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Health Information For Parents
When babies begin feeding themselves — a new task most really enjoy — they’ll find that they like trying new tastes and textures.
By the time they’re 9 months old, most babies have developed the fine motor skills — the small, precise movements — needed to pick up small pieces of food and feed themselves. You may notice that yours can take hold of food (and other small objects) between forefinger and thumb in a pincer grasp. The pincer grasp starts out a little clumsy, but with practice soon becomes a real skill.
Let your child self-feed as much as possible. You’ll still help by spoon-feeding cereal and other important dietary elements. But encouraging finger feeding helps your child develop independent, healthy eating habits.
Finger feeding — and using utensils a little later — gives babies some control over what they eat and how much. Sometimes they’ll eat the food, sometimes not, and that’s all part of the process of learning self-regulation. Even little kids can tell when they’re hungry or full, so let them learn to recognize and respond to these cues.
Now that they’re joining the rest of the family for meals, older babies are ready to try more table foods.
This means more work for whoever makes the meals for the family, but dishes often can be adapted for the baby. For instance, your little one can have some of the zucchini you’re making for dinner. Cook that serving a bit longer — until it’s soft — and cut it into pieces small enough for the baby to handle. Pieces of ripe banana, well-cooked pasta, and small pieces of chicken are other good choices.
Before giving your child a finger food, try a bite first and ask yourself:
If your child doesn’t like a food, don’t let that stop you from offering it at future meals. Kids are naturally slow to accept new tastes and textures. For example, some are more sensitive to texture and may reject coarse foods, such as meat. When introducing meat, it’s helpful to start with well-cooked ground meats or shreds of thinly sliced deli meats, such as turkey.
Present your baby with a variety of foods, even some that he or she didn’t seem to like the week before. Don’t force your baby to eat, but realize that it can take 10 or more tries before a child will accept a new food.
Finger feeding is fun and rewarding for older babies. But avoid foods that can cause choking and those with little nutritional value.
Parents and caregivers can help prevent choking by supervising the baby during eating. Foods that are choking hazards include:
At first bite, your baby probably will love the taste of cookies, cake, and other sweets, but don’t give them now. Your little one needs nutrient-rich foods, not the empty calories found in desserts and high-fat snacks, like potato chips.
It’s tempting to want to see the baby’s reactions to some of these foods, but now is not the time. Grandparents and others may want to rush your baby into trying triple-chocolate cake or some other family favorite. Politely and firmly explain that the baby isn’t ready for those foods. You can blame this tough love on your child’s doctor — the doctor won’t mind.
Toddlers have little tummies, so serve foods that are packed with the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong, and limit the sweets and empty calories.
Is your baby is ready for solid foods? Learn how and when to get started.
At this age, babies start to explore table foods.
Choking is usually caused by food, toys, and other small objects that can get stuck in a child’s windpipe. Read about how to protect kids from choking hazards.
During the preschool years, kids are more willing to cooperate. So it’s a great time to teach them about healthy food choices in new and exciting ways.
While growth slows somewhat during the toddler years, it’s a new era where kids will eat and drink more independently.
Why is food safety important? And how can you be sure your kitchen and the foods you prepare in it are safe?
Good nutrition and a balanced diet help kids grow up healthy. Here’s how to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits.
Food allergies can cause serious and even deadly reactions in kids, so it’s important to know how to feed a child with food allergies and to prevent reactions.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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