Transition foods for babies
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.
The Right Way to Transition Your Kid from Baby Food to Table Food
If your baby is loving baby food and seems ready to join in on family meals, you might have some questions about how to get started. It’s tricky to know exactly when babies can eat regular food, and the transition can be a little overwhelming.
Here’s a quick guide with our best tips for transitioning older babies away from pureed food to a more complex diet. These tips will help you decide when your baby can eat table food, and how to incorporate those foods without stress.
Transitioning from baby food to table food
“Table food” generally refers to food that comes from your kitchen, rather than out of a jar or pouch. This food is more solid in texture than baby food purees. However, table food for your baby should still be soft enough to easily mash.
The easiest type of table food to introduce to your child when transitioning from baby food to table food is finger food. These foods don’t require utensils, and they are easy to eat. Finger foods also help babies practice their pincer grasp and promote self-feeding.
Some examples of finger foods to try with your baby are:
- Avocado slices
- Smashed blueberries
- Sweet potato
- Cooked veggies like carrots, sweet potato or squash
Keep safety in mind when babies start eating regular food
To prevent choking, it’s important to take caution when it comes to the types of food you serve and how to safely cut those foods.
Serve foods that are soft, can easily be gummed, or that melt in the mouth. Avoid serving hazardous foods such as crunchy raw fruits and veggies, nuts, popcorn, raisins, and hard candy. Also be sure that foods are cut so their small enough to prevent choking.
Read a more extensive safety guide to learn more about how to prepare foods safely for your baby.
When can babies eat table food?
Most babies are ready to transition from baby food to table food by the time they are eight or nine months old. However, some babies make the change earlier or later. There really isn’t a concrete age milestone for when babies should start eating table food. Instead, there are developmental milestones that indicate when babies are ready to try table food.
Signs that your baby is ready to eat table food include:
- Can sit up in high chair unassisted
- Can bring food to his or her mouth
- Shows interest in other people’s food
- Shows less interest in being spoon-fed
What about teeth?
You might be wondering how your baby can chew solid food without teeth. Don’t worry! It’s not necessary to base when babies can eat table food on whether or not they have teeth. As long as you serve food that is on the softer side, your baby can mash it with his or her gums.
Healthy habits start now!
Transitioning from baby food to table food is a great time to promote healthy eating with your child. Although this is a time for your baby to explore food, it’s important to offer a variety of healthy foods. Allowing your baby to touch, taste, and even play with food (even if he or she doesn’t eat it) is one of the best picky eater tips even early on.
Feed a baby what is on your plate
Feeding your baby regular food doesn’t require extra time in the kitchen preparing special food. Instead, just feed your baby what you have on your plate (being sure to follow the right safety measures). Not only is this easier on you, but it allows your child to participate in family meals. In addition, it’s important for your baby to see his or her parents modeling healthy food choices (and his or her sibling eating healthy kids meals too!).
Simply modify the food on your plate for your baby at meal time. As your child grows older, you can transition the way you modify these foods into healthy preschool meals.
Above all, stay patient when you’re ready to start feeding your baby regular food
Don’t be surprised if most of your baby’s food ends up on the floor the first few (or many) times you offer finger food. Remember, many children need several exposures to a new food before they accept them. This is a time for exploration and learning!
Remember to have fun no matter how messy (literally) the transition from baby food to table food may be!
Looking for an easy way to feed your kids nutritious meals? Yumble will help take the stress out of meal planning, even if you have a picky eater. Simply pick the plan that works best for your family, choose your weekly meals, and Yumble will take care of the rest! No cooking required!
Introduction of supplementary food into the child's diet
Submitted by useradmin on Thu, 08/12/2021 - 21:23
Complementary food is solid or semi-solid food given to an infant in addition to breast milk when it is no longer sufficient to meet nutritional needs (or in addition to formula for infants who are breastfed with complementary foods or formula-fed) .
The introduction of solid foods helps the child learn to eat, introduces new tastes and textures of food. Eating solid foods contributes to the formation of teeth and jaws, and also develops skills that will be needed later for the development of speech.
This is the transition from milk to family meals, which babies are usually ready for at the age of one.
The introduction of solid foods not only directly affects growth and development during the first year of life. More and more scientific evidence is emerging about long-term health effects later in life. Healthy nutrition contributes to the growth of the child, determines the development of the brain, enhances the potential for learning, increases productivity in adulthood.
If children do not adopt healthy eating habits in time and do not consume a variety of foods, in the future they may be inclined to eat only certain foods, which can affect their health (lack of vegetables, deficiency of vitamins, trace elements, antioxidants; empty calories, risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes).
When is solid food introduced into an infant's diet?
The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend that a breastfed infant should begin solid foods at about six months of age. Ideally, children should be exclusively breastfed until the age of six months. The introduction of solid foods into the diet of a child less than 17 weeks of age increases the risk of obesity as well as allergies.
