• 14 Oct - 20 Oct, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly

As babies embark on their journey of self-discovery through feeding, they relish the opportunity to explore novel tastes and textures. By around 9 months of age, most infants have honed their fine motor skills, allowing them to grasp small pieces of food between their forefinger and thumb, a milestone known as the pincer grasp. While initially a bit clumsy, with practice, this skill becomes increasingly refined. Empowering your child to self-feed whenever possible is a crucial step in fostering independence and cultivating healthy eating habits. While you'll still play a role in spoon-feeding essential items like cereal, encouraging finger foods helps your baby develop autonomy in their eating journey.

By engaging in finger feeding and later transitioning to utensils, babies gain a measure of control over their food choices and portion sizes. Sometimes they'll devour the food, and at other times, they may not, but this variability is an integral part of learning self-regulation. Even young children possess an innate ability to recognize hunger and fullness cues, so allowing them to discern and respond to these signals is vital.

What Should Babies Eat?
As your little one joins the family at mealtime, they're ready to explore a wider range of table foods. While this may require some additional meal preparation, many dishes can be adapted to suit your baby's needs. For instance, you can offer your child some well-cooked zucchini from the family dinner by ensuring it's soft and cut into manageable pieces. Ripe banana slices, properly cooked pasta, and small chicken pieces are other excellent choices.

Before presenting a finger food to your baby, consider the following criteria:

• Does it melt in the mouth? Certain dry cereals and light, flaky crackers will readily melt in the mouth.

• Is it soft and mushable? Well-cooked vegetables, fruits, and unsweetened canned varieties should mush easily.

• Can it be gummed? Ripe banana and well-cooked pasta pieces are gum-friendly.

• Is it small enough? Food items should be cut into appropriately sized pieces, with variations depending on the texture. For example, chicken pieces should be smaller than watermelon, which even a baby's gums can manage.

If your baby seems to dislike a particular food, don't be discouraged from offering it again in the future. Children often take their time adapting to new tastes and textures, with some being more sensitive to certain food attributes, like texture. When introducing meats, it's advisable to start with well-cooked ground meats or thinly sliced deli meats.

Offer a diverse range of foods, even those your baby didn't seem to enjoy in the past. Avoid pressuring your baby to eat but acknowledge that it may take 10 or more attempts before they develop an affinity for a new food.

Finger Foods to Be Cautious About
Finger feeding can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for older babies, but it's crucial to steer clear of foods that pose choking hazards or lack nutritional value. To prevent choking, it's vital for parents and caregivers to closely supervise mealtime. Foods that can be choking hazards include:

• Raw vegetables or hard fruits

• Whole grapes, berries, cherry or grape tomatoes (instead, peel, slice, or cut into quarters)

• Raisins and other dried fruits

• Peanuts, nuts, and seeds

• Generous scoops of peanut butter or other nut/seed butters (use a thin layer)

• Whole hot dogs and kid-sized sausages (peel and cut into very small pieces)

• Untoasted bread, especially white bread that sticks together

• Large chunks of cheese or meat

• Hard candy, jelly beans, gummies, chewing gum

• Popcorn, pretzels, corn chips, and other snack foods

• Marshmallows

Resist the Sweet Temptation
While your baby may initially savour the taste of cookies, cake, and other sweets, it's advisable to delay introducing these treats. Your little one requires nutrient-rich foods rather than empty calories from desserts and high-fat snacks such as potato chips.