Babies start eating table food
When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods | Nutrition
For more information about how to know if your baby is ready to starting eating foods, what first foods to offer, and what to expect, watch these videos from 1,000 Days.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children be introduced to foods other than breast milk or infant formula when they are about 6 months old. Introducing foods before 4 months old is not recommended. Every child is different. How do you know if your child is ready for foods other than breast milk or infant formula? You can look for these signs that your child is developmentally ready.
- Sits up alone or with support.
- Is able to control head and neck.
- Opens the mouth when food is offered.
- Swallows food rather than pushes it back out onto the chin.
- Brings objects to the mouth.
- Tries to grasp small objects, such as toys or food.
- Transfers food from the front to the back of the tongue to swallow.
What Foods Should I Introduce to My Child First?
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that for most children, you do not need to give foods in a certain order. Your child can begin eating solid foods at about 6 months old. By the time he or she is 7 or 8 months old, your child can eat a variety of foods from different food groups. These foods include infant cereals, meat or other proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains, yogurts and cheeses, and more.
If your child is eating infant cereals, it is important to offer a variety of fortifiedalert icon infant cereals such as oat, barley, and multi-grain instead of only rice cereal. Only providing infant rice cereal is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration because there is a risk for children to be exposed to arsenic. Visit the U.S. Food & Drug Administrationexternal icon to learn more.
How Should I Introduce My Child to Foods?
Your child needs certain vitamins and minerals to grow healthy and strong.
Now that your child is starting to eat food, be sure to choose foods that give your child all the vitamins and minerals they need.
Click here to learn more about some of these vitamins & minerals.
Let your child try one single-ingredient food at a time at first. This helps you see if your child has any problems with that food, such as food allergies. Wait 3 to 5 days between each new food. Before you know it, your child will be on his or her way to eating and enjoying lots of new foods.
Introduce potentially allergenic foods when other foods are introduced.
Potentially allergenic foods include cow’s milk products, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, and sesame. Drinking cow’s milk or fortified soy beverages is not recommended until your child is older than 12 months, but other cow’s milk products, such as yogurt, can be introduced before 12 months. If your child has severe eczema and/or egg allergy, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse about when and how to safely introduce foods with peanuts.
How Should I Prepare Food for My Child to Eat?
At first, it’s easier for your child to eat foods that are mashed, pureed, or strained and very smooth in texture. It can take time for your child to adjust to new food textures. Your child might cough, gag, or spit up. As your baby’s oral skills develop, thicker and lumpier foods can be introduced.
Some foods are potential choking hazards, so it is important to feed your child foods that are the right texture for his or her development. To help prevent choking, prepare foods that can be easily dissolved with saliva and do not require chewing. Feed small portions and encourage your baby to eat slowly. Always watch your child while he or she is eating.
Here are some tips for preparing foods:
- Mix cereals and mashed cooked grains with breast milk, formula, or water to make it smooth and easy for your baby to swallow.
- Mash or puree vegetables, fruits and other foods until they are smooth.
- Hard fruits and vegetables, like apples and carrots, usually need to be cooked so they can be easily mashed or pureed.
- Cook food until it is soft enough to easily mash with a fork.
- Remove all fat, skin, and bones from poultry, meat, and fish, before cooking.
- Remove seeds and hard pits from fruit, and then cut the fruit into small pieces.
- Cut soft food into small pieces or thin slices.
- Cut cylindrical foods like hot dogs, sausage and string cheese into short thin strips instead of round pieces that could get stuck in the airway.
- Cut small spherical foods like grapes, cherries, berries and tomatoes into small pieces.
- Cook and finely grind or mash whole-grain kernels of wheat, barley, rice, and other grains.
Learn more about potential choking hazards and how to prevent your child from choking.
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How to Transition Your Baby to Table Foods Easily and Safely
Learn when babies start eating table foods and how to transition them to eating table and finger foods. With this plan from an occupational therapist, you’ll feel confident you’re doing it safely!
