Transitioning Your Baby (or Toddler) to Table Foods {Part 2} - Your Kid's Table
Your Kids Table

This is part 2 of transitioning your baby to table foods, since I had so much to say on the subject!  In the last post, I reviewed starting off with puffs and moving to soft cubed foods like bananas and cooked vegetables, if you missed it, check it out here. In this post,  I will lay out how to completely make the transition off of baby food, avoid choking hazards, and what to do when it isn’t going well.  

Bye Bye Baby Food

After your baby has had some practice eating, in most cases a few days, start to regularly serve at least one crunchy but meltable food, like puffs or Towne House crackers (Trader Joe’s Social Crackers also work great) during meals.  Encourage your baby to feed themselves these finger foods, but certainly give help as needed.  If they are managing these types of food well, it is time to move onto some softer foods that require a little more chewing.  How do you know they are managing foods well?  When they are chewing it with little to no coughing, choking, or  gagging, and swallowing easily (not hard gulps), consistently, for a week or two.

Some examples of softer foods to move onto are (increasing in difficulty): avocado, banana, scrambled eggs, boiled potatoes, muffins, pasta, deli meat, cheese.

At this point you can also try pairing crackers and other crunchy foods with spreads like jelly, hummus, and cream cheese to maximize exposure to table foods and different textures.  Spread right on the cracker or show them how to dip it into a glob on their tray.  Then, start giving them these foods first at a meal and allow them to eat as much as they want.  If you feel they haven’t eaten enough of the actual table food then give them some of the baby food.  Keep presenting more table foods slowly and as they eat enough of them give less and less baby food.  There will come a meal when you will say, “I think they ate enough of the toast, eggs, and strawberries.  I don’t think they need the baby food.”  Once you reach this point, it is okay to dip back into baby foods for a meal here and there, but ultimately you have to take a leap into letting go of the security baby food gives.  Keep trying different table foods.  If you are looking for inspiration, see my Mega List of Table Foods

I have been mostly focusing on actual cubed food that babies can easily feed themselves, but as they eat those softer foods and the spreads well, you can start to slowly experiment with mixed textures like soups and casseroles.  Again, you will want to keep this slow, maybe starting off with macaroni and cheese, and then moving to spaghetti and meatballs and then chicken noodle soup.  The latter has a lot more changes in consistency in one bite of food.  You can give baby a couple of pieces on the tray of these types of food, but will probably be mostly feeding by spoon.    
Helpful Tips

  • The best way to present most of these foods is in a small cube shape.  This will make it easier for them to pick up and control the size of the bites they are eating.  Babies will often choke as they are learning to eat, it is normal, but we can minimize risk by giving them smaller pieces until they are ready to manage more.  
  • Puffs have next to no calories.  They are great to use when they are just starting on table foods, but as you pull away from baby food they don’t offer enough to fill their little bellies.  
  • I am using the word “transition” intentionally.  Getting your baby onto table foods is a  process that is a little like a dance, taking a few steps forward and then one back.  Many parents find this to be a challenging time.
  • Hot dogs, grapes, marshmallows, large dollops of nut-butters, nuts, lettuce, popcorn, hard candy are all potential choking hazards.  Hot dogs, grapes, and marshmallows can be cut into small pieces.  Spread nut-butters thinly on foods.  Food larger than a pea could get lodged in the airway.

If You are Having Difficulty Making this Transition

Some children have a hard time moving onto table foods.  Often these babes were pros at baby food, but turn their noses up and refuse many or all table foods.  It is common for this to be related to sensory defensiveness and/or difficulty chewing.  Generally speaking, as every child has specific instances and circumstances, it would be helpful to encourage play with food.  If there is sensory defensiveness, this will help break it down.  Try bins of dry foods like rice, beans, and birdseed first.  As they tolerate this, move onto wet bins such as cooked noodles (Check out Sensory Bin ideas here).  Depending on the age of your child, this will require close supervision.  Also, try playing with their food during a meal. Take the pressure off of eating and make a game out of those bananas they won’t touch. See Exploring New Foods for more help on this.

Lastly, your baby watches you closely and will be motivated to imitate.  Show them how to chew by leaving your mouth open and dramatically chewing for them to see.  Be positive about foods they try, even if they refuse or spit it out. Keep presenting it over and over, at least 12 times.  

If you continue to struggle with moving forward with this process, consider my consulting services, or if you are in the states you may qualify for free help from Early Intervention.

Do you feel like your ready to tackle table foods?  Need any more specifics or have questions? Let me know!