As a new parent, you are excited for your baby to try solid foods. You are thrilled to prepare baby meals and spend the time feeding your little one. Feeding a baby needs a lot of patience. It can be a tough job as it may take time for them to finish a meal, and sometimes (okay, a lot of times) they're hard to feed. As your baby grows, you may be wondering, when can your baby eat on his own or how do you get him to eat by himself? The idea may seem frustrating, but we are here to help you and your baby accomplish the skill.
Eating with fingers
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you can introduce solid foods to babies when they turn 6 months. At this age, eating is new to them so you will have to assist in feeding. They will start to grasp their food by 6-7 months especially if they are curious about it. This is the best time to teach them they can eat foods using their fingers. At first, babies will use their multiple fingers to grasp food, but in time, they will be able to develop their pincer grasp.
A pincer grasp is one of the significant milestones in your child's development. It allows having accurate control of the index finger and the thumb to pick something up. To help your baby develop this milestone, you can give them finger foods like puffs, cheese curls, or pea crisps. Make sure the food that you will serve is cut down to tiny pieces to avoid choking hazards. Allow them to eat with their fingers. It can be messy but it is a good training ground. Encourage them to try and try until they master it. To motivate them, you can cut their food into cute shapes. By their 8th month, most babies have already developed their pincer grasps.
Self-feeding with a spoon
Using a baby spoon at the early stages of feeding will allow your baby to be familiar and associate it with eating. Choose a spoon that has the right size. Consider its handle and if it's appropriate for your baby. Choose silicone and not metal as it can hurt your baby's gums. Let your baby hold the spoon and see if he will put it in his mouth. If he does, tell him he's doing a good job. You can also put your hand on top of your baby's hand, and do it together until he gets used to it. It develops their fine motor skills and helps them know more about food. Don't worry about things getting messy, it is normal. It is all part of the process.
We know you may be concerned about them tossing their bowl or throwing their food. You can use suction bottom plates or bowls so it will stay on place. With regards to throwing food, give them a little food at a time. If they did a good job and finished it, then put more on their plate. If not, remind them on how they should use their spoon for eating. You can teach them again by placing your hand on top of theirs. Demonstrate how to hold the spoon, scoop the food, and eat it. It can be a challenge but your baby learning these milestones is all worth it.
How about the fork?
If your baby can work with a spoon, he's ready to try the fork. Choose a fork that is safe for babies to use. Demonstrate how it is used or you can do the hand-over-hand training. Give foods that are easy to pierce like a cube of cheese or a chicken nugget. Do not serve them a fruit or a veggie that is hard to pierce as it can disappoint them. We don't want them to be upset while eating. We want to motivate them using utensils so we advise you to sit with them one on one and assist them if needed.
You are your baby's role model. They can learn more about eating during family meals. Encourage them to eat on their own and let them practice. Let them explore ways on how to get the food in their mouths and do not mind the mess. Invest in good utensils like spoons, plates, bowls, forks, and bibs that are safe for your little one. Have a lot of patience, momma. Stay calm on those days that your baby is uncooperative and hard to feed. Expect that mealtimes may take longer. Do not rush your baby as this is an important part of their development. Be consistent and be there for your little one. Before you know it, without any help, they will be able to eat and do things on their own.