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Can I give my baby finger foods?

You can start to offer you baby fingers foods from the start of weaning. You may find that your baby prefers to feed herself with finger foods rather than be spoon-fed. If this is true of your baby, don't worry and let her feed herself. Or you could let your baby hold a finger food while you spoon feed her at first.

Some mums prefer to let their babies feed themselves rather than spoon feed purees. This method of introducing solids is known as baby-led weaning.

It will help your baby if the finger foods you offer are stick-shaped. This will make it easier for her to pick up and hold them because, for now, she will only be able to clasp foods in her fists. Finger foods for six-month-olds can be a finger of buttered toast or a slice of soft, peeled pear.

At about seven to nine months, most babies are ready for finger foods cut into bite-sized bits. At this age your baby will start to pick up objects with her thumb and forefinger. This is called the pincer grasp and this new skill will help your baby pick up smaller pieces of food to feed herself.

You may find that your baby starts to reach for food on other people's plates. Table manners don't exist for babies this age! All your baby is trying to do is copy the way you eat.

Ideal finger foods for this age are:

- tender cooked carrots and sweet potatoes
- cooked pasta shapes
- breakfast cereals
- ripe bananas
- bread
- melon
It's best not to give your baby sweet biscuits and rusks. They don't offer many nutrients, and may lead to your baby expecting sweet snacks out of habit.

It's perfectly understandable to worry about your baby choking or gagging on finger foods. The fact that babies can handle and control the amount they eat, and move it to the back of their mouths when they're ready, means the risk of choking is minimal. However, babies should never be left alone when eating.

Finger foods are an important to your baby's development. They encourage your baby to chew, even if she doesn't have teeth. She will suck or bite the food using her gums and this also helps speech muscles to develop.

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