Sometime between 6 and 9 months old, most babies will be ready to transition from pureed foods to thicker mashed foods, and finally to finger foods. It’s going to be messy, and it’ll test your patience, but trying new foods and textures can be a lot of fun! Enjoy watching your baby learn how to eat, and take it one step at a time.
At around the 6-month mark, your baby may be ready to start solid foods. Look for these signs to see if she’s ready:
- She can sit with support and has good head control
- She can open her mouth for the spoon and close it over the spoon
- She can move food into her mouth and swallow it
Start out with a thin, smoothly pureed, iron-rich food such as pureed meat, beans or iron-fortified infant cereal. Next, try a single pureed vegetable such as green beans or carrots. If the puree is too thick, add a little water, breastmilk or iron-fortified formula to thin it out.
As your baby gets more experience with solid foods, the next step in the baby food progression will be to transition to more advanced textures, like thicker purees and then mashed foods. Every baby develops at her own pace, so pay attention to how your baby handles it when you introduce a new food texture.
Between 8 and 9 months, you may see signs that your baby is ready to feed herself:
- She can sit on her own
- She starts picking up food with her fingers
- She tries to grab the spoon and put it in her mouth
- She is not as interested in purees
- She starts making a chewing motion when she eats thicker, mashed baby foods
Now you can offer her the same healthy foods you have been providing, but with a modified texture. For example, offer soft-cooked, finely diced chicken and minced peaches, or thicker textured foods like oatmeal. As your baby’s eating skills develop, move on to easy-to-chew finger foods, such as soft-cooked beans (larger beans, like kidney beans, may need to be cut in half).
To help your baby transition to solids and finger foods safely:
- Keep a close eye when she is eating
- Serve soft foods, diced or crushed into small, pea-sized pieces to avoid choking
- Avoid foods that are small and round (like grapes or hot dog slices), sticky (like peanut butter or candy) or tough (like nuts or popcorn). These are considered choking hazards.
Babies learn how to eat and enjoy nutritious foods through all of their senses, especially touch and feel. Sure, she may spit a food out and a moment later put it back in her mouth. And to be honest, you’re probably going to end up with more food on the baby (and the floor) than in the baby, and this is OK too. Embrace the mess and let your baby play with her food!
Remember: A messy baby is a learning baby. And grandma and grandpa will love the photos!