Once a baby has started on solids and is used to the idea of food from a spoon, it is time to start expanding not just the flavours but also the textures of the foods offered.
First solids are smooth in consistency, pureed and initially almost more liquid than solid. This allows baby to get used to spoon feeding during the early stages of weaning.
Gradually the texture of the food offered should change: purees become thicker and then foods can be mashed, be chunkier or minced until baby is eating foods more similar in texture to the family’s food.
First finger foods help to increase interest in food and new textures, especially if a baby is going through a little less adventurous stage. Later on, finger foods are important to promote chewing and help teething. They also play a part in developing hand/eye co-ordination, and encourage independence.
Introduce a wide range of tastes to a baby once solids are started as this increases the likelihood of acceptance, enjoyment and variety later on. Equally important is encouraging progression with different textures. Habits and preferences start young, and you don’t want a toddler who will eat only pureed foods.
When is a baby ready for finger foods?
- Baby has good head control, may also be able to sit up unsupported
- Has started on solids, progressed to the ‘mashed’ texture stage, is making more chewing movements
- Baby is able to pick up and hold small objects
- Baby has, or is getting, first teeth (although remember babies chew very well with their gums)
To avoid the possibility of choking:
- Keep baby seated while eating and always stay with baby while he/she is eating.
- Avoid foods that are small, hard and difficult to control in the mouth, eg. nuts, popcorn, potato crisps, nacho chips, small pieces of raw carrot and lollies.
- Modify some foods, for example, initially wrap pieces of fruit or soft cooked vegetable in muslin. Remove skin from fruit, and pips from grapes. Cut crusts from bread or toast (remember toast ‘soldiers’?).
Finger Food ideas for 6-9 month olds
- Apple, pear, banana, apricot, peach, nectarine, watermelon, plums, avocado (peel and cut into appropriate size pieces)
- Try freezing fruit in pieces, this is great during summer and for teething
- Dried fruit – apricots, prunes, raisins and sultanas. For younger babies soak dried fruits in a little boiled water to soften
Carrot, pumpkin, potato, parsnip, broccoli (boil or steam to soften slightly. Or grate, or bake wedges or cubes)
Breads and Cereals*
- Bread/toast fingers (initially remove crusts)
- Crackers, eg. Cruskits, rice crackers
- Bite-size pieces scone, toasted muffin splits (fruit and savoury)
- Cooked pasta (macaroni, noodles)
- Lamb, beef or chicken (cook, cut into manageable pieces)
- Mini meat balls, patties, Aria Farm meat chips
(* If there is a strong family history of allergies, delay these foods until 12 months of age.)