Giving baby 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.
Rules for transferring a child from complementary foods to a common table
COMMON TABLE FOR A CHILD
— Polina Aleksandrovna, what is a common table?
- At the common table, the child eats together with the whole family - with parents, older sisters, brothers. Parents are relieved of the obligation to cook one or more separate meals for the youngest family member, use products from the “baby food” category. Everyone eats the same thing - this is the basic principle of a common table.
— When should the baby be transferred to the common table?
— As with many other matters relating to nutrition, there are no clear boundaries. But there is a rough understanding of when you can feed a child from a common table and how this should happen. Transfer to the family table depends on two main factors.
The general table of the baby does not depend on the type of feeding, because you can eat an adult dish and still receive breast milk or milk formula. In order for weaning from milk nutrition and adaptation to an adult diet to be comfortable, during the period of breastfeeding and artificial feeding, it is initially better for mothers not to develop in the child the association for falling asleep (and calming down) “breast - sleep” or “bottle - sleep”.
— Until what age can a child not be introduced to the common table without harm to the body?
— If the mother is comfortable with the individual menu of the child at the common table, and at the same time the baby eats varied, eats not only mashed food, but also pieces, then you can cook it separately for up to five years.
If the child is only on baby puree and breast milk, and the period of acquaintance with the pieces is delayed (normally they are tried for about 8 months), then it will be more difficult for him to join adult food, food refusal will begin. In addition, even if the child receives all the necessary substances from puree, eating only homogeneous foods will have a bad effect on the development of his jaw system. Babies who don't chew develop slower jaw development, which can become a serious problem later on.
HOW TO TRANSFER A BABY TO A COMMON DISH
— How to understand that a child is ready for a catering?
- There are no contraindications for transfer to the general table if the child:
- eats sufficiently large and hard pieces;
- got acquainted with the products that the family usually consumes;
- shows activity and interest in adult food, especially when parents eat with him.
— How to transfer a child to a common table if he refuses food?
- If the child does not eat from the common table, it is not necessary to force-feed him: parental pressure always leads to a negative perception of food. You can stimulate children's interest a little, but you should not insist, this will cause more problems.
— Polina Alexandrovna, besides food refusal, what else can parents face?
- Foods from the general table may have unwanted reactions if you offer a child food that he is not familiar with. Therefore, it is advisable to introduce into the child’s diet what they will be fed at an older age even during complementary feeding. The family and the baby should have one set of products.
In addition, the shape of the food may seem strange to the child. If he eats mashed potatoes all the time, and he is suddenly transplanted to a common table and offered a large cutlet, this will be unusual. Therefore, it is better to transfer the baby to the adult menu gradually and alternately introduce him to something new. Also, the child may be afraid of a large amount of food on the plate. The portion should not be excessive, it is always better to add an additive if necessary.
- What "adult" food can be given to a child under one year old.
- Let's say the child only eats pasta or potatoes. Why is it dangerous?
- Single products are not able to fully cover all children's needs. Each of the foods in the diet has its own set of nutrients, but none is a 100% substitute for everything we need. The child's body grows, bones grow, muscles strengthen, internal organs form and develop, and he needs even more intense and varied nutrition than adults.
Parents themselves indulge in feeding one type of product - they know that the child eats potatoes well, and they constantly give him this dish. In pursuit of the fact that the child was full, parents are ready to feed him anything.
A child may not eat one thing - this is normal, the product can be replaced. But if a child eats one thing, this is a big problem. It needs to be solved and still offer different types of products: the baby will like something.
- Is it possible to distract the child with games or cartoons during feeding?
- Entertainment helps to physically feed, fill the baby's stomach, but does not form an interest in food. Between food and cartoons, the child will always choose the latter. For him, food will be secondary: there is a cartoon - I will sit down to eat, but if there is no cartoon, food is not needed. Then, without entertainment, the baby will be difficult to seat at the table. In addition, he will not have the understanding that food is good in itself. But this is a physiological need, and it must be satisfied without the help of entertainment.
Are formula, complementary foods and food from the general table compatible?
- You can combine them, since the transition to a common table never occurs on the same day. A child can consume 500 ml of breast milk or a mixture of the desired formula per year, as well as receive homogeneous purees and family food. When transferring to a common table, it is not necessary to immediately introduce the child to all family meals; you can offer something from your table as a trial option.
— What cereals and purees are suitable for this period?
- All complementary foods are preparation for the transition to the common table. The weaning phase is short, but very important. Baby purees or cereals introduce the baby to the dishes that he will receive at the common table. For example, MAMAKO ® puree with cottage cheese prepares for adult cottage cheese, cottage cheese with fruit. Such a preparatory stage allows the child to adapt and then accept adult products as familiar, they will no longer be something new and strange for him.
The transition to a common table takes about a year and a half - for someone earlier, for someone a little later. In order to transfer a child to a common table, a full-fledged varied diet in the family and readiness for adult dishes are necessary. The kid will be more willing to join the family meal if, by his example, show him how to eat at the table, and do not put pressure on him if he is not ready for family food yet.
* Breast milk is the best food for babies. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a child's life and continued breastfeeding after complementary foods are introduced until the age of 2 years. Before introducing new products into the baby's diet, you should consult with a specialist. The material is for informational purposes and cannot replace the advice of a healthcare professional. For nutrition of children from 6+ months. The product is certified.
What to cook for a child during the transition to a common table
Kizino Polina Aleksandrovna
pediatrician, perinatal psychologist
How to diversify the child's menu if you gradually transfer it from complementary foods to the products of the general table? A pediatrician, a leading expert of the Smart Mama online school Kizino Polina Alexandrovna will help parents make the first "adult" diet for a child. The expert will explain whether it is necessary to salt food for children and what methods of heat treatment of food for a child can be used. Polina Alexandrovna will also tell you how to properly combine complementary foods and products from the general table, when a child can be given solid food and in what quantity.