Until your baby can chew, stay with your baby when he has a hard finger food (a bagel, for instance). If he breaks off a piece, quickly sweep it out with your finger so that your baby won't choke on it.
Certain finger foods present a serious choking hazard. So be sure to store popcorn, nuts, hard candies, and other dangerous finger foods well out of your baby's reach.
As you well know by now, everything is a finger food for your baby. No matter how earnestly he tries to use a spoon, sooner or later he abandons it for the much more successful use of his fingers. From the soupiest of pureed vegetables to the stickiest oatmeal, every food seems perfect for picking up (or dipping) with his hands.
You can begin offering "real" finger foods almost as soon as you begin to feed your baby solid foods. Until he can chew, however, he can only suck on most finger foods: a slice of apple or a bagel. Although he cannot eat these foods yet, your baby may still enjoy discovering their different flavors. You can also offer your baby a few finger foods that he can eat: bite-size dry cereals, zwieback, and toast will all "melt" in your child's mouth through the action of his saliva.
By six or seven months, your baby will be ready for more finger foods that he can chew (or gum, as the case may be). Finger foods offer a terrific opportunity to offer greater variety into your baby's diet. You can introduce:
- Cooked, grated vegetables
- Cooked, sliced vegetables (carrots, beans)
- Chunky mashed potatoes
- Sliced banana or very small pieces of fruit (even a grape is too big)
- Cubes or triangles of bread, plain or smeared with cream cheese, or margarine
- Dry, relatively unsweetened cereals
- Macaroni or other pasta
- Rice cakes
- Low-salt or no-salt pretzels
- Small cubes of well-cooked meat or poultry
Eating with his fingers is fun, fast, and efficient for your baby. It allows him to experience not only the tastes of a wide variety of foods, but to feel their texture with his hands as well as with his mouth and tongue. Eating finger foods also helps to exercise your baby's rapidly improving hand-eye coordination. Best of all, finger foods not only encourage your baby to learn to feed himself, but also keep his hands busy enough to allow you to shovel in the food he needs.