Self-feeding is a milestone that typically happens when babies turn a year old. It is part of their “I want to do it myself” phase. This is something that you can easily see during mealtimes. We get a lot of parenting advice & tips to encourage self-feeding. Even if your baby can’t say he wants to start feeding himself, you will notice that he will keep reaching for the spoon, bowl, plate and any food he sees more frequently.
Self-feeding is an important skill for babies to develop and master. It helps them build their fine motor skills and other personal and social skills, including their independence.
Supporting Your Baby’s Self-feeding Efforts
At six months, most babies are ready for solid food. An expert-approved strategy is to start introducing your child to nutrient-rich solids while continuing to give him the best infant milk fortified with extra calcium and prebiotics. Once your baby turns one, you can then start teaching and encouraging your child to self-feed through the following ways:
Start with finger foods
In addition, to spoon-feeding your baby, give your child a variety of finger foods. This will help him become more interested in feeding himself.
Prepare soft, bite-sized pieces of food that are easy for your baby to pick up and mash between his gums or teeth. Put a few pieces of these finger foods in a bowl that your baby can easily reach. If it’s your first time to introduce finger foods to your child, begin by putting a small piece of soft fruit or soft, cooked vegetable like potato or pumpkin in his hands.
2.Teach your baby how to hold a spoon
Most babies won’t get the hang of using a spoon until they are between 18 and 24 months. However, there is nothing wrong with letting your child use a spoon at an earlier age. Your baby will let you know when he wants to start using utensils by constantly reaching for the spoon.
Giving your child his own spoon will enable him to associate the spoon with eating. Whenever he uses this utensil, he’ll also get to work a little on fine motor skills. Once your child starts putting the spoon in his mouth recurrently, encourage this by putting your hand on top of his and dip it together in the food. Put just enough on the spoon for your baby to taste it.
Do this a few times throughout the meal until he begins to get the hang of doing this himself.
To help your child feel more comfortable using a spoon, and to make sure he eats something while he’s still learning and experimenting, let him hold a different spoon while feeding him.
3.Start giving your baby thicker foods when teaching him how to use a spoon
Thicker foods such as yogurt, pudding, and mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots are easier to scoop and keep on the spoon. As such, give your baby more of these foods when teaching him how to use a spoon. Your child may find scooping thinner textures or foods frustrating.
4.Give your baby the right utensils to use
Aside from giving your child baby-friendly spoons and forks, get a suction bowl for daily use. This type of bowl has a suction underneath it, which means the bowl will stick to the surface in front of your baby and won’t slip or fall easily to the floor.
A suction bowl will help you avoid a lot of messes and spills, both on the table and floor. You also won’t have to worry about you or your baby breaking a lot of bowls because they keep accidentally falling to the floor.
5.Start teaching your baby how to use a fork as well
Most babies are capable of using a fork at around 18 to 24 months. However, you can teach your baby to use this utensil earlier if he has already mastered using the spoon and has a nice pincer grasp for self-feeding.
When teaching your baby to use a fork, place a safe toddler fork on their plate or high chair tray. Give him a plate with easy-to-pierce foods like cubes of cheese, sliced chicken nuggets or fresh bananas that are not too ripe. If your baby is having difficulties getting the food onto the fork, guide his hand until he gets the idea. Give your baby as little help as possible as you move along.
6.Introduce the sippy cup
Another key component of self-feeding is learning how to use the sippy cup. You can start teaching your baby to use the sippy cup once he turns six months old.
To have an easier time teaching your baby to use the sippy cup, follow these tips:
- Give him a small plastic, non-breakable cup that is easy to grip and hold.
- During the first attempts, guide your baby in using the cup.
- Put water in the cup since this is easier to hold and you won’t have to worry too much about stains.
- Give your baby a half-filled cup to reduce spills.
7.Expect a lot of mess and always clean up quickly
Introducing solid foods to your baby will be messy; teaching him to feed himself will be even messier. There really is no way to avoid all the mess, but you can have an easier and less stressful time dealing with this if you clean up quickly after mealtimes.
Cleaning spills on the floor and table immediately will help you avoid dried-up and stuck foods which are harder to remove and clean from surfaces.
Bonus Tips for Parents of Babies Learning to Self-Feed
When you start teaching your baby to feed himself, arm yourself with patience and creativity, and learn to enjoy the journey. Avoid feeling stressed out during mealtimes since babies can sense stress, and this will affect their ability to feed themselves successfully.
Lastly, be a good role model and enlist your older kids and other adults in your home to do the same. Include your baby during family mealtimes and let him observe the proper use of utensils and cups or glasses. Show him how everyone loves eating as well. Babies always look up to their parents and older kids and, as such, will imitate everyone’s eating habits and follow them.
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