As an occupational therapist that specializes in feeding, I often get asked how to transition a baby or toddler onto table foods. These questions usually come from parents that are struggling through the process with a baby (under 12 months old) or from parents that now have toddlers and are still stuck on pureed baby foods.
This post will help you no matter which situation you find yourself in!
Keep in mind that for babies and toddlers that won’t eat finger or table foods, the approach may need to be tweaked and adjusted specifically for your child based on the underlying cause. Difficulty with transitioning to table foods is *sometimes* a red flag for sensory sensitivity, oral motor delays, or some underlying medical diagnosis like reflux.
You can read more about those causes, and what to do about them in Why Kids Don’t Eat.
Because I want to give you a complete step by step plan, this post is part 1 of 2, in it you’ll learn when and how to start introducing table foods to your baby.
In part 2 of transitioning babies to table foods, you’ll learn how to fully get your baby eating table foods without needing baby food any longer. As well as some helpful examples of a baby and toddler’s feeding schedule once they’re eating table foods. Lastly, you’ll find out what to do if your baby won’t eat table or finger foods.
You Need Patience for Transitioning from Baby Food to Table Food
As a mom, each time I had to transition my boys onto table foods, I was frustrated and overwhelmed even though I’m a feeding therapist that had helped many families through it before. It’s different when you’re the mom living it day in and day out.
Experiencing that as a mom showed me how challenging it can be. The little baby food routine you had starts to shift, as they are also beginning to wean from breast or bottle and learn to drink from some type of cup (ideally a straw cup).
As parents, we worry, “Are they eating enough?”
With jarred food, you can know exactly how much they’ve eaten, but it gets a little blurry when half of the diced up food you give them is on the floor. It’s tempting to stop serving table foods and to focus baby food because you know how much they’re eating – but there’s a problem with that as you’ll learn shortly.
This process does require some patience because your baby is learning a new skill, something I had to remind myself of quite often.
My best advice as a mom and OT is to take heart and know it’s all part of the process. Remember that until 1 year of age, their milk source (breast milk or formula) is their main source of nutrition.
This is why people say, “food before one is just for fun.”
We want to teach our babies how to eat table and finger foods so they have the skill, but not get stuck on how much they are actually eating. This is an exciting time, and it’s absolutely adorable when your chubby little baby is gnawing on a bread stick or getting puffs stuck on their face!
Now that you’re in the right frame of mind, let’s dive into the details of when and how to introduce table foods to your baby!
When Do Babies Start Eating Table Food?
Generally speaking, a good time to start introducing table foods for most babies is around 8-9 months. However, it may be later for your child, especially if they were a preemie. You will know they aren’t quite ready if they refuse, gag, or cough a lot when you try. That’s okay, don’t be discouraged, this just means you will need to take it slower and consistently offer safe foods they won’t choke on.
If you’re nervous about how to handle gagging or your baby is gagging a lot on foods, head to Everything You Need to Know About Baby Gagging.
For other babies, they may start eating table foods even earlier, sometimes at 7 months. As a feeding therapist, I can’t recommend starting too much earlier, but of course, it is your choice if you feel they are ready. It is likely that they will be mostly swallowing (not chewing) most of the food though.
If you’re thinking about baby led weaning, check out my pros and cons of BLW.
One critical word of caution is to NOT wait too long to start transitioning to table foods. Babies will instinctively chew from 7-8 months to around 11 months old, which means the transition will come easier. Check out this Weekly Meal Plan of Table Foods For Your Baby or Toddler to help give you ideas.
Waiting past 10 months, unless your child has developmental delays, a diagnosis, swallowing difficulties, or was born prematurely, can make transitioning to table foods even harder when they’re a toddler. See this chart as a quick reference:
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Step #1: Transitioning to Table foods
Some signs your baby is ready for this transition are:
- Looking at or grabbing your food
- Making a chewing motion with their mouth when they watch you eat
- Picking up small objects
- Are 8-9 months old. See 9 Month Old Baby Food + Table Food Ideas.
