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Baby steps: Tips to ease your child's shift to table food

Transitioning your baby from bottle or breast feeding to baby foods is one big transition they face early in life. Not long after that, your child will make another shift from baby food to table foods. Both are big transition points for any child and can be confusing and overwhelming. But, these developmental milestones can also be a time filled with lots of fun and firsts, for baby and you.

Here are some tips to making those transitions a little easier.

To transition from breast or bottle to baby foods:

  • Begin introducing baby food with a small spoon when your child is 5 to 7 months old. 
  • Introduce a new food about once every three days to monitor for any food allergies. 
  • Offer new foods over and over. Don't give up just because your baby grimaces or spits it out. This is normal!
  • Let your child's face and hands get messy! Baby learns about new foods in many ways. Resist wiping your child's face until the end of each meal. If you're concerned about the mess [getting your child's clothes covered with food], try having your baby wear just a diaper at mealtimes.
  • Explore finger painting with pureed food on your child's highchair tray. This can be the beginning of learning self-feeding.

To transition from baby foods to table foods: 

  • Begin introducing cooked vegetables, soft fruits and crackers when your child is about eight months old.
  • Show your child how to eat new foods. Describe the food. Is it crunchy or chewy? Sweet or salty?
  • Gagging is normal. Your child is learning to manage foods in their mouth. Try to stay happy and calm and gently assist your child if needed, then encourage them to try again. 
  • Encourage both finger feeding and using a spoon. As we said already, exploring food through touch, even getting messy, is an important way your child learns about new foods. 
  • If your child is hesitant to touch or explore a new food use utensils to bridge the gap. 
  • Put food in a small zip lock baggie to help a child learn about food with less sensory input.
  • Place a drop cloth or shower curtain liner under your child's high chair for easy clean up after meal times.

The typical age for children to have successfully made the shift to table foods is between 12 and 14 months. If your child seems to be having a hard time moving from one stage to the next, talk with your pediatrician. It may be time for an evaluation with a speech or occupational therapist who specializes in feeding to evaluate the situation and answer any questions you may have.

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