Parents are often wondering, “When can babies eat cheerios?” Or, puffs, toast, cheese, watermelon, and banana. Learn when so you can feed your baby safely!
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When I was a first-time mom, I was ecstatic when it was time to start feeding my son real food. Since I’d fed a lot of other babies as a feeding therapist, I knew that first foods matter, but as a mom I was also a little nervous.
Even though my son was gobbling down smooth baby food, I wasn’t quite sure what he’d do the first time he had food that he actually had to chew before swallowing. He could gag, which is common. See our guide to baby gagging for more info on how to handle gagging.
Or worse, he could choke. Would I remember how to do the CPR training that I’d been certified to do correctly?
Fortunately, while my mommy brain was in overdrive, my occupational therapist brain knew that it wouldn’t help him learn to eat if I just waited until I felt 100% comfortable to start giving him puffs, cheerios, or other new foods that we tend to wonder if our babies can handle safely.
What most parents don’t know is that there’s an ideal time to feed your baby cheerios or puffs.
The key is knowing when so that you can confidently give your baby the foods you’re so excited (and nervous) to start feeding them. Let’s dive into the foods that you’re wondering about the most…
When Can Babies Eat Cheerios?
Cheerios are the quintessential finger food for baby, they were in large part the first and most common food that my generation was given as young babies and toddlers.
And, while cheerios are still appropriate, there are a few things you’ve got to know first.
As a pediatric OT, cheerios are NOT the first finger food I recommend that parents give their baby.
While they are great for being picked up easily, they don’t dissolve quickly, like many other dry cereals. Ideally, a baby should munch up and down to mash up the cheerio, either with their gums or emerging teeth.
If a baby doesn’t mash up the cheerio well, it can take a long time to dissolve for safe swallowing.
That means that if your baby doesn’t have solid chewing skills, and many don’t, they could gag or choke on a cheerio. It doesn’t matter if it’s regular cheerios, honey nut cheerios, or apple cinnamon cheerios.
Babies that are hitting other feeding milestones on time can usually eat cheerios sometime between 9-12 months of age.
When exactly in that 3 month range, all depends on what other finger and table foods your baby is already eating. Long before they have cheerios, I want to make sure babies can eat foods that dissolve quickly like graham crackers and puffs.
I also want babies to be able to eat some soft foods well too. Occasional gagging is normal, but persistent gagging that gets in the way of your baby being able to eat is an indicator that they aren’t ready to eat cheerios yet.
To sum it all up… These are 4 signs your baby may be ready to eat cheerios:
1.Are typically in between 9-12 months old
2. Already safely eating a variety of other foods well
3. You witness their jaw munching up and down when they eat other foods
4. Can pick up the cheerios with a pincer grasp (an important fine motor skill when baby isolates their index finger and thumb to pick it up). If your baby needs help developing this check out how to teach your baby to self-feed.
*Learn 5 Big Mistakes that Parents (Unknowingly) Make When Feeding Their Baby or Toddler Table Foods in my free workshop. And, learn what to do to help them eat well!*
When Can Babies Eat Puffs?
Puffs are my preferred very first finger food for baby as they transition from only breastmilk or formula, and are available in a wide range of different brands.
For those of you following a Baby Led Weaning (BLW) approach, that will contradict what you’ve learned about baby’s first food. You can read why I think puffs are a great to start with in Pros and Cons of BLW.
I have given puffs to all three of my children as their very first finger food around 7-8 months old, but your child may not be ready until around 9 months old.
Again, more important than the age, are signs that they are ready. Here’s how you’ll know when your baby can eat puffs:
- Able to sit independently
- Demonstrates munching up and down either when watching you eat, on teethers, or their baby food
- Usually between the ages of 7 and 9 months, although it varies
If you’re skittish about starting your baby on puffs, it’s always a good idea to talk to your pediatrician first. One of the benefits of puffs, and why I love them for babies, is because they dissolve fast in saliva in your baby’s mouth.
That means if your baby tries to eat it and doesn’t know what to do, it will melt into a goo and they can swallow with little effort.
Want a whole guide on how to introduce your baby, step by step, to table foods? Believe it or not, you don’t have to go straight to infant cereal or rice baby cereal. Head over to How to Introduce Table Foods to Babies and Toddlers.
When Can Babies Eat Toast?
Another classic finger food for babies is toast!
Toast is a great food to give babies and it’s easy to top with lots of healthy and different spreads. Think avocado, cream cheese, or even peanut or nut butter as a healthy breakfast option.