Remember, you want to start this by 10 months even if you aren’t seeing some of these signs, as long as they don’t have any of the reasons listed in the previous section to delay the start of table foods.
A week or two before you begin to introduce solids, start to thicken their baby food. Thicker foods require more movement of the tongue and muscles in the mouth, which helps lay a good foundation for moving a solid piece of food around in their mouth.
If you’re making your own baby food (get the DIY here), then add less water or liquid when pureeing. Use stage 2 baby food if you’re buying premade baby food.
Beware that some stage 3 type foods are great because they are thicker, but many of the jarred varieties have whole pieces of food mixed in with the puree, don’t go there – yet. That is putting the cart before the horse. For now, it’s crucial to stick with smooth purees, gradually increasing their thickness, as your baby tolerates it. NO CHUNKS.
The mixed in chunks can cause gagging and a negative experience. It’s actually harder for babies to eat than table foods. Babies that eat chunks in their baby food well are just swallowing it all without chewing.
I’d also recommend increasing the thickness of store bought baby food by adding cereal (this is one of my favorites) or freshly pureed foods into jarred baby foods.
Step #2: Eating Table Foods to Teach Your Baby
Once you start thickening their baby food, it would also be great to start eating at the same time you feed your baby, if you aren’t already. Your baby will watch what you do and learn a lot from it.
When you see that you have their attention, begin to dramatically chew for them, even with your mouth open. Show them how you put a small piece of food into your mouth using your hand. It may take finding the right moment to get their attention, but this will help pique their interest in table foods, as well as teach them what they should do when you hold that piece of food up to them for the first time.
The Best First Table Food for Babies
Before we move on, you need to know what table food to offer your baby. A great place to start, and the best choice for a lot of babies first table food is a meltable puff. I’ve used Gerber puffs many times, but there are so many brands, just test whatever type of puff you buy by letting it sit in your mouth and seeing how quickly it dissolves.
The dissolving factor is important because if your baby doesn’t chew the puff, it will dissolve in their saliva.
Puffs are perfect because they are hard and crunchy initially, which helps babies realize there is something in their mouth. That crunchy texture also helps them find it and maneuver it around in their mouth.
It may seem to make sense to start with a soft table food like eggs or banana. Not bad logic, but because those foods are so soft, babies have a hard time feeling exactly where it is in their mouth. For some babies, this means they will refuse table foods and for others, it means they aren’t chewing and just swallowing.
The wonderful thing about puffs is that they dissolve in saliva in just a few seconds. So, if your baby doesn’t chew while they are learning to eat and they swallow, they aren’t going to choke on it. That is peace of mind.
Puffs are also great because they can be broken into really small pieces for those first attempts, if needed. And, babies can pick them up easily! Read more in when can babies eat cheerios and puffs? (Cheerios are much later, they don’t dissolve)
Step #3: Introducing Table Foods to Your Baby
The very first time you give your baby an actual table food, you’ll want to try and pick a time with little distractions and that you can give them your full attention.
Make sure they are seated in their high chair because this keeps them in a safe position and will help prevent choking. Read about how to make sure your baby is seated safely for eating.
Place the table food on their tray and allow them to touch and explore it for a few minutes. Some babies will pick it up and put it right into their mouth, depending on their age. While that is certainly ideal, your baby may may need some more help.
If they aren’t putting the table food into their mouth, demonstrate picking it up and putting it into your mouth. Then, pick up a piece and put it into their mouth, right where their molars will be. Or, if they’re holding the food, gently guide their hand towards their mouth for them as you smile reassuringly.
If they munch up and down and swallow, you can offer more bites.
However, on the first attempt, some babies cough or gag. Other babies will spit it out. Be encouraging, peaceful (they will sense your stress, fake it if you have to), and know when to call it quits. Often, it may take a few meals over a few days before babies get the hang of it.
If your baby turns their head or pushes your arm away when you try to put the food in their mouth, then respect that and don’t force it. They may need some more exploration with the food first.
