Transitioning to table foods may sound nerve wracking but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s actually a pretty exciting time for all of you and marks a new phase in your child’s development.
Once your baby can sit upright independently and has mastered rice cereals and pureed fruits and vegetables, he is most likely ready to try table foods. This is typically between 8 and 10 months old, but it may be later for some babies, especially preemies.
This is when he will develop his taste buds and learn to love and appreciate certain flavors and textures so make sure to present him a wide variety of food choices. Establishing a healthy and positive relationship with food during this time period has been shown to have lifetime benefits.
When you are ready to start, make sure to go slowly, introducing only one new food every few days. Try to make it a habit of only introducing new food when you are both in a good mood and you are not rushed. Realize that meal time will take a little longer and may be way messier than you have been accustomed to. In fact, you may look down and realize that your floor has more food on it then the table but just embrace it and get ready for a wild adventure.
Make sure he is sitting upright on your lap or in his highchair and that he’s comfortable and relaxed. Use your fingertip as his first spoon but encourage him to self-feed as soon as he shows an interest in it. Picking up tiny bites of food himself will help him develop his fine motor skills and pincher grasp.
Teach him how to chew by making exaggerated chewing motions and encouraging him to mimic you.
Now, on to the fun part. The food!
Bananas, cut into teeny tiny pieces, make a great first food since they are sweet and have a smooth consistency. Bite-sized cooked carrots are good finger foods but do not feed raw carrots, which can cause choking.
In addition to cut up diced fresh fruit and cooked vegetables, other great first foods to explore include pasta, grilled chicken, cheese, noodles, in fact, anything healthy that you can cut into safe, soft tiny bites. Remember, this is the time when you can help him develop his taste buds so variety is key. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a sample menu for 8 to 12 month olds that you may find helpful.
Try not to get frustrated! Yes, easier said then done but if at first you don’t succeed, try again. He may like something on the first try, or it may take three or ten attempts to finally accept a food. Don't worry if he attacks vegetables with less enthusiasm than fruit. He will learn to eventually love them if you keep offering it.
Remember, while this is all new to you, this is all new to him, too. He has never been exposed to certain flavors or textures so embrace this precious time you have together to discover and explore.