With Thanksgiving coming up, it’s understandable you’d want your newest family member to enjoy the festivities. But babies eating turkey can be a scary thought. (I mean, it's no longer a bowl of mush, you know?) Last year, I was so excited to share the holiday with my son and have him be part of the family gathering, but I was also curious about when it was actually OK for him to indulge in a bite or two of Thanksgiving turkey.
“This question depends on if your child can eat solids pretty well,” Dr. Daniel S. Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper in an email interview. “For example, if they are good eaters of other solid foods, then they can start eating turkey usually between the ages of 7 to 9 months, but even then, the turkey has to be given in small strands and small pieces so that a child can put it in their mouth and eat it easily.”
Aside from the main attraction, you may be wondering when your baby can dig into Thanksgiving favorites like stuffing, green bean casserole, and other traditional side dishes. Dr. Gina Posner, a board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center, tells Romper that when it comes to these foods, parents should also start small.
“I would wait until 9 months to start introducing those things,” Posner says. “Even then, I would give a minimal amount since they are usually filled with a lot of salts, sugars, and other non-nutrient rich foods/spices.” I suppose that includes pie, too, but moderation is key. Ganjian adds that whatever food you decide to give to your baby, it should be small and soft — steamed, for example.
The age requirement for when babies who are doing baby-led weaning (BLW) can start eating turkey is similar — give or take a month. “Most people start [BLW] around 6 months and give little pieces of fruits and cooked vegetables,” Posner says. “They typically skip the purees and the cereals.” However, there’s more to BLW than just skipping purees, so it's not something you want to just jump into. With that in mind, you probably don't want to start BLW at the Thanksgiving table.
“Of course, before beginning baby-led weaning, please make sure you read up on it to know what foods to offer and how to avoid feeding your baby choking foods," Ganjian says. "For example, food should only be a certain shape, texture, etc.” Turkey should definitely be included in your research, and running your plans by your pediatrician is always a good idea. The key is to make sure your baby's already a pretty good eater before giving them the good stuff on Thanksgiving.
In order to minimize the risk of choking during BLW, Healthline reported that you should make sure your baby is sitting up at a 90-degree angle, facing you. Also, it is imperative to never leave your baby alone while eating. Another helpful recommendation is to allow your baby to control the amount of food that goes into their mouth by letting them feed themselves and control their eating pace. Make sure the foods you serve can be smashed between your fingers, avoid foods that break up into pieces or crumbs, and make sure the food is easy for them to pick up. These are great tips to remember if Grandma gets a little grabby and forceful with the turkey on Thanksgiving.
Your baby can definitely partake in the turkey part of your Thanksgiving festivities if they've reached the appropriate age. Just be mindful of the pieces you give them and how they eat it. (Again, don't let Aunt Betty force a drumstick into your child's mouth.) There's absolutely no shame in serving pureed food at the table either. Do what feels right for you and your family. If all else fails, mashed potatoes are always a win.
Dr. Daniel S. Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California
Dr. Gina Posner, a board certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California
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