Is bigger better when it comes to chicken for babies? The short answer: it depends on your baby’s age, eating ability, and your comfort level.
Meat and poultry are common choking hazards, and ones that should be taken seriously. I personally find chicken hard to chew and just the other night, a piece I had swallowed was moving too slowly down my esophagus and it was painful. And I have MOLARS.
When it comes to meat for babies with baby-led weaning, there’s a slightly terrifiying period of time—typically between 9 and 12 months—when your baby is able to tear pieces of meat off with their bunny teeth but unable to chew it adequately. (If your baby was spoon-fed, this somewhat scary period of time might start later or last longer.)
This is why I like to do shredded chicken between 9 and 12 months. While the expert feeding therapists on our team tend to push back on the shredding or grating of food (or serving it in a way that wouldn’t normally be served), I find many parents just can’t stomach the stress of it—and that counts too. If you are stressed at the table, your baby is going to feel that.
So I came up with this visual for how I offered chicken to Adie+Max and having repeated this now with many other babies at various ages, I feel comfortable sharing it as a reference. But NONE of it matters if you are terrified. Trust your gut. You know your baby better than anyone else.
So with that, chicken preparation by age:
6 to 9 months old: Offer a whole drumstick with the skin and loose or bone cartilage removed. You may also offer rectangular pieces cut to the size of an adult finger. As your baby gets better at picking up smaller pieces of food, you can move down in size, to matchsticks the size of an adult pinky finger. If any large pieces get torn off, stay calm, and give your baby the chance to work the food forward on their own. You can coach your babe to spit out too-big pieces of food by sticking your own tongue out.
9 to 18 months old: This is a good time to move down in size. Try serving shredded chicken and as you become comfortable with it, bite-size pieces.
18 to 24 months: Serve small bite size pieces. If your baby has established good tearing, chewing, and swallowing skills, and if you feel comfortable, try moving back UP to a drumstick, skin removed.