Step #4: Transitioning Baby to Table Foods
Continue to offer puffs for a few days to a week at every meal alongside their pureed food, until you can see them munching up and down with their jaw most of the time.
Ideally, they should be feeding themselves the puffs, too, but don’t let that be a deal breaker on moving forward. You can help them put the puffs in their mouth as long as they’re willingly opening their mouth. Find baby feeding schedules for 8, 9, and 10 month olds here and 11-14 months here.
Once your baby is enjoying puffs, you’ll want to try small pieces of other foods that dissolve really quickly. Some examples are: Town House Crackers (not Ritz, this texture actually requires more chewing), Graham Crackers, Teething Wafers, Baby Cheese Puffs, rice husks, and other stage 1 table foods you find in the baby aisle at the grocery store.
If you aren’t sure if a finger food is safe, do a taste test yourself. How quickly does it dissolve compared to a puff? How much do you need to chew it?
Step #5: Transitioning from Baby Food to Table Food
As your child eats a variety of crunchy but melt-able foods well, then you can start with soft foods like bananas, noodles, cheese, breads, and overly cooked veggies in a cube shape.
You can also try these cubed “jellies” or little frittatas, that are perfect for this stage too. It may take a few days or weeks before you’re ready to move onto these soft foods.
When your baby is eating several cracker like foods and several soft foods, you can pull back from giving as much baby food and perhaps skip the baby food at some meals. As they eat more and more of the table foods, you’ll serve less and less baby food, skipping it more and more until you no longer need it.
To learn more about helping your baby or toddler transition to table foods completely, while avoiding some common pitfalls, grab a free seat in my online workshop (I’ll email you the link of where to watch) by click below:
Click here to get a free seat in my 5 Big Feeding Mistakes that are Stopping Your Child from Learning to Eat Table Foods
Important Tips for Transitioning Baby to Table Foods Easily
- Once you begin introducing table foods, offer one table food at each meal. Then, slowly increase the variety of foods they are eating as they are managing more foods.
- Continue to steadily increase the thickness of baby foods as you progress with table foods. If you aren’t making your own baby foods, try pureeing what you are eating for dinner or mix this into the jarred baby food. This will help get your child used to more textures and tastes. I love using a magic bullet for this!
- Carefully monitor all new foods. Some coughing and an occasional gag is normal. If you are seeing this frequently, the texture you are giving them may be too difficult for them. Wait a week or so before introducing it again and then proceed slowly. Discuss persistent gagging and choking with your doctor.
Keep reading about transitioning your baby or toddler to table foods in Part 2 of this series.
If you need more inspiration for table foods, check out my Mega List of Table Food Ideas and Pinterest for more ideas.
Free Printable: Learn How to Eat Table Foods Cheat Sheet!!
Want to have all these steps in your hands so you can reference them in a heartbeat? We’ve got you covered you’ll find all the steps for transitioning your baby or toddler to table foods in this handy free printable:
Click here to get the free Learn How to Eat Table Foods Cheat Sheet
More on Transitioning Baby to Table Foods from Your Kid’s Table
The Ultimate List of Baby/Toddler Meal Ideas
The Best High Calorie Foods for Babies
Getting Picky Eaters to Eat New Foods
A Weekly Meal Plan of Table Foods For Your Baby or Toddler: So You Can Save Your Sanity
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 18 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.
What time do children start eating on their own?
Many mothers and fathers are often interested in: what time do children start eating on their own? There is no single answer to this question, everyone is individual. But it is important for parents to know: how to discern the first impulses for independence in time, at what age you can give your baby a spoon, how to teach him to eat without outside help, and what accessories will help the baby master this difficult science.
What time do children start eating by themselves with a spoon?
It depends on the character and development of the child, as well as on his parents. Some children already in the year flatly refuse to be fed with a spoon. But there are those who start eating on their own only at the age of 3, when they come to kindergarten (in a team, children involuntarily imitate others and the learning process goes faster). In large families, children learn self-service skills at an earlier age.