Breastfed infants who are supplemented with formula should receive solid food from the 5th month of life (not earlier than the 17th not later than the 24th week). From the 5th month, the functions of the digestive and excretory organs become sufficiently mature, as well as motor functions, which makes it possible to feed the child with semi-solid and solid food.
How do you know if your child is ready for solid foods?
Children grow and mature at different rates. Signs that a baby is ready for solid foods are usually evident around six months of age.
Monitor your child to:
- stay in a sitting position without support, lean forward and return to an upright position; his shoulder and neck muscles are strong enough to support his head
- to control the movements of the hands in order to be able to purposefully take a small object and put it in the mouth
- do not push food out of the mouth with the tongue, but be able to swallow it
- control saliva swallowing
Signs or signals that are NOT indicators of readiness as they could mean something else:
- the child wakes up more often at night or is restless
- Easily distracted while breastfeeding
- the child is teething, salivation is observed, he gnaws fists
- he shows interest in what others eat, plays with food (but does not swallow it)
- takes food if an adult puts it in his mouth
You may mistake this behavior for a child's willingness to eat solid foods. Sometimes parents just want to learn a new activity with their child and strive to reach a new stage in his development.
When a child learns to eat, he needs not only food, but also smiles and patience. Think of feeding as a time to connect with your baby instead of focusing solely on the amount of food you eat.
Let the child participate in family meals, give him the same as the rest of the family eats, so that he can see how others behave at food.
diet for a 6-month-old baby with breast and artificial feeding, an approximate menu for a week in the table, a diet for a day
Reading time: 4 min.
Number of reads: 192134
Author of the article: Ponomareva Yulia Vladimirovna
Pediatrician, Candidate of Medical Sciences, allergist-immunologist
The changes of a child in the first year of life are very rapid, and each month is not like the other. The 6-month milestone is very important, it is largely evaluative and transitional. By this age, most babies have doubled their birth weight, are about 15 cm tall, and some babies have already erupted their teeth. The age of 6 months is also transitional in terms of nutrition. Breast milk or an adapted formula is still the basis of the diet, but with the beginning of the second half of life, all children, without exception, should begin to receive complementary foods. Despite the general graph of growth and weight gain and indicators of psychomotor development, the status and diet of children at 6 months can be very different.
- The first feeding of 6 months
- The start of complementary foods at 4-5 months
- The second half-year of life
- for a week for a child at 6 months
The first complementary foods of 6 months
22 If the baby is healthy and breastfed, and his mother eats a full and varied diet, exclusive breastfeeding is possible until this age. Cereal complementary foods in this case are preferable to start. This is due to the high energy and nutritional value of cereals, the ability to significantly enrich the baby's diet with a delayed start of the introduction of complementary foods.
However, the rate of expansion of the child's diet in this situation will be accelerated. Before the 8th month of life, it is necessary to introduce all basic food groups into the baby’s menu, since in the second half of the year the need for additional intake of nutrients and micronutrients is very high. Another reason explaining the importance of the rapid introduction of complementary foods is the formation of immunity of the immune cells of the intestine to ordinary food. If a child is introduced to these foods at the age of 4-8 months, the risk of developing food allergies has been proven to be reduced.
Complementary feeding starts at 4–5 months
In modern life, the nutrition of a nursing mother, unfortunately, is not always complete. Therefore, for most breastfed babies, complementary foods already need to be introduced from 5 months in order to prevent deficient conditions.
If a child is bottle-fed, then by the 4th month of life, the baby will not have enough adapted formula alone, and in this group of children, the timing of the introduction of complementary foods usually shifts a month earlier than in breast-fed babies. Accordingly, by 6 months, children will have vegetable puree and gluten-free porridge (buckwheat, corn and rice) in their diet. In the first half of life, monocomponent meals are used (that is, from one type of grain and vegetables), prepared on the basis of water, breast milk or an adapted mixture.
Fruit puree and juice can be another possible complementary food for children under 6 months of age without allergy symptoms. In a child with a risk of developing or manifesting allergies, the timing of the introduction of fruit complementary foods is shifted to the 8th month.
Second six months of life
Children over 6 months of age can supplement their diet with cereals containing gluten. First of all, these are oatmeal and wheat porridge, and then multi-cereal dishes with the addition of other cereals (millet, barley, rye). If the child does not have any manifestations of allergies, milk porridge can be included in the menu at this age. Bebi Premium industrial baby food products include specially prepared milk that is safe to use in healthy babies in the first year of life.
From the age of 6 months, the baby's diet is expanded with such important products as meat and cottage cheese. These products are a source of high-quality protein, fats, and are also rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, and phosphorus. Pediatricians and nutritionists recommend introducing meat and cottage cheese as part of combined dishes based on a fruit and vegetable and / or grain component in a ratio of 1 (cottage cheese / meat): 4–5 (fruits / vegetables / cereals).
To enrich the diet with polyunsaturated fatty acids in the second half of the year, the menu includes vegetable oil in the amount of 3–5 grams per day, which can be added to the complementary food dish.