Take a deep breath and ignore the upcoming mess. The Smilosaurus refuses to eat baby food anymore. This, of course, comes only days after I filled a few ice cube trays with pork, beans, broccoli, carrots, peppers, and squash. It must have been the peas. Now she insists on feeding herself. The only exceptions are yoghurt and cottage cheese, and those can't be shovelled in fast enough.
There comes a point when all babies should refuse baby food. It's often a hard adjustment for us parents. Will they get enough to eat? Have I chopped those beans small enough? Does she have to be so messy? Many a friend will keep trying to feed the purees and mashes to make sure that the kid is getting enough to eat. But remember this, by the time they insist on finger foods they usually don't need to eat as much. And they do get more in their mouth than you think they do. That is, until they learn to feed the dogs hovering below the high chair.
What started it all for The Smilosaurus was a roasted carrot. I roasted a chicken for the rest of us. Because I love the carrots roasted with meat I threw a bunch in the pan. It seems she loves them too. Soon it became more about what she could get her hands on, literally, and what we were eating. You should have seen her with medium rare steak tonight. I swear she ate half of mine.
It is rather tempting at this point to let them survive on bananas and peas. This phase of baby food can be more time consuming than the purees. Only because of the incessant chopping required. You are your baby's sous chef, dicing and prepping every day. The one saving grace is that this is also the time when you can start introducing spices, oil, butter, and other condiments. Knowing that can make your life a lot easier.
At this point you have two choices: reserve a bit of what you are making to steam and chop for your little one. This only takes a few extra minutes of prep, and maybe another pan/dish if you want to cook it separately. Or, you can simply take what you've cooked - prior to salting it - and cut it into small pieces. Okay, you can do it after seasoning it too... but I am notorious for undersalting, according to Hubby.
No recipe, no technique. This is about the transition from purees to people food. You've been getting rougher textures already, right? You've been offering things like bananas, peas, and blueberries to encourage her pincer grasp, right? No? Then start with these. In fact, I start with these within a month or two of starting solids. The longer you stay on smooth purees, the harder it will be to move to finger foods.
The next thing to help with the transition is to make sure you are sitting down to eat with your baby. Too often we feed the baby first, make our dinner, then feed ourselves. Sure, your dinner will get a little cold or it will feel like you are eating ungodly early, but it is important to sit down as a family and eat. Your baby will see you eating your food and their natural curiosity will draw them to your food. Not to mention the extra benefits your family gains when sitting down together.
Don't let a lack of teeth stop you from introducing chewy and rough textures. My little one has her two bottom front teeth, and that's it. And tonight she ate about 4 ounces of medium rare steak. And raw peppers, chopped a little smaller, some steamed green beans, sweet potato, and watermelon chunks. That was just dinner.
So grab a good knife and chop away. Some foods will require cooking - like beans, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and even zucchini. But you can get away with raw peppers, peas, and most fruits. I would steer clear of hard apples or most raw veg at this point. Meats and beans are fine, but cut them a bit smaller than you do the soft foods. Most importantly, don't leave your baby alone when you eat. This isn't the time to grab a shower or put in a load of laundry. Finally, here is some good advice in the unlikely but horrible event that you do encounter choking.
Hubby loves this photo of our little one. He says it reminds him of a combination of The Incredible Hulk and Shrek- if they ate maple baked beans and avocados.