Is Your Baby's First Finger Food Really Safe?

A recent study of products designed to be a baby's "first finger foods" found many were choking hazards.
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Chew on this: In a recent study of products designed to be baby's "first finger foods," only two met the safety guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics—and a few were even flagged as possible choking hazards!

According to the AAP, babies are ready for finger foods when they can sit up without support and bring their hands or an object to their mouth. Their first foods should be soft, easy to swallow, and cut into small pieces.

Researchers blind-tested nine products labeled for "crawlers"—melts, cooked produce, puffed grains, biscuits, and cereals—and found that many were potential choking hazards, especially if not eaten within an hour. In fact, the only foods that passed all the criteria were Gerber Graduates Fruit and Veggie Pick-ups, though the reasearchers gave Cheerios and Gerber Graduates Puffs high marks for dissolving quickly.

The worst performing food? Gerber Yogurt Melts—which the researchers found absorb humidity when not eaten right away and therefore become "marshmallowy"—and Gerber Graduates Wagon Wheels, a puffed grain product they found potentially dangerous because it's big and scratchy.

My kids loved those!

"I am not saying these are not good products, and fresh out of the box they are delicious," study co-author Dr. Ruth Milanaik told Today."But we need to be more responsible and in real life, babies don't eat them fresh out of the bag. To be honest, the best bang for the buck is Cheerios."

Time to stock up on those little whole-grain O's!

Of course, the study is a small one, but the results are no joke when you consider that, according to the CDC, choking is the leading cause of injury and death among children, especially those younger than 4. The authors said more research is needed to categorize first finger foods according to a child's stage of oral-motor development.

In the meantime, they've notified all the companies of their findings—though Gerber did not respond, they have since changed the label on its Yogurt Melts from "crawler" to "toddler"—and Milanaik is encouraging parents and pediatricians to try all the products for themselves.

"There is nothing wrong with trying a piece of baby food before the child does," she said.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.

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