When babies begin eating finger foods, stick or finger shaped foods are great for them to practice with. This allows your baby to firmly hold the food in the palm of their hand and bite off little pieces (with or without teeth). If using baby-led weaning, the stick shape is fantastic for babies who have not yet developed their pincer grasp. Stick shape is still recommended even if your baby was fed purees first and their pincer grasp has already developed by the time they begin finger foods. It helps them to bite, chew, and learn how much food they can safely manage in their mouths.
If babies are given bite-sized pieces of food when starting, they may be less inclined to chew the piece as thoroughly, making it more likely to set off their gag reflex. Stick shape foods are thin enough that they don’t present the same choking hazards.
Always refrain from helping your baby get the food to their mouth! It may be tempting when you see them struggle, but it’s OK if they don’t actually get much in their mouths. They are developing their skills and must learn on their own. It is also much safer if baby is in full control of everything that goes in and out of their mouths.
Baby's first finger foods should be soft enough to squish between your tongue and roof of mouth until you trust that they can safely manipulate food.
Some examples of safe “stick” shaped foods:
- Egg yolk strips
- Banana, quartered lengthwise
- Strips of avocado
- Roasted vegetable sticks
- Roasted apple or pear
- Baked yam fries - a favourite in our household for baby & parents!
Baby food is often rather bland but it doesn't have to be, and it's actually better if it's not! After baby has been introduced to unseasoned foods and has become familiar with the unique tastes of simple foods, you can try adding herbs and spices. This will help to broaden their palate and make them less picky children.
There is also the question of which to offer first: sweet or savoury. It's sometimes said that savoury is a better first food so that baby doesn't develop a sweet tooth, but breast milk is very sweet and its human nature to like sweet things. Sweet food = calorie dense. It's a survival mechanism. The key is to continue offering a wide variety of favours: naturally sweet fruit and root vegetables, savoury meats, and even sour in the form of fermented foods.
Like I mentioned in BUILD HEALTHY HABITS FOR BABIES & AVOID PICKY TODDLERS
If you have a picky child you may fall into the rut of serving similar foods time and time again because they “don’t like” other foods. The less they are exposed to, they less likely they will be to explore different foods when given the chance.