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.
And, look out for the free printable cheat sheet if your baby is having a hard time transitioning to table foods at the end!
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.
If you continue to struggle with moving forward with this process, consider feeding therapy. 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?
Still Have Questions? Get the Free Printable!
I totally get that when your baby or toddler isn’t eating table foods it can feel super stressful. That’s why I have the free Learn to Eat Table Foods Cheat Sheet printable . I’ll send it right to your inbox.
Click here to get your free printable and put those worries to rest.
More on Baby Table Foods
The Best High Calorie Foods for Babies
The Ultimate List of Baby/Toddler Meal Ideas
Ultimate List of Mealtime Must Haves for Baby
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My grandson who just turned 7 years old STILL won’t eat regular foods!!! His Mom cooks him amazing & healthy meals with fish, chicken, all kinds of veggies & seasonings (which takes her hours to prepare). However, if she doesn’t puree it into small pieces, he won’t eat it! She has tried to increase the texture without much success! (I wish we had had articles from you years ago!) He loves macaroni & cheese but she limits that to a weekend meal.
When he was a toddler, he would eat a meal (not solids) & then have projectile vomiting of the whole meal! He was seen once by a Pediatric GI doctor who didn’t help at all. He has been diagnosed with ADHD & mild Autism. He is extremely bright – taught himself to read at age 3, is great at Math, knows all the countries of the world & many other things. But offer him a bite or piece of regular food & he refuses. He does like to chew on things – except food!
Do you have any suggestions? We have tried SO many things!
Hi Sue! Thanks for reaching out! We know how stressful eating issues can be. Due to his age, we definitely recommend consulting with your pediatrician if possible, since they can refer you to a feeding therapist for some hands-on help. Since he’s still stuck on purées, he may need help with chewing/swallowing. In the meantime, practice with some sensory and oral motor exercises by using sensory bins, food play, and allowing him to touch/feel/play with his food. Try using a toothbrush to brush the insides of his mouth before mealtimes. Other oral motor exercises include making silly faces, blowing bubbles, sipping from straws, and licking lollipops/popsicles. These exercises will help strengthen his oral muscles, which are what he uses to chew/swallow his food. Include him in the meal planning/shopping/cooking process- being more involved can help make them feel comfortable enough to try new foods. Here is a blog post with more picky eating tips for older kids. Lastly, since he has ADHD and autism, sensory sensitivities may be at play here. Getting to the root of the sensory issue can help with the picky eating. We have a free workshop that can help with sensory issues- save your seat here!
What do you do when the baby easily chews goldfish, animal crackers, Nutri grain bats, and other crackers, but refuses all other foods except pouches of baby food? She is even refusing things she used to love, such as bananas. She gags if there is a tiny piece of fruit in yogurt. She is 16 months.
Hi Elaine! Thanks for reaching out! Since she is comfortable chewing crackers and other snacks, it sounds like it could be a sensory thing. And in regards to the yogurt with fruit in it, she may not know how to chew/swallow something that has multiple different textures. Try separating the two and starting with one at a time- for example, offer her yogurt and then separately, offer her small pieces of fruit. Once she has established chewing/swallowing multiple different textures, then you can start combining the two (i.e. fruit mixed with yogurt). Allow her to touch/feel/play with her food and practice feeding herself. You may even try some oral motor exercises that can help strengthen her oral muscles and desensitize her gag reflex- use a toothbrush to brush inside her mouth, make silly faces, suck on straws, etc. We do have a free table foods workshop that goes more in depth about all of this information. Save your seat here!
How do you move forward from small cubed pieces to larger pieces and then being able to bite off pieces of things? We are stuck on a little larger than pea size pieces.
Hi Brittany! Thanks for reaching out! That would all depend on your child’s age and success with chewing/swallowing that current level of food size/shape/texture. If your child is still stuck on pea-sized pieces, keep practicing until you and your child feel comfortable enough to offer other food sizes/shapes/textures. We have more information inside our free table food workshop, which you can find http://yourkidstable.com/tablefood-workshop!
