Practicing self-feeding

Photo
  • Your Crawler is developing new eating skills and is learning to pick up food and to mash food with his jaw.
  • Watching you eat with a spoon helps him know what to do.
  • Foods should be soft and mashable.
  • Choose finger foods that are nutritionally and developmentally appropriate for your older baby.

At the Crawler stage, you may notice your baby is starting to use his jaw to mash food or beginning to feed himself using a pincer grip. This pincer grip will allow him to begin using a spoon, and even making it into his mouth on occasion. It’s a messy process—and more food may end up on his face, the floor or high chair than in his mouth—but that’s okay. He learns by doing it himself.

Signs your baby is ready to go at it alone
  • Holds a cup with a lid on his own.
  • Mashes food with his jaw.
  • Plays with a spoon and brings it to his mouth, but can’t quite feed himself.

Top Tip

Use two spoons when teaching your baby how to feed himself—one for each of you so he can follow your lead.

Learning to chew
The foods at this stage need to be soft and easily mashed. A thickly mashed baby food lets him practice moving the baby food puree in an up-and-down, forward-and-back motion in his mouth to prepare for swallowing. A thick mash also teaches your Crawler how to use his lips to wipe food from a spoon.

Offer him a thick baby food with little pieces of soft-cooked vegetables mixed in. The baby food doesn’t separate from the pieces, and moves as a whole in your baby’s mouth. This lets your baby try more advanced textures without having to manage too many bits of food in his mouth at one time.

Learning to pick up
Grain-based finger foods that melt in your baby’s mouth are appropriate snacks for your Crawler and help in developing eating skills. Snacks are important, and most young children do best when fed 4 to 6 times per day—including meal and snack times—because of their small tummies. Finger food snacks are a great way to introduce your older baby to healthy independent eating. Choose finger foods that are nutritionally and developmentally appropriate for your older baby.  

Top Tip

Use spoons with big, soft-textured handles that are easy to grip—never disposable plastic that can break.

Your little one is becoming more independent by the day now. Allow your baby to pick up or touch his food. Letting him play with his food helps him explore it with his other senses. And remember: It’s your job to provide healthy foods for your baby in a nurturing environment. But it’s your child’s job to decide whether and how much to eat. Never force your baby to eat a certain food or finish the amount you’ve dished out. Instead, pay attention to his hunger and fullness cues.

The world as seen through his mouth

Your baby’s tongue is getting a work-out, moving side-to-side to push food onto his gums for mashing. Many varieties of baby food made for the Crawler stage have lumpy bits in it or have a thick texture, so he can feel it in his mouth, but doesn’t need to chew it too much. Though he’s getting better at mashing and controlling food, it’s still too early for him to have anything sticky, small or round like such as nuts, cherry tomatoes, grapes, or raisins.
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