As your baby develops, they’ll start to be able to do more things for themselves. For instance, once they can sit up and swallow solids, they’re able to start self-feeding, which usually happens around 6-months-old. At this point, their fine motor skills are likely to develop to the point where they can grab a piece of food in their hand. Eventually, this will develop to the point where they can grasp utensils and use them.
Some babies love any chance to be independent. Your little one may have tried feeding themselves long before they had the skills to self-feed regularly. But for some babies, getting them to eat independently can be a challenge. They may prefer the attention of being hand-fed or are simply picky when it comes to mealtime.
If you’re struggling to encourage your baby to eat independently, give these tricks a try, and you’ll likely see an improvement in no time.
Practice Makes Perfect
The main thing to remember when encouraging your baby to self-feed is that practice makes perfect. They’re not going to get the hang of it right away, and for some babies, it can take longer to learn than others.
It’s important that you offer plenty of opportunities for practice. It may make mealtimes go faster to spoon-feed your baby, but they’re not going to learn that way. Be prepared to be patient, even if feeding your baby becomes more time-consuming. Remember, they’ll get the hang of it eventually.
Stay Close To Baby
Just because your infant is learning how to independently feed doesn’t mean you can go anywhere. There are several key reasons why it’s important you stay close to your baby at meals.
Stonyfield Organic explains that There’s always a safety hazard when babies are eating – they could accidentally choke or stick something up their noses. If they’re trying new foods, they may also have an allergic reaction. Staying close allows you to intervene if necessary.
But being by your baby’s side will also give them motivation. The reason they’re hesitant to self-feed may be because they don’t want to lose their attention. Sticking close by can bring them comfort. It’s also an opportunity for you to use positive words and actions to encourage them to practice self-feeding.
Make Slippery Foods Textured
One reason your baby may be struggling to self-feed is if the food you’re offering is too hard to grab. What to Expect shares that it’s a good rule of thumb to add texture to anything that’s soft or slippery (like mango, tofu, or avocado). You can grind up some cheerios or crackers and add them on top of the food, which will make it easier for your baby to grab and feed themselves.
Choose The Right Foods
On a similar note, it’s important to put thought into the foods you’re offering your baby when helping them learn self-feeding. Certain foods are going to be easier for them to pick up than others. If you’re constantly offering them difficult foods, and they’re struggling, this will make your baby frustrated and less inclined to continue eating independently.
The best foods for independent eating include:
- Cooked pasta
On the other hand, there’s a long list of foods to avoid. Whether they’re too tough to grab, difficult to chew, or a choking hazard, avoid giving these foods to your baby:
- Hot dogs
- Hard candy
- Whole grapes
- Large chunks of food
- Raw vegetables, fruits
- Spoonful of peanut butter
Offer Baby-Friendly Utensils
Finally, once your baby is ready to move from finger foods to utensils, make sure to offer ones that are child-friendly. You want to look for spoons and forks that are lightweight and small, making it easy for your baby’s little hands to grasp it. The same goes when you’re ready to introduce them to a cup. Look for silicone grips that can make holding one easier for your child.
Consider getting a child-friendly plate and utensil set that excites your child. Maybe it will have their favorite cartoon character on it or be in a fun color. Take them to the store and allow them to pick out what they want.
Giving your little ones a chance to pick out their own utensils will make them feel more in control of the situation. This will help them get excited to use their new set at mealtime, giving them further motivation to get the hand of independently feeding.
For more information on helping babies self-feed, including what time is right to start making the transition with your baby, we encourage you to reach out to your child’s doctor. They can also provide insight into what foods to stick with and what to avoid.
Sources: Stonyfield Organic, What to Expect, Happy Family Organics,
I Fell While Pregnant – What Do I Do Next?