transitioning your baby to finger food
Babies, Recipes, Tips / How-Tos

Transitioning Your Baby to Finger Foods

Babies take in everything around them: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and of course, tasting! As your little one develops, so do their feeding skills. Once they are eating Stage 2 purees with ease and show interest in feeding themselves, it may be time to introduce more filling foods for them to pick up and try themselves. Balanced, bite-sized finger food meals offer more complex combinations of ingredients and flavors. Our Stage 3 finger foods will help your little one explore new foods and practice their self-feeding, all while leaving them full and satisfied.

What are Finger Foods?

Following Stage 2 combination purees, finger foods are the next stage in your baby’s eating adventures. Finger foods consist of bite-size pieces that are small enough to prevent choking, big enough to pick up with tiny fingers and soft enough to not require teeth. Names for this type of baby food include table foods, pick-up foods or, as we call them at Nurture Life, finger foods.

When is Your Baby Ready for Finger Foods?

It’s important to recognize when your baby is ready to explore finger foods, as this stage requires advanced motor skills and encourages food experimentation and independence. When your baby starts reaching for food from the bowl, plate or spoon, they may be ready to try finger foods. If your baby seems hungry soon after puree meals, they may not be getting enough to eat as purees are less calorie-dense and filling. Further, when you find that meals seem to carry on longer than usual, and your child lacks a satiety switch, it is a great time to experiment with pick-up foods.

These readiness cues are important to recognize. Other babies the same age as yours may take table foods with ease, but if your baby isn’t ready, don’t fret! It’s important to pay attention to your baby’s readiness cues and avoid advancing them too fast. Rushing the process can cause stress at the table, leading to negative experiences that can turn into bad eating habits later on. Paying attention to your baby’s eating readiness cues will make you a successful feeder, which will help your baby become a successful eater. 

Your baby may be ready for finger foods when…

  • They reach for food from the bowl, plate or spoon you are using to feed them.
  • They are hungry soon after meals.
  • They are eating their purees quickly and continue wanting more.
  • They are able (or almost able) to hold small pieces of food between their fingers.

What are the Best Finger Foods to Start Your Baby On?

Once your baby is ready to make the transition, you’ll want to find the best finger foods for your baby to try. We recommend starting with big squares of soft, squishy foods. Ensure the food can be easily pierced with a fork and squished in your baby’s palate before serving. Think boiled potatoes, yams, bananas or ripe avocados. These foods should be able to mash in your baby’s mouth without chewing. Other soft, squishy foods include roasted winter squash, papaya, steamed carrots or other root vegetables such as rutabaga and parsnips.

Once your baby has mastered mashing cubed pieces of these squishy foods, try introducing smaller foods such as peas or canned beans like black beans or white beans. Less “mushy,” these foods will exercise your baby’s grasping and handling skills.

Consider expanding to other cooked foods such as steamed broccoli, cauliflower or even roasted bell peppers. These foods require a more advanced grip, so make sure they are cooled down before serving to your baby.

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What are the Best Pick-Up Foods for Your 10-Month-Old?

Once your baby is mashing cube-sized bites with ease, try introducing more complex combinations of flavors and textures. Soft vegetables plus lean proteins such as salmon and tofu or whole grains, including whole wheat pasta, can be combined for a well-rounded meal, leaving your growing baby more satisfied. Our Salmon, English Pea & Golden Potato finger food is a well-rounded meal highlighting new flavors for your little one.

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What Foods Should You Avoid Feeding Your 10-Month-Old?

It is important to avoid foods that break off into large pieces and that are difficult to swallow, which can lead to choking. Raw carrots, fresh bell peppers and other hard, raw veggies should be avoided until chewing abilities are fully developed. Additionally, focus attention on not only the size but also the shape of foods that you introduce. For example, grapes, cherry tomatoes and other rounded, circular foods are dangerous choking hazards. Try cutting circular foods lengthwise to avoid the circular shape.

Does Your Baby Need Teeth to Chew Finger Foods?

No! Babies rarely “chew” with their front teeth. They use their palate and gums to mush foods during these early stages. Therefore, having front teeth is not a good indication that your baby is ready to explore table foods. Babies technically don’t “chew” until their 2-year molars grow in.

Can You Start Your Baby on Table Foods Before 10 Months?

Babies develop at different stages, so there is no right or wrong when it comes to starting table foods. If your baby shows signs of readiness, such as grabbing your food or getting hungry soon after finishing purees, consider giving finger foods a try! Your baby may be gung-ho one day and disinterested the next. This is normal, so don’t be concerned if there is a range of motivation day-to-day.

If Your Baby is Not Fully Ready, Can You Switch Between Purees and Finger Foods?

If your child is struggling with finger foods, they may not be fully ready to move onto Stage 3. Continue with Stage 2 combination purees as an alternative. Many babies may find wet, squishy finger foods unappealing to pick up. You may consider pre-loading a utensil rather than waiting for your baby to use their fingers, to determine if they are interested in eating. Continue to introduce different table foods often, giving your baby the option to pick up some bites themselves. Don’t worry if you need to start using Stage 2 purees again when teething occurs.

Stage 3 finger foods are the next step in your growing baby’s developing diet. Try our suggestions to make a successful transition into this fun stage, and remember to enjoy the process with your little independent eater!

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Lara Field at Nurture Life

Lara Field

Lara has been working with Nurture Life since its inception, collaborating with the culinary team on the creation of all menus and recipes to ensure they are nutritionally appropriate and correctly proportioned for every age and stage of a child’s development and providing pediatric nutrition expertise to Nurture Life customers. Lara is the owner/founder of FEED—Forming Early Eating Decisions, a nutrition consulting practice specializing in pediatric nutrition and digestive diseases. Lara has over a decade of experience in clinical practice at two of the top ranked pediatric hospitals in the country, Lurie Children’s Hospital and University of Chicago Medical Center. Lara received her B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and M.S. and dietetic internship from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. Lara truly enjoys the process of eating (and feeding!), from procuring the ingredients at various grocery stores and farmers markets, to organizing her pantry/refrigerator at home to make it easy to select healthy options, to preparing balanced meals with her children. Whether it be a decadent treat to a hearty, home-cooked meal, there is no greater satisfaction for Lara than enjoying food with her family.