But overprotection hinders the development of the baby. If an overly caring mother tries to do everything for the child, then he will not strive to eat himself, even if he can do it. If parents are too much in favor of accuracy, and porridge smeared on the table causes them stress, then the learning process can slow down. After all, the baby feels the mood of adults, and prefers not to experiment at the table. The lack of independence can also be associated with an unwillingness to grow up. For example, another baby has appeared in the family, and the child, feeling that they are paying less attention to him, tries to “stay small”, wants his mother to take him in her arms more often, feed him from a spoon, etc.
From the age of 7 months a child usually learns to pick up and hold objects between thumb and forefinger, such as a dryer or a piece of bread. The child can be offered a spoon when he is already receiving complementary foods and sits well in the highchair. At first, the baby will only try to take the spoon in his hands and play with it, but later he will try to use it for its intended purpose. For drinking to a baby up to a year, a drinking mug is convenient.
At 12 months the child still does not hold the spoon correctly, but he knows how to bring it to his mouth, and part of the contents can reach the goal. Closer to two years, coordination improves significantly, the baby is capable of more precise movements and misses less and less. The kid can already hold a regular mug, but only with two hands.
From the age of 2 years a child can eat by himself with a spoon, although he does not always do it sloppy. He already holds a mug with one hand and knows how to use a fork.
From the age of 3 the baby becomes more dexterous and accurate, his fingers are getting stronger, and his movements are more confident. It is quite possible to give him a non-sharp children's knife, having previously shown how to use it.
Accessories to help children learn to eat on their own
Buy a baby plate with a suction cup so that the dishes do not “run away” from the child. It’s good if the child’s favorite character is drawn at the bottom of the plate. To see the picture, the baby will try quickly and eat all the food to the end.
The non-spill cup is the best option when switching to adult dishes. Choose a model with two handles, it is more convenient for your baby to hold. An additional advantage is the presence of a rubber stand, which gives the cup stability.
A special anatomically shaped spoon with a rounded non-slip handle and a curved fork with rounded teeth are best suited for babies up to a year old.
Paper napkins or towels should always be at hand. This teaches you to be careful, helps to avoid the temptation to wipe your hands on clothes.
It's good if a grown child eats at a common table. He will be able to watch adults, copy their actions. To do this, the baby will need a special chair that can be attached to a large table (for example, high chairs from IKEA, “growing” Stokke Tripp Trapp, Kotokota, KidFix, etc.)
Buy your baby a soft silicone bib, oilcloth or apron. This will help parents save their nerves and spend less time on laundry and cleaning.
How to teach a baby to eat without the help of adults?
If, during feeding, the baby tries to take away the mother's spoon and tries to eat by himself, then “the time has come”. Use this moment!
At first, it is difficult for the baby to eat liquid food on his own, such as soup. And he probably wants to take pieces of fruit or pasta with his hands. Therefore, the ideal food for the first workouts is porridge or vegetables, which must first be kneaded with a fork.
The game will be a good help in learning. You can train the skill in the sandbox. Help the baby to scoop up the sand with a spatula, carefully pour it into the mold, make a cake. Buy a set of toy dishes, let the child feed dolls and teddy bears with a small spoon. This improves coordination, develops fine motor skills and will help him handle real cutlery.
At the beginning of training, one spoon should be in the hands of the mother, and the second - in the child. She feeds the baby, and the baby is only trying to collect food himself and send it to her mouth. Thus, the baby will not remain hungry and at the same time will gradually improve his skills.
Support the child at this stage of growing up, do not scold for mistakes and praise for successes. The main thing is patience and confidence that everything will work out.
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Why children do not eat in school tables. The problem is not only the smell of rags
The topic of baby food is being discussed more and more often, and if earlier it was mainly about the usefulness and balance of dishes, now they began to pay attention to whether schoolchildren themselves like the food. What's the point of having the most perfect menu if the kids don't want to eat it? Our blogger Natalya Radoman understands what factors affect the "easiness index" and what it is all about.
