Introducing finger foods to your baby can be exciting and overwhelming! Here is everything you need to know about serving finger foods so that they are safe and delicious!
Finger Foods for Baby
If you've decided to start solids by taking the baby led weaning approach, you will be introducing big, soft-cooked finger foods from the start.
If you are taking the traditional approach of starting with purees, you will most likely start offering finger foods around 8-9 months of age when you and your baby feel ready to move forward with texture.
Regardless of which method you choose, the goal is to offer finger foods by 9 months at the latest.
Here is an in-depth post on purees vs. baby led weaning.
As soon as they are ready for solids!
I talk a lot about the importance of introducing a wide variety of flavors AND textures from early on, and that’s because research shows babies are much more willing and open to trying new foods than children between ages 2-8 as food neophobia has been shown to set in during this time (1).
Familiarity is a BIG part of taste and acceptance, and the earlier the exposure to all the different flavors and textures, the greater their acceptance.
If your baby stays on pureed textures for too long, it may be much more difficult to get them to accept different textures later.
In other words, early exposure has a significant impact in shaping food preferences and eating habits that are tracked into childhood and beyond (2).
If you're feeling anxious about offering textured foods from the start and want to take the traditional weaning route where babies are spoon-fed purees or the combination approach (you do you!), here's how to safely move forward from purees to textured foods.
Whatever method you choose, the end goal is to introduce a wide variety of flavors and textures before the age of 1.
While you might think babies can’t eat foods that aren’t pureed until they have teeth, the reality is they don’t need teeth to enjoy table/finger foods.
I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but we actually chew with our molars, not the front teeth. And if you wait until the molars come in (normally around 12-18 months) to move on to table foods, you would totally miss that critical “window of opportunity” for developing food preferences.
Not to mention, failure to move from purees to textured foods by 9 months may lead to increased risk for feeding difficulties later in life (3).
So how are they able to handle table foods without the molars? With their strong gums! I was totally blown away when I saw them in action!
And it is our responsibility as parents to make sure that the foods are appropriately cooked and served, and that’s what I want to share with you!
Do keep in mind, I’m sharing general timelines & guidelines here. What’s most important is to follow your baby’s lead as every child is so different and they develop at their own pace.
Choking vs. Gagging
Research actually shows that there’s no greater risk of choking with baby led weaning in comparison to the traditional feeding practices (4).
Most important - avoid the choking hazards
Keep in mind, choking is different from gagging, which is very common and to be expected. Gagging is a safety mechanism to prevent choking and contrary to how it appears, it doesn’t really bother the babies.
Sit on your hands, remain calm, and let them work through it. Do NOT try to fish out the food from their mouth. Here are some additional tips on how to get through the first month of baby led weaning.
How to Serve Finger Foods to Baby
In this section, you will learn how to cut and cook the finger foods so they are the appropriate shape and texture according to age.
Finger Foods for 6-8 Month Old Baby
Cut so that the food is about the size of 1-2 adult fingers pressed together widthwise and the length of an adult pinky finger (or longer).
Contrary to what you might think, serving big pieces of food will actually minimize choking risk and make it easier for your baby to grab with their fist. Initially, everything will likely get demolished, but with practice, your baby will learn to have better control of hand force.
Foods should be firm enough to grasp but soft enough to easily smoosh between two fingers or mash with the tongue on the roof of the mouth.
Finger Foods for 9-11 Month Old Baby
By this age, babies are learning to move food side to side within their mouths as well as forward and backward. They are also starting to learn the concept of biting (hopefully anyways).
Your baby is mastering their pincer grasp and able to pick up smaller pieces of food between the thumb and index fingers. Therefore, you can begin to offer smaller bite-sized pieces.
But do continue offering larger pieces of food so they can learn to take bites.
You can start serving slightly firmer foods by shortening the cooking time for veggies, roasting more often rather than just steaming, etc. Depending on the number of teeth your baby has, chewing ability, and your comfort level, you can start offering finely grated raw fruits and veggies.
If your baby constantly turns into a competitive food eater (like mine did), here are some things you can do to help slow them down:
- Help set pace by placing small amounts of food in front of her at a time either directly on the table/tray or a plate. I personally just took the plate away every time his mouth was full and encouraged him to finish chewing before offering his plate again. It was tedious but worked well for us.
- Offer utensils (here are our favorites). Using it requires fine motor skills which will help slow down pace.
Finger Foods for 12+ Months
Again, try to encourage your child to learn to take bites by not cutting up the food as much. As always, role modeling can do wonders in helping them to learn this new skill.
If your child is continuing to shove food, learn how to teach them to take bites.
You've done the hard work! At this point your child should be able to handle almost all textures and eating like the family. Can you start offering crunchy vegetables? Yes! Here's a guide on how to introduce raw vegetables to your little one in a safe and fun way.
Best Finger Foods for Baby
Now that you know how to serve the food in an age-appropriate way, here's a master list of specific foods to enjoy with your baby!
Be sure to click on the links for more details on each of the specific foods.
Iron-rich Finger Foods for Baby
Iron is arguably THE most important nutrient for babies and it is one of the primary reasons that we start solids when we do. Be sure to incorporate one of these foods at every meal to help meet their high needs.
Finger Foods for Baby - Vegetables
And as you see in the image above, do not be afraid to season your baby's food from the start!
Also check out: Vegetables for babies (with 30+ recipes)
Finger Foods for Baby - Fruits
- Avocado - sliced into wedges or bite-sized pieces
- Apples - serve similar to pears
- Blueberries - smashed
- Grapes - hold off until 9 months and be sure to serve quartered.
- Kiwi - Halves, quarters, bite-sized
- Melons - large thin rectangles
Finger Foods for Baby - Whole Grains
Here are some quick and easy ways to incorporate more whole grains into your baby's diet. You will find that a lot of these recipes also contain protein, iron, fruits, and vegetables!
Real-Life Baby Food Ideas
All the images you see in this article are actual meals I served to my babies.
If you are feeling confused and overwhelmed by what foods to serve, how to prepare foods so they are safe, how to introduce allergens and a wide variety of foods, how to adapt family meals so you don't spend hours slaving away in the kitchen making two separate meals every.single.day, and on and on...
My 3 month program will save you time, energy, money, and sanity!
I’ve done all the hard work for you so all you need to do is follow the daily and weekly game plan and watch the cooking demos for EVERY.SINGLE.MEAL you will make for 3 months. By doing so you’ll be able to serve all the meals you see here plus 130+ effortlessly!
I’ve also heard from so many parents that an unexpected benefit to following this program for their baby was that it encouraged their older fussy eater(s) to start trying new foods and expanding their food choices.
Do you want to minimize picky eating and set a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?
Check out this 3 month mastering self-feeding program! It’s the closest thing to me being in your kitchen
And be sure to follow me on Instagram for more helpful videos!