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When can I give my baby finger foods?

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Denise Lenarz, MD

Once your baby can sit up and bring objects to his/her mouth, you can introduce finger foods. To avoid choking, make sure anything you give your baby is soft, easy to swallow and cut into small pieces. Some examples include:

  • Small pieces of banana
  • Wafer-type cookies or crackers
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Well-cooked pasta
  • Well-cooked chicken finely chopped
  • Well-cooked and cut up yellow squash, peas and potatoes

Each of your baby’s meals should be about 4 ounces or the amount in one small jar of strained baby food. Limit giving your baby foods that are made for adults, which usually contain too much salt and other preservatives.

Use a blender or food processor to prepare your baby fresh food or just mash softer foods with a fork. All fresh foods should be cooked until they are soft with no added salt or seasoning (except for bananas). Refrigerate any food you do not use and look for any signs of spoilage before giving it to your baby. Fresh foods are not bacteria-free so they will spoil more quickly than food from a can or jar.

Do not give your baby any food that requires chewing. Do not give your baby any food that can be a choking hazard including hot dogs, nuts/seeds, chunks of meat or cheese, whole grapes, popcorn; chunks of peanut butter, raw vegetables, fruit chunks and candy.

What changes can I expect?

When your baby starts eating solid foods, the stools will become more solid and vary in color. The added sugars and fats will make the odor stronger. You’ll notice that certain veggies will make the stool dark green. Beets may make stools red (and urine, too). If your baby’s meals are not strained, stools may contain undigested pieces of food. This is all normal.

Your baby’s digestive system still needs time before it can fully process new foods. If the stools are extremely loose, watery or full of mucus, however, it may mean the digestive tract is irritated. In this case, reduce the amount of solids and introduce them more slowly. If it continues, consult your child’s health care provider.

Good eating habits start early

It is important for your baby to get used to the process of eating — sitting up, taking food from a spoon, resting between bites and stopping when full. Remember to offer a variety of healthy foods that are rich in the nutrients your child needs. These early experiences will help your child establish good eating habits for life.

Encourage family meals from the first feeding. Research suggests that having dinner together as a family on a regular basis has positive effects on the development of children.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s nutrition, talk with your child’s health care provider. Log in to MyChart to send a secure message to your provider.