Letting your baby feed himself finger foods is a great way to give him a chance to practice fine motor hand dexterity as well as tongue and jaw control. But what serves as a good choice of finger foods to offer your baby? Below is my list of favorites that meet basic early foods guidelines.
My 10 Favorite Finger Foods
Puffs or Cheerios (I prefer Happy Baby Puffs and Cascadian Farms Os)
Scrambled eggs (yolks at six months, whole eggs at one year)
Steamed broccoli or cauliflower
Small chunks of muffin or breakfast bread, such as banana bread
Well-cooked pasta pieces
Pancake chunks (no butter or syrup)
Red beans and rice (spice it up for high-flavor)
Chopped up Egg Mini-Balls (from Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron, whole eggs at one year)
Chunks of soft-breaded fish sticks (fish at one year)
Small chunks of cheese quesadillas (cheese at nine months)
When it comes to food, I am a proponent of starting ealier rather than later when food habits and expectations have begun to take hold. You, your pediatrician and perhaps speech or OT will have to determine when your baby is ready to self-feed. However, this will probably happen when your baby can sit well-supported in a feeding seat with a tray and is ready to move on to the munching phase (beginning to mash food in his mouth by flattening and spreading his tongue while moving his jaw up and down. The DS Nutrition Handbook, pg. 10). Your baby does not need to have teeth to enjoy finger foods. If you notice that your baby shows interest in what you are eating (watches you eat, leans toward you as you eat, sticks his tongue out as you eat), he is probably ready to try self-feeding.
Finger Food Guidelines
Food pieces should be about the size of a Cheerio or large pea. The food should be able to be broken down easily by saliva and gumming. Only place a couple pieces of food at a time on the tray to avoid overstuffing (which can lead to choking.) It is a good idea to use a plastic bib with a pocket to catch the misses so that you can dig them out and give your little one a second chance with them.
Feeding No Nos... Never leave your baby unattended while he is self-feeding. Try to avoid foods that are wet with straight edges (for example, steamed carrot chunks or chopped banana) as they will stick to the tray setting your little one up for frustration. Skip the choking hazards... hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, chips, seeds, whole grapes, whole olives, corn niblets, cherries, and peanut butter.
If your baby begins to choke, do not try to dig the food out of his mouth. This can cause it to be jammed further in his throat. Pick him up and turn him over with his head lower than his torso. Give him a firm thwack with your palm on his back right between his shoulder blades to expel the food. If you cannot dislodge the food right away, call 911 for help.
Red Beans and Rice
4-5 Cups Cooked Rice
Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper
1 Small Onion, chopped and browned
2 Garlic Cloves
2-3 Tablespoons Bearitos Chili Spice
1 Can Pinto Beans, drained
In a large skillet, brown chopped onion in olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and cook two minutes longer. Add beans, chili spice, and salt and pepper to taste. When heated through, add the cooked rice and mix well. Splash with a dash of olive oil. This can be served with shredded cheddar on top. Cool and put a scoop on baby’s tray.
2 Flour Tortillas
1/3 Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Place tortilla on a greased baking sheet. Top with cheese and remaining tortilla. Broil 4 in. from the heat for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Cool and cut into tiny pieces for baby.
3 hard-boiled eggs, mashed
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon finely diced onion
1/2 cup crushed cornflakes
Mix first 4 ingredients and shape into mini-balls. Roll in cornflakes to coat. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven on greased cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes until browned. Cool and chop up into chunks for baby.
What was your baby’s favorite finger food? Does your baby like self-feeding?