If you've got a little one who is currently interested in everything you're putting in your mouth, learning to pick up things with their chubby little fingers, and seem like they're always hungry they may be ready for table foods!
Every babe has a different time when they start to show interest in anything other than milk or purees, but generally once they're able to sit up on their own, have a couple of teeth (sometimes!), and they've got the grabbing thing down they're ready to try some table foods!
Table foods are basically just finger foods, or foods that the rest of the families already eating, but baby needs in a small enough size to pick up with their hands and work with their gums. This is a super fun time for little ones, because you'll start to see their curiosity for textures and flavors, and get an idea of things they love and things they don't!
But it can also be a little worrying on mamas to know where to start and how much is enough and where they should start. Well here are some things that I've been doing with my daughter around the 10month mark to transition her to table foods that might help you if you're starting out on your finger food journey with your babe!
Which Foods?Technically once your child is cleared by their pediatrician for solid foods (purees) they're able to eat anything except for honey. But when we're talking table foods there are a few rules you want to follow when starting out. Your little one will be breaking down the foods on their own, so you'll want to make sure whatever you give them can be easily softened, melted, or broken down before being swallowed. Some good starters would be bread, ripe banana, and boiled/steamed carrots. Once you feel like your babe has a handle the basic chew and swallow method you can transition them to firmer foods like noodles, chicken, and cheese. Starting out, you'll probably want to avoid stringy/fibrous foods like celery, because they are harder for your little one to break down and swallow.
Since your baby is getting the majority of their nutritional needs covered from the breastmilk/formula until they're 1, the table foods are more about introducing them to the concept and method of eating, then getting tons of calories/nutrients. Keep in mind that at this stage your babe will still be getting around 16-20 oz of breastmilk/formula, and solids 3 times daily (baby food/purees), so they shouldn't be going hungry if the majority of the table food ends up on the floor in the beginning. I recommend introducing some table foods to your babe at every meal before you feed them their bottle or baby food. This way they're hungry enough to be willing to try what you put in front of them, but you can still stuff them with the rice cereal afterwards! Once your little one gets the hang of table foods, they'll want to pick up all of their own food and will start to get fussy when you try to feed them with a spoon-- this is when you can start upping the amount of table foods and cutting back on baby foods.
Size and Quantity?
When you're starting your little one on table foods you want to make sure the pieces are big enough that they can be grabbed by those chunky fingers, but small enough that they won't cause your babe to choke. Whether you're tearing up a piece of bread or cutting up a string cheese, starting out I would advise pieces no bigger than your thumb nail. Once you feel like your child has a handle on that size, you can slowly start to make the pieces a little bigger, but still be careful not to make chunks or pieces too big that your babe won't be able to break them down on their own. When your babe starts eating table foods, you'll find that the majority of what is put on their high chair is going to end up on your floor, so it's okay to just put a few pieces in front of them at a time (you can always add more). I find that putting too much in front of my little girl means that she'll either try and fling it all over the place or try and shove it all in her mouth at once-- neither of those options are very appealing to me. So less is more!
Tips and Tricks?
Always make sure you have eyes on your babe, and you can quickly assist if they start choking. You never want to assume that they'll be able to handle it. Just be close by and monitor how they're doing so that you can get an idea of their ability to pick up food, and chew/swallow on their own.
Invest in a highchair with a tray that can be easily washed, some bibs that you can rinse off, and a mat for the floor that you can wipe down or pick up to drop everything in the trash! Now that you're moving on from baby purees, you're going to find that a lot more food ends up on the floor, table, and your babe than before!
Don't assume your baby won't like something just because they're a baby-- You never know what your child will love until you introduce it to them. Once they get the idea of getting to eat what everyone else is eating, you'll be surprised at how much they love it! If you're having shrimp pasta for dinner cut up the noodles and shrimp into tiny pieces and let babe get after it. Giving them options will help to make them less picky later on.