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How I Encouraged my Baby to Start Self-Feeding


June 12, 2018 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Food & Recipes


Baby self-feeding - Baby & Beyond

Whenever I am out with my baby, one of the first things people notice is how he eats his meals almost by himself – whether it is roti and a vegetables, a bowl of soup or a plate of noodles. I am often told that I am “blessed” to have an independent baby, but the honest answer is that it took a lot of hard work, patience and support to encourage baby self-feeding. And by 14 months or so, he was able to eat an entire meal – all by himself! 

 

Here are some tips on how I encouraged my baby to start self-feeding. 

P.S. I did not follow baby led weaning because honestly I found it a little overwhelming. The tips I have mentioned below can all be used with traditional weaning as well.

 

To know about my experience with traditional baby weaning process and
how I transitioned my baby to family food by 9 months, 
read here: Introducing Solids – Part 1: How We Transitioned Baby to Family Food by 9 Months

 

Baby self-feeding - Baby & Beyond

How I Encouraged my Baby to Start Self-Feeding – Baby & Beyond

 

1. Follow your baby’s lead

Usually around 8-10 months or so, your baby will begin to show signs that he is ready to start self-feeding. Some babies start even at 6 months and some much later, so don’t fret. In fact mine started almost towards the end of the 10th month. He used to try to pick up the food or try to grasp a spoon. Don’t worry if your baby is not showing any of these signs yet, just follow the child’s cues and you should be fine.

 

2. Encourage self-feeding

Once I thought Baby N was ready, I encouraged him with these following steps:

  • Try holding a bite of food in front of him and letting him take it from your hand. Initially you may have to guide his hand to his mouth.
  • Placing a few pieces of food in front of him and letting him try to pick them up himself. I used to keep 2 plates of food ready, one with a few pieces for Baby N to play around with and one with which I used to feed him – so mommies, be prepared!
  • Loading the spoon and offering it to him to try holding it himself. Again you have to guide it to his mouth the first few times. Similarly you can use a child-friendly fork with a bite of food and offer it to him.
  • Once your child’s becomes comfortable with the above steps, he may himself started scooping up food onto his spoon. Some babies still have trouble piercing with the fork, so keep showing him how to do it.

 

3. Set the right environment for a meal

Right from the beginning, we made sure he sat at the table for every meal, either with a booster or high chair. We avoided too many distractions such as toys, books and videos at mealtimes. This is important so that the baby can focus, develop an interest in food and want to eat himself, rather than just eat as a ritual to satisfy hunger.

 

Also read: Introducing Solids – Part 2: Creating a Healthy & Pleasant Mealtime Environment

 

4. Choose the right weaning foods

I used to offer soft semi-solid foods in bite sized portions. It should be easy for the baby to pick up and soft enough to chew. Bite sized portions of fruits (banana, papaya, stewed apple etc.),  steamed vegetables (carrot, broccoli, beetroot etc.), parathas, dosas, idlis etc. are perfect baby finger food for this.

 

Also read: How I Got My Kid Interested in Eating Healthy Food

 

5. Provide the tools and let them practice

Even before Baby N started trying to eat, I used to allow him to hold a spoon and play with it or jab at the food. Learning to grasp the spoon and bring it to their mouth will hone their hand-eye-coordination and fine motor skills.

You can use a baby feeding spoon for this. I used Munchkin soft-tip baby spoons because they are heat-resistant and soft (trust me, a teething baby is going to be gnawing on those spoons so you want one that is gentle on the gums!)

Munchkin Soft Tip Infant Spoons

Munchkin Soft Tip Infant Spoons

 

6. Family mealtimes

As far as possible, we had Baby N join in on family mealtimes. This has 2 advantages. Firstly babies show an interest in eating what everyone else is eating, so it makes the transition from baby-food to family-food faster and easier. Secondly they learn by observing and imitating us. I never taught Baby N how to scoop food with a spoon or to pick a piece of chapati and dip it in the gravy. He has understood by observing us that this is what is to be done and he has learnt himself by practicing over and over again.

 

7. Embrace the Mess

Messy baby, clothes, table, floor… I embraced it all! Playing with food and making a mess is all part of the learning process. I allow Baby N to pick at his food with his hands and cutlery. Here are a few reasons why:

 

Embrace the mess!

 

  • Learning to pick up food with hand is a form of sensory play – Babies learn to distinguish textures and temperatures – hot, cold, runny, crumbly, sticky, slimy, creamy.
  • It encourages hand eye coordination and develops fine motor skills – Lets face it. Your baby is going to explore this skill anyway by picking up objects off the floor and bringing it to his mouth. Wouldn’t you rather let him explore with food?
  • It gives them independence and confidence– When he will put a morsel of food in his mouth, won’t you praise him? This praise and encouragement helps to build child confidence.

You do get anti-spill bowls for babies as well which will help reduce the mess considerably, though personally I did not use them.  As you can see from the pictures, I preferred to use basic steel bowls so that my baby understands how to correctly hold a bowl and avoid spills himself.

MoANaRetail Anti Spill Bowl

MoANaRetail Anti Spill Bowl

You can use a splash mat or any old plastic sheet under the baby feeding chair to make it easier to clean the mess.

Bumkins Waterproof Splat Mat

Bumkins Waterproof Splat Mat

Also I swear by these waterproof apron-style bibs from Superbottoms. My son hates wearing bibs but he doesn’t mind these are they are great for protecting his clothes and catching the spills.

Superbottoms Wetproof Apron Bibs

Superbottoms Wetproof Apron Bibs

 

 

8. Encourage and Praise

Even something small like being able to bring a bite of food to the mouth is a huge deal for babies. Make sure you encourage and praise them. And however hard it may be, avoid showing your frustration when he dropped food all over himself or the floor. Negative comments may discourage the child from trying altogether.

 

To sum it up, we provided a safe, healthy, easy and positive mealtime environment and let Baby N develop the right skills himself. As I said, this took a lot of patience, but in the end imagine the relief I feel when I can eat my own meal uninterrupted without having to feed him after every bite!

 


 

slimexpectations
This post is a part of Blog Birthday celebrations contest hosted by Zainab and Geethica.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

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Comments
  1. Alpana Deo said on June 13, 2018 9:10 am:

    Wonderful tips. Following baby’s signs is very important as every child is different so are their milestones. Encouraging them and having patience goes a long way..

  2. Vartika said on June 13, 2018 10:37 pm:

    Feeding is indeed the biggest challenge of parenting, your tips are very useful for the new parents.

  3. Aesha Shah said on June 18, 2018 12:11 pm:

    Two most important tips in this article are the importance of family mealtime and not bothering about the mess that kids make while eating independently. Great tips Mahak.

    1. Baby & Beyond said on June 18, 2018 12:16 pm:

      Thanks Aesha

  4. Nehal said on June 20, 2018 12:35 am:

    Those are so wonderful and helpful tips for all..Keep sharing more!! Thank you

  5. Geethica Mehra said on July 4, 2018 9:07 pm:

    Preparing a child to self-feed is so useful in a mom’s life. I know its difficult to enjoy the mess they create but they learn fast and enjoy.
    Thank you for linking up with us.