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 taught you how to start 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.
Transitioning from Baby Food to Table Food
How do you know they are managing (eating) 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, before the baby food, at a meal and allow them to eat as much as they want or will.
Continue to present a larger variety of table foods slowly and as they eat enough of them give less and less baby food during the meal. 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 and finger foods. If you are looking for finger food 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.
The Big Picture: Step by Step Introducing Table Foods to Baby Guide
Let’s sum up everything we’ve talked about in this saying bye bye to baby foods series with a list that you can use a quick guide. Remember to ONLY move onto the next step once your baby is safely and consistently eating the previous step for a few days to a week or so, depending on your comfort level and the time it takes your baby to learn, which varies widely.
- Give baby puffs (this is my favorite brand) as their very first table food. (Follow instructions in part 1)
- Give other food that have a crunch but melt easily, like cheese curls and graham crackers. (See full list in part 1)
- Give soft foods that you’ve cut into a small cube.
- Give soft foods with irregular shapes like scrambled eggs, noodles, and ground meat crumbles.
- Give crunchy foods that don’t melt as quickly like cheerios, toast (add toppings like hummus, avocado, etc.)
- Give mixed foods like casseroles and soups (start off with foods that don’t have a lot of chunks in theme and monitor closely)
Helpful Tips for Babies Learning to Eat Table Foods
- 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.
What to do if Baby Won’t Eat Table Food
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 and instructions). 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. And, if your baby allows you to, place small bits of food (at whatever table food stage you are in, see the list above) directly onto their gums, where their molars will be.
Some babies have a very sensitive gag reflex if that’s the case head to What You Need To Know About Baby Gagging, you’ll find tips for how to overcome and when to know if it’s a problem you need help with.
Do you feel like your ready to tackle table foods? Need any more specifics or have questions? Let me know in the comment below!
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