To control the quality of catering in the school cafeteria, an "edible index" has been introduced. It would seem that everything is simple - weighed the amount of waste after eating, calculated how much it is as a percentage of the mass of the portions given out and draw a conclusion: if there is little waste, then they are well fed, a lot is bad. But monitoring the process of catering in different schools shows that not everything is so simple and unambiguous.
For example, children eat better after holidays or weekends than at the end of the week or quarter. And it's not surprising: they managed to miss school, are happy to meet teachers and classmates, eat school breakfasts and lunches with pleasure. When fatigue accumulates, not only school subjects, but also the contents of school plates cause negativity.
What does the "eatenness index" depend on?
1. Eating Habits
At my children's school, the amount of waste when given thick pancakes heavily drizzled with condensed milk tends to zero. Is it possible to judge by this fact about good nutrition, given that the number of children with diabetes and other autoimmune diseases is growing catastrophically? Parents know very well that children are great at eating sweets, pasta, mashed potatoes and cutlets (especially chicken). But is it necessary to feed children only with this? Dishes from cottage cheese, fish, vegetables, liver, containing vitamins and minerals necessary for the full development of the child's body, often go to waste. Preparing these dishes so that children will like them becomes a real challenge for cooks and school food technologists. Maybe the “edibility index” should be measured only for those dishes that will bring undoubted benefits to children?
Unfortunately, even at home, children prefer to eat pasta and meatballs, and parents do not even try to instill in them a love for fish, cottage cheese or vegetable dishes. It also happens that children, instead of eating a cottage cheese casserole with their classmates, bring a container of pasta and sausages from home, which have already lain down somewhere and have cooled down for a long time.
When asked why they don’t eat casserole, they say: “I don’t like cottage cheese at all” or “My mother doesn’t cook this for me.”
bucket and will tell parents that they are poorly fed at school.
2. Serving temperature
Another important factor that influences the "easiness index". Meals in the school cafeteria are often served cold. Naturally, at the same time they lose all attractiveness and taste.
The most wonderful porridge, if it cools down to room temperature, sticks to the plate, and instead of eating this porridge, children begin to mock it. They turn the plate over, film it, send it to social networks, classmates and parents. One boy even managed to show such a video to the president.
Temperature control of serving meals is very important in organizing the process of feeding schoolchildren. The very appearance of parents with thermometers in the school canteen can raise the temperature of dishes by 10-15 degrees, and therefore reduce the amount of waste.
The appearance of parents is also able to eliminate various disorders. For example, in one of the schools, children were given almost frozen apples and cheese, which, of course, they did not eat. And apparently it was done on purpose.
3. Foreign objects in food
When you ask why children don't eat well in the canteen, they can talk about flies, cockroaches, paperclips in pies and even show some photo with a conspiratorial air. But the author of this photo, as a rule, remains unknown, and the reality of its origin, too. For example, there was such a case: all classes ate, and one class carried full plates to the trash cans. Immediately, a message appeared in the parent chat of this class that there was a cockroach in the school porridge.
It's good that parents were on duty in the canteen that day and quickly figured out the situation. It turned out that the day before, one girl, together with her mother, watched a tape on the Internet, where this insect was sitting in a schoolboy's plate. The impressionable girl shared what she saw with her classmates. Most of them immediately lost their appetite.
4. The atmosphere in the canteen
The cleanliness of the tables, the absence of smell from the rags with which these tables are wiped, clean and beautiful dishes and furniture - all this also affects the appetite. The cleanliness and friendliness of the staff are also important. It is equally important to create a constructive constructive dialogue between parents, the school administration and the catering operator.
Of course, the “eatability index” is a key indicator that indicates the quality of catering in an educational organization. If there is a lot of waste, parental and budget money are thrown into the trash along with them. But in order for this index to grow and contribute to the health of schoolchildren, complex and systematic work is needed: infrastructure development, work on preparing menus and developing dishes, training canteen staff, improving control systems, including parents and community members, working with parents and children to promote healthy eating, the formation of a positive attitude towards the school canteen in society.