Hello and thank you for your helpful guidance and advice. When can I introduce meat other than ground meat, such as fish, beef shreds, chicken? Thank you!
Thank you so much for this advice. I am on my 3rd baby, but my first 2 were SO easy and had no difficulties. But this time I’m working with my preemie baby who was born at 29 weeks and initially needed a gtube. He completely mastered the bottle by 5 months but nothing has been truly easy for him. So this article was so great as it went into so much detail. Right now we are dealing with some gagging issues with the puffs but he does really well with the teething wafers as he can’t just swallow it like he does with the puffs. This article really helped give me some perspective and made me more comfortable with where he is right now at 1 year old, corrected age 9 months.
Thank you so much for reaching out and sharing this with us! It sounds like your son has come a long way and is making such great progress! I’m so glad our blog post gave you more insight and comfort. If you’re interested in more tips, you may also benefit from our free table food workshop, where we cover issues such as gagging. Click here to save your seat!
Thanks so much for this helpful article! I love your website. How long should I be giving my baby food that is no larger than pea size? He is 10 months old and seems to do well with pea sized pieces but I am worried about choking. Also, when serving crackers, should I also be breaking these up the size of a pea?
Thanks so much!
Help, my great grandson wants me or whoever is feeding him to give it too him.I’ve tried putting scramble eggs on tray, he will touch them but will not put any food in his mouth. He just wants you to do it.
Thanks for reaching out! HERE is an article with lots of great suggestions to get him to start feeding himself. I hope it helps! Reach out with any questions 🙂
PLEASE HELP! My son will be a year old May 14th. He is not eating even puffs yet & that is a regular offering trying to get him started with chewing. I’m not sure if the fact that he had severe tongue-tie at birth could be a contributor? It was corrected at 2-3 months old. He has no real interest in table food whatsoever and will not even attempt a sippy cup. However, if his dad sits down with any ice cream or sweets, he is more than willing to eat (just a tiny bite or so is offered by dad and it’s not every day 😅). I am concerned at this point as so many people have made the comment ‘my kids were eating just about everything at 9 months old’. His pediatrician said not to worry, that some babies don’t grasp chewing until the one year mark. But I’m reading all these articles and comments and seems to be more leaning towards he’s delayed than it being normal. Not sure if any of this matters, he’s my first and I’m 30 😅, but I was induced at 42 weeks, labor for 4 days, his head was in the canal for an extended period and he was born with a cone shaped head, later diagnosed with brachycephaly and in a band, physical therapy for torticollis and we are just now out of a 2-4 appointments a week schedule since December. Any advice would be more than appreciated!
We understand how hard this transition to table food can be. The first step I’d work on would be playing/touching with the food with no expectations of eating it. I’d model for him placing the puffs in your mouth as well. Touching is the first step to eating and can be really helpful. We do also have a free workshop that helps walk you through helpful hints and strategies for transitioning to table foods. You can save your seat HERE
My one year old will not eat any solid foods whatsoever. He was eating baby purées and cereal from about 4 months to maybe 7months then stopped when teething started. We’ve started OT but the therapist seems stumped. We let him play with food, chew teething rings, play with spoons with food on them, but we aren’t seeing any progress at all and it’s worrisome. Is there something else we should be doing or is it just one of those things that we have to wait on?
Teething can be a huge factor in a child eating. However with them being a year old, you do want to make sure you are doing everything to help them along. We have a free workshop that will walk you through some strategies and things to be looking for to help you along. You can save your seat here
Hi! I, like many of these parents, need help! My daughter is just about 1 year old, has no teeth yet and does not want any table food! She will only eat baby food 3 times a day (she loves veggies and fruits) and her formula milk. But if I give her anything with texture she frowns up and either knocks it off her tray, out of my hand or gives it to her dog to eat. I’ve even tried to purée fresh fruit like bananas and she gags like it’s the nastiest thing she’s ever tasted in the world yet the baby food bananas she gobbles up (definitely a texture issue) I’ve let her play with food before but she just doesn’t seem interested in chewing the food. We feed her at meal times when we eat so she can observe and she always looks interested and grabs for our plates but when we offer her table food she then looks repulsed at it. Could some of this be because she doesn’t have teeth yet? What foods are ok to give her at 1, even though she is still toothless? Thank you!!
