When your baby starts to master the art of eating solid foods and increases his intake, you will probably start thinking about adding a snack or two to his diet. The key to giving your baby snacks is to remember that they should be small portions and should be healthy choices. Snack time is also a great time for baby to work on his pincer grasp, so finger foods are a great choice.
When to Add Snacks
Most babies will start on finger foods at around 9 months of age, when they start to develop the pincer grasp. This is a great time to add a snack to your baby’s menu. Remember that during these early days of solid foods, your baby is still getting most of his nutrition from breast milk or formula. Snacks are about developing skills more than about nutrition.
That doesn’t mean that what your baby eats for a snack shouldn’t be nutritious! At this age, everything your baby eats should be basic, healthy foods, and this includes snacks. Start with one small snack a day. You might want to save it for a time when you need a few minutes to accomplish something, especially if you plan to serve a finger food as a snack. As with meals, serve snacks after a breast or bottle feeding to ensure the solid food does not replace the essential nutrition of breast milk or formula.
Good Snack Choices for Babies
Healthy snacks for babies should be fairly similar to the foods they are eating as meals, with the exception of adding some classic finger foods. Remember that a snack should not be a meal, but should be small portions of a food that will help baby hang in until the next scheduled feeding. Before serving any snack, make certain your baby is able to eat the food in question – you should be seeing signs of the ability to mash food with her gums and she should be handling thicker, chunkier foods. Otherwise, you will have to stick to smooth snacks that don’t require chewing.
Fruit, cereals like Cheerios, yogurt and cheese are all great snack choices for babies. Soft fruits like bananas and peaches make great snacks that baby can easily mash with his gums. Be sure to cut them into small enough bites to avoid any risk of choking.
Many babies love cheese, and it makes an excellent snack. It’s a good source of protein as well as calcium. Cut it into small slices, and start with a fairly soft, mild flavored cheese like mozzarella. You can then move on stronger cheeses as baby adjusts. A few pieces of cheese served with a food that provides fiber, such as applesauce or whole grain cereal like Cheerios will make a good balanced snack with both protein and fiber for sustained energy.
As your baby eats larger meals more often, you will probably want to add a second snack. Into the second year of life, when formula or breast milk no longer provides all of baby’s nutrition, baby should be eating three meals a day along with two snacks. At this point, it will become more important to provide nutritious snacks that will keep baby going until her next meal. As baby grows, her snack options will expand along with her skills; she will be better able to chew and will often eat snacks without much assistance, giving mom a much-needed break.