Weaning your baby is one of the biggest milestones ….. I’ve invited Vicky, a paediatric dietician and co-founder of Tots Table to come and speak to us about the best finger foods we can offer to our babies when weaning them.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to weaning. Traditional weaning, which is typically where you use a spoon and pureed foods, and is very much led by the parent or the caregiver feeding the child, and baby-led weaning, where you allow the child to take control and to self-feed, further developing their oral and fine motor skills. From my perspective, as a paediatric dietitian, I’m not swayed to either or, however I believe that a combination of the two is probably the best way to let your baby explore and to learn what suits them best. Babies also tend to have a preference, and they will very quickly tell you which one they prefer.
In general, I usually suggest the six-month mark as a good age to start weaning baby. If your choice is to offer pureed foods, it’s a nice idea to couple up the food you are offering with the un-pureed version, to get baby used to the different textures, so for example, if you are giving pureed broccoli, give baby a floret to play with and explore at the same time.
Many parents worry about baby choking when introducing soft food, so supervision is key. When they do splutter or cough, it’s their gag reflex kicking in, clearing the airway, which is a good sign; the bad sign is when they aren’t making any noise as there may be a blockage, so you will need to act quickly. When starting to wean, I would recommend that all parents familiarise themselves with some relevant first aid techniques so you can continue with confidence.
Here are some key principles for starting your weaning journey:
- Ideally, foods should be cut into pieces that are roughly the size of your little finger or approximately 6cm in length and 1cm in width. This will give baby enough to grab on to and to have good control so they can easily feed themselves.
- Choose foods that are already soft or can be softened by cooking or steaming. Steaming is a great way to cook food for babies as it helps to retain as many nutrients as possible.
- Make sure to wash all foods prior to serving and anything with hard skin should be peeled, such as cucumber and any visible or large seeds removed.
- To help baby grasp slippery foods, either cut a ‘zig-zag’ pattern into the side or coat in flour or breadcrumbs. This will add a little traction when baby is trying to pick up and hold the finger food.
- Use the ‘Smush Test’ to make sure the food is soft enough before serving. To do this, grip it between your finger and thumb and apply pressure. If it ‘smooshes’, it should be ok to eat.
- Remember that the first month of weaning is less about the food and more about exploration and fun for baby. Developing skills and introducing new tastes and textures is key. It’ll get messy, but that’s all part of the fun!
Top ten finger foods
Fruits and vegetables
Broccoli – broccoli florets are a good size for baby to hold. When steamed, it will be soft enough for baby and will be packed full of fibre. It is a great texture to introduce as well as giving good practice with a more bitter taste; something that doesn’t come naturally to the taste buds.
Carrot – carrots can be chopped to the perfect size and when steamed, should pass the ‘smush test’. This is a sweeter vegetable so is usually a winner for taste and is again, full of fibre and nutrition.
Avocado – when ripe, avocados are already soft enough to eat when sliced into long fingers. This is also a nutrient dense food so, for those little ones who are struggling with weight gain, this could be a great help as it’s high in calories.
Banana – with the only prep being peeling a banana, this is a great option to add into baby’s diet. Once peeled, if you break the fruit in half, then push your finger through the centre, it will naturally break into 3 perfectly sized sections. Bananas offer sweetness as well as an easy on the gum texture.
Sweet potatoes – this veg is high in fibre and vitamins and keeps its form when cooked. It can be cut to size easily and by adding some herbs and spices when cooking it will make it more fun for baby.
Pasta – pasta is a great source of carbohydrate with bow pasta being my ‘go to’ as it provides a good shape to grab hold of.
Breads – pitta or normal bread cut into soldiers are ideal for baby to start to chew on. If you feel the bread is a little too hard, try soaking in some milk to soften it first.
Porridge fingers – to make these, just add milk and cinnamon to porridge oats and mix. Cook for 2 minutes in the microwave and when cool, cut into fingers. These freeze really well so you can make a batch to pull out just when you need to. Oats are also full of soluble fibre!
Meat – a babies store of iron, from its time in the womb, starts to deplete after about 6 months of life so introducing protein rich foods is hugely important for baby’s development. Strips of chicken, especially from the iron rich darker bits of meat, are a great start as is home made meatballs or even just cooked beef mince. Your baby might not actually eat the meat, but they will benefit from sucking on the juices, which contain lots of goodness as well.
Eggs – slice a boiled egg length ways so it offers a good shape to grasp. Eggs are full of essential fats and protein and are very nourishing as well as being a great texture for baby.
Other great sources of protein for weaning are tofu chunks and lentil pasta. These are great if baby is to be weaned onto a vegetarian diet.
I hope you have found this useful. Tots Table is a frozen baby food weaning service which is heavily focused on supporting those parents or caregivers that are going down the route of using baby led weaning as their main method of feeding. The boxes, which come in different age ranges, are packed full of baked goods, prepared fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates that you can easily pop out of the freezer and provide a really nourishing diet to your baby and get them off to the best start with weaning.