Like so many things in parenting, the term "finger foods" is not quite what you would expect. I always feel like I have to edit myself and think "foods you eat with your fingers," not "eating fingers."
When should you start to introduce finger foods? Some babies are ready around 9 months old, others later. Offer your baby soft, small pieces of food. You may also want to try dry cereals and crackers, cooked pasta and shredded cheese.
Always be 100% present with your baby when he or she is eating. (Look away from the cellphone!) Be sure to avoid the following foods, which can be choking hazards:
— Pieces of raw vegetables or hard fruits
— Whole grapes (peel and quarter them)
— Cherry tomatoes (peel and quarter them)
— Whole or sliced hot dogs and kiddie sausages (peel and cut into very small pieces)
— White bread (which can squish into little round balls)
— Pieces of hard cheese
Here's how our mommy M.D.s — doctors who are also mothers — introduce these first foods to their babies:
"Two finger foods my son really enjoyed were Goldfish crackers and Gerber Puffs," says Lennox McNeary, M.D., a mom of a 2-year-old son, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Carilion Clinic and a co-founder of the Mommy Doctors bakery (makers of Milkin' Cookies) in Roanoke, Virginia. "What is it about Goldfish crackers kids love so much?"
"Cheerios are a wonderful finger food," says Susan Besser, M.D., a mom of six grown children, a grandmom of seven, a family physician with Mercy Personal Physicians in Baltimore. "Every one of my kids loved them. They practically melt in your mouth, so you don't have to worry so much about the baby choking. They were great to help my kids learn hand-to-mouth dexterity. They're portable, and they're even fun to play with. Give a kid a bag of Cheerios and you have an instantly happy kid."
"I loved to feed my babies avocado," says Michelle Storms, M.D., a mom of three grown children, former assistant director of the Marquette Family Medicine Residency Program in Marquette, Michigan, and a member of the health professionals board for Intact America. "Avocados are the perfect baby food because they have the right balance of protein, monounsaturated fat and carbs, plus a bunch of vitamins. And they have a bland taste that most babies tolerate well."
"My son's favorite finger foods were scrambled eggs and pancakes," says Sonia Ng, M.D., a mom two sons, a pediatrician at University Medical Center at Princeton. "He loved maple syrup. He would rub his face with the drippings when he thought I wasn't looking. He got bathed often for stickiness."
Dr. Rallie's Tips
I was determined not to introduce chicken nuggets and french fries to my children until they had sampled every fruit and vegetable under the sun. One of the physicians in my residency program had started feeding her daughter chicken nuggets when she was just a baby, and that child didn't want to eat anything else. If she couldn't have those chicken nuggets, she'd clamp her jaws shut, and then she would refuse to eat whatever she was offered.
I figured that if babies found chicken nuggets and french fries that addictive, I'd just bypass them altogether. I started feeding my boys tiny pieces of bananas and grapes and other fruits and then moved on to bits of cheese, meat and cut-up vegetables.
Fortunately, none of my boys ever developed a serious addiction to chicken nuggets or french fries. — Rallie McAllister, M.D., M.P.H., mom of three, nationally recognized health expert and family physician in Lexington, Kentucky
Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran-owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy M.D. Guides team of 150-plus mommy M.D.s and co-author of "The Mommy M.D. Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: 1035352 at Pixabay