So glad you reached out! No need to worry about her not having any teeth, babies jaws are strong enough to chew foods and no teeth are required for them to make the transition to table foods. I’d start off with offering the meltable foods, as these are the easiest to chew/swallow and the first step after pureed foods. These are things such as puffs. We do have a free workshop that walks you through these things and others that you can start to work on to make the transition to table foods. You can save your seat here
My 18 month old can eat snacks like crackers and veggie sticks and Cheetos. He let’s the sitter feed him baby food but he just recently stopped letting my and my wife feed him. When we try to feed him he automatically takes his hand amd pushes the food away without even trying. He was a good eater until recently. Any suggestions. We are trying different meals with no luck. My wife did get him to eat about 10 pieces of macaroni by hand but that was a one stop deal. Any suggestions.
Thanks for reaching out! I’d think about a couple things! 1. is if he is feeling any kind of pressure to eat, this can be huge, so trying to let go of the pressure even stating things like “Just take a bite” can be pressure. 2. try modeling eating and letting him try to feed himself/touch and engage with the foods. Touching is the first step to eating, so this can be helpful as well. If you haven’t yet seen our free workshop, it is helpful in how to remove all pressure and work towards increasing eating. You can save your seat here
Hi! I also need help! My daughter is 14 months old and won’t eat most protein. She eats some table food at least 1-2 times a day, and at dinner I still give her homemade baby food after table food. She was very good with the purées i made for her that had meat puréed into them but screams if I give her pieces of meat. She is able to chew, she eats spaghetti, rice, steamed broccoli, carrots and cauliflower, toast with cream cheese, banana, arrowroot cookies. We’ve tried pieces of chicken, tuna that’s in water in a tin, eggs (we’ve tried scrambled many times since 7/8 months and refuses) she will chew on the scrambled eggs and move it around in her mouth then spit it out. I manage to get her to eat eggs sometimes as egg bread. I’m not quite sure if it’s the taste or texture that she doesn’t like. I also find with table food she’ll too much in her mouth, chew and then spit out… I’m not sure what to do…I’m concerned that I’ve let her eat baby food for too long especially that she’s now at the age of I put something in front of her she doesn’t want she’s not really curious she just screams. Please help!
Hi! I also need help! My daughter is 14 months old and won’t eat most protein. She eats some table food at least 1-2 times a day, and at dinner I still give her homemade baby food after table food. She was very good with the purées i made for her that had meat puréed into them but screams if I give her pieces of meat. She is able to chew, she eats spaghetti, rice, steamed broccoli, carrots and cauliflower, cucumber sticks, toast with cream cheese, banana, arrowroot cookies. We’ve tried pieces of chicken, tuna that’s in water in a tin, eggs (we’ve tried scrambled many times since 7/8 months and refuses) she will chew on the scrambled eggs and move it around in her mouth then spit it out. I manage to get her to eat eggs sometimes as egg bread. I’m not quite sure if it’s the taste or texture that she doesn’t like. I also find with table food she’ll too much in her mouth, chew and then spit out… I’m not sure what to do…I’m concerned that I’ve let her eat baby food for too long especially that she’s now at the age of I put something in front of her she doesn’t want she’s not really curious she just screams. Please help!
We understand how hard this can be. I’d try to offer the protein in small pieces to see how she does, but trying to just have in on her tray so that she can engage with it, touch and play with it. The first step to them eating is touching, so I’d work on that side of things first. As for putting a lot of food in her mouth, you can check out this article
For the dry sensory bins, how do you make sure they won’t put dried rice, pasta, etc, in their mouths and choke on them?
For any items you are worried about this, I’d make sure to have close supervision on them. You can use smaller items as well that are unable to choke on. Also, using bins that are edible can be helpful!