Some start with puree. Some jump right into chunks of food. Others are good with a bit of both. Every baby is that bit different that you need to follow their cues when it comes to food with texture. Concerns of safety are always top of mind, no matter what’s going into the mouth.
A new study calls into question, what exactly is a safe finger food? Some may not be, despite what the packaging says.
Before I get into that more, let’s look at the gag reflex:
Your baby’s gag reflex is there for a reason. To keep that ever important airway open, for, you know, air. If a round piece of food gets lodged in there, you’ll be practicing your first aid. No parent ever wants to put that training to use.
The gag reflex is a primitive reflex that will relax over time and as it’s challenged. Sometimes it’s a finger or toy that can make your baby gag, not just a food. It’s scary no matter when you hear or see it. If your baby is closer to 10 months of age and your baby is still gagging, I recommend making an appointment with an osteopath or pediatric chiropractor to look into it.
Safe and nutritious finger foods are, I believe, natural. The kind that you cut up, steam or serve as is. Not from a package. Yes, some cereals are handy to have on hand (we love Nature’s Path Rice Puffs) but most packaged foods contain sugar, wheat, and preservatives. Really, not necessary for a baby. In fact, sugar reduces the effectiveness of the immune system for a period of hours, so do watch for sugar on the label of whatever you are offering.
In a recent study, researchers tested a handful of snacks that are marketed for babies. These products are in the “crawler” category meant for babies who don’t have teeth yet. They tested Cheerios, Gerber Graduates snacks: Fruit and Veggie Melts, Yogurt Melts, Fruit Picks (in diced apples and diced carrots), Lil’ Crunchies, Wagon Wheels, Arrowroot Cookies, and Puffed (stars).
Side note: why on earth is anyone giving their baby Wagon Wheels???
American researchers out of the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York aren’t sure that all of the above meet their approval as their marketing or packaging recommends them for toothless babies using their gums to break down the food.
Their criteria were as follows:
- Easy to swallow
- Bite-sized or cut into small pieces
They had adults test the foods, as it’s not necessarily safe to have babies as test subjects. They tried them right out of the package as well as after being left out for an hour.
After their testing, the researchers found that only two of the nine passed the criteria. The carrot and apple pick ups. Cheerios, yogurt melts and Lil’ Crunchies didn’t pass the initial test of softness but did soften quickly in the mouth, meaning that they remained on the recommended list.
Thankfully the Wagon Wheels and Arrowroot cookies were too large for one bite, so they are off the recommended list.
Side note. Again: I’m still dumbfounded that anyone is of the opinion that Wagon Wheels are an appropriate snack for a new eater!
Other than letting parents know what packaged foods are safe for babies with no teeth, there was an amendment made to the packaging of Gerber’s products and removed its “crawler” designation on these products.
What I recommend
Anything that comes in a package has been processed in some way. Keeping to finger foods of fruits and vegetables offers a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber. Everything that your growing baby needs. Sure, something like a raw baby carrot isn’t safe for you baby. It can be if it’s steamed until soft and cut in half, lengthwise. Steamed cauliflower, for instance, becomes a very soft serve that can be mashed with the tongue pressed to the roof of the mouth.
In the years that I’ve specialized in nutrition from tummy to toddler and taught thousands and thousands of parents what’s best to feed their baby, insisting on offering real food, has not changed. Even for those parents who aren’t sure where to start or are petrified of feeding their baby finger foods, knowing what’s in the food that you’re putting down on your baby’s high chair tray gives ease to the worry, and quite frankly, just makes sense.
New and Exciting!
This is for you–any parent who is embarking on starting solids with their baby. We at Sprout Right are thrilled to share with you, our launch of our New Eater program. This New Eater’s Club is the place to be for all baby starting and continuing their food adventure up to one year of age. This six-week online program will walk you step by step through starting solids; how, when, what, how much and answer all those burning questions that you have. You’ll also be able to ask more of your questions as you baby progresses with weekly check-in video calls, with Lianne, the founder and author of Sprout Right. Even if you’ve started on solids and your baby is ready for finger foods as above, there are six of 12 classes dedicated to chunky meals and finger foods for every stage of eating.
You can sign up for our upcoming free webinars by clicking on the time that works best for you. Click one of the following, Tuesday, Oct 4th at 8pm EST, Wednesday, Oct 5th at 10am or Wednesday, Oct 5th at 2pm EST (in case you’re trying to work around the nap schedule) about The Top 5 Things You Need to Know When Starting Solids.