing all of the sensory signals involved with eating.
GAG REFLUX IMPROVEMENT
Most infants [if not all] are born with a very sensitive gag reflux. As you add finger food to his menu, you will notice an improvement in his reflux.
“Note: the current Infant Feeding Guidelines recommend foods with a high risk of choking such as whole nuts, seeds, raw carrot, celery sticks and chunks of apple should be avoided for the first 3 years as their size and/or consistency increases the risk of choking. It is also advisable to always supervise your children while they are eating to prevent choking.” // One Handed Cooks
Need some ideas for simple finger foods for baby? Try these:
- Sweet potato and apple
- Banana and avocado
- Roast chicken and apple
- Cheese omelet and turkey-apple sausage
- Elbow pasta with marinara sauce and focaccia
- Cheese toast and sweet potato fries
- Swiss cheese and apricots
- Mac ‘n’ cheese and beets
- Green beans and pears
- Butternut squash and peaches
- Peas and plums
- Carrots and apple
- Banana and cherries
- Fresh mozzarella and tomato
- Cheddar cheese and figs
Here’s a tip: You can soften some of these foods on the stove or in the oven, then dice them into bite-sized pieces to make it very easy babies to eat. You don’t need to wait for your little one to have a full mouth of teeth, or even any teeth at all to give finger food.
As a reminder, all babies are different and fluctuate in their developmental stages. Consult with your pediatrician about the best time to add finger food.
What are you favorite finger foods to give your baby?
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