Children's food expert Annabel Karmel shares her top 10 tips for introducing your little one to finger foods.
Your baby may want to start feeding herself at around eight months. But she won't have developed enough coordination to use a spoon, so finger foods are perfect.
Foods with more lumpy textures and finger foods help your baby to develop and refine her chewing technique – which in turn helps with speech development and strengthens jaw muscles.
Your baby may refuse to eat lumpy food from a spoon or fork, but will eat finger foods even though these also require chewing.
Always sit with your baby when giving her finger foods to make sure she doesn't choke.
Keep your baby sitting up when eating, to reduce the risk of choking.
When she has finished, check inside her mouth and remove food she hasn't swallowed.
Often it's better to offer a large piece of fruit or vegetable your baby can hold and eat, rather than bite-size pieces.
Put a large mat under the high chair to catch dropped food.
Start with foods that are quite soft, as babies can bite off a piece of a hard food such as raw carrot, and choke on it. I like to offer the following:
- Steamed vegetables: carrot or sweet potato sticks, small broccoli or cauliflower florets
- Soft ripe fruit: banana, peach, melon or mango
- Cooked pasta shapes, with a little sauce or melted butter and grated cheese
- Soft dried fruits: apricots, apples, prunes
- Sticks of cucumber
- Fingers of toast, rice cakes or miniature sandwiches
- Dry breakfast cereals
- Hard-boiled egg cut into quarters (egg allergy affects 1-2% of children but most outgrow this by age 5-7 so if your child is affected don't introduce eggs into their diet until later*)
- Sticks of mild cheese
- Slices or chunks of chicken or turkey
- Miniature meatballs of minced chicken, turkey, lamb or beef
Finally, if you give your baby dried apricots, choose darker, sulphur-dioxide-free ones. Sulphur dioxide is used to preserve their bright orange colour, but can trigger an asthma attack in susceptible babies.
* Source: The natural history of egg allergy - The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Finger foods help your baby develop his chewing technique, which in turn helps with speech development