I have an adorable 9-month-old niece who is ready to start finger foods. This process can seem scary to new moms as they navigate the world of introducing new food to their babies. It's really not difficult if you start thinking in terms of transitioning the baby from breastmilk or formula and baby food/purees to the same table food that the whole family eats.
At some time between 4- to 6-months of age we start feeding our babies purees and baby cereal. During the next several months parents carefully introduce many fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, beans, and dairy to the baby, watching for any preferences and food allergies.
After a while babies get the hang of being fed, and you can introduce safe finger foods so they can practice picking up food, putting it in their mouths, chewing (or as close to it as they can get without back teeth) and swallowing.
My sister wanted ideas of finger foods to introduce, so I suggested the following:
Baby “puffs,” or Cheerios
Small pieces of soft fruit: peaches, plums, grapes, bananas, apples or pears cut into tiny “matchsticks”
Small pieces of soft cooked veggies: carrots, sweet potatoes, green beans, beets, squash
Tiny shreds of tender meat: chicken, beef, turkey
Beans (cut in half if large)
Whole wheat toast that has been cut into very small pieces
French toast that is cut into very small pieces
You get the idea. You can really feed your baby small pieces of any food that he/she has already been eating as a puree. You can also introduce any new foods they are ready to try this way, just be careful to keep an eye out for signs of food allergies.
Please be careful and watch your baby as they try new things. Some babies are fine with new textures while others gag more easily. Start out cutting food into the smallest size they can pick up. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with a knife just chopping food into tiny pieces for Ned, thinking he would never be able to handle anything bigger than a speck. I cut grapes into sixteenths. Slowly he has advanced (and gotten more teeth) and at 17 months he eats what we do – I am happy to hand him a piece of toast or bagel and watch as he chomps away!
Today's tip: Once your baby has the hang of being fed purees you can slowly introduce finger foods.