(Yes, babies can have nut butters, it’s actually a great way to introduce common allergens early on, but double check with your doc’s advice and spread it thin.)
Like cheerios, toast also requires some more chewing, which means your baby has to have some skills.
Toast cut into squares, small pieces, or strips are great for babies that are managing puffs, graham crackers, and soft foods like cubed avocado well.
This is usually around 9-12 months old. When you do, give your baby toast for the first time, look for them to be chewing well with a clear up and down motion.
When Can Babies Eat Grapes, Blueberries, and Cherry Tomatoes?
Small round foods can be a serious choking hazard, but when they are cut in half (blueberries) or quartered (grapes and cherry tomatoes), babies are able to pick them up with little fingers and eat them safely also around 9-12 months old with a lower risk of choking.
The skin on cherry tomatoes and grapes can be a little tough, and some parents prefer to skin them.
Your baby will likely be ready to handle these foods when they are eating a variety of different textures and a variety of foods, but it may be hard for them to pick up, which may mean you’ll have to wait a little longer.
When Can Babies Eat Watermelon?
This is another one of my favorite first finger foods for babies, right after they’ve mastered those graham crackers and puffs. Cut the watermelon into small cubes and watch with delight as the juice runs down all over their adorable little chin.
Babies can often start eating watermelon between 7-10 months old, and they are great for self feeding, as babies and young children love the flavor. They’re great for hydration too!
When Can Babies Eat Banana?
Once babies are eating watermelon well, they can often handle banana as a general rule. Just keep a lookout that the pieces aren’t too big for baby’s mouth or that they aren’t showing too much food into their mouth at once because banana can clump together.
Bananas are often thought of as a good choice for a first finger food because it’s soft and babies can chew it easily, but sometimes it’s too mushy they can lose track of it and not chew it well. That’s another reason I like starting out with crunchy foods that melt first.
Look for your baby to manage bananas around 7-10 months old. You may even want to try this healthy banana pumpkin bread recipe!
When Can Babies Eat Cheese?
Cheese is obviously dairy and it seems contradictory that babies can eat it when they aren’t allowed cow’s milk until age 1, but the protein structure is different so pediatrician’s give it the green light before 12 months old.
Cheese that’s a bit softer, like from mozzarella, is a great starting place and makes a delicious snack that many kids love, even in the first year of life.
When your baby is eating melt-able crackers, watermelon, and banana without frequent gagging and with a munching up and down, they are often ready to handle cheese that’s cut into cubes.
This is usually around 8-10 months old.
My Favorite First Table Foods for Babies
Knowing what other foods you can give your baby can seem daunting, which is why I have an awesome Mega List of First Table Foods for you, and as your baby is getting a little older a Baby and Toddler List of Meal Ideas.
Not to mention that you can also snag up a handy printable with many of the ideas to stick on your fridge for quick reference!
It will be important to offer a variety of first finger foods, beyond just puffs, some of my favorite are:
Tips for Giving Your Baby Food for the First Time
There are a couple of misconceptions floating around out there about when and how to feed your baby, especially as you’re giving them foods for the very first time. I want to debunk a couple of those myths so you can feel good about teaching your baby how to eat:
- Babies DO NOT need teeth to eat – Sure, if your 9 month old were having a steak, some molars might come in handy, but babies were designed to use their powerful gums to plow through all the foods you found listed here and many more.
- Gagging is normal – Gagging and choking are two different things. Gagging happens when a food hits their gag reflex, when they weren’t expecting it to. Most of the time, they recover the food and are able to swallow or spit it out.
Also, some gagging occurs as a response to a texture, taste, or smell they don’t like. That has to do with sensory aversions to food.
- If they aren’t eating, just wait, they’ll grow out of it – Unfortunately, this is sometimes the advice given by professionals. As a feeding therapist, I’ve seen small issues snowball into something much bigger many times. If you have any doubts head to feeding therapy information on how to get some professional help.
Lastly, remember to be patient. You may feel edgy and anxious as you watch those first bites and tastes. Giving your baby finger foods is a transition that takes time. Some meals won’t go well, that’s okay.
Remember that generally, you have time to work on these skills, and every kid develops at their own rate. We are here to help you navigate the journey with your child.
Have more questions?? Ask them in the comments… we answer every single one!
Don’t Forget Your Free Printable
Now that you’ve got a great guideline on when to start your baby on different foods, make sure you grab your free printable with a huge list of table food ideas and meals that are specifically designed for babies and toddlers! Get it here.
More on Feeding Babies
You’ve got to admit this is some important stuff. Pin this on your baby or parenting board so you can reference it later!
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 19 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.