Baby is growing more and more independent every day, and now that they are starting to eat foods across the solid spectrum, they may be growing more and more interested in the way you and the rest of their non-infant family members eat. There’s still a pretty huge gap between the way the grown-ups eat and the way Baby has been eating, but their interest is a good sign that they are ready to start bridging that gap.
Most babies start being able to feed themselves finger foods around the time they start being able to lift small objects with their fingers, which can happen any time between 6 and 10 months. Baby will probably grow into the dexterity to use a spoon when they are around a year old (though that’ll go more smoothly if they get the chance to practice for a while first), and a fork not long after that, though they may still be a bit of a messy eater for a while.
First finger foods
The important thing about early finger foods is that they’re small enough for Baby’s fingers and small enough not to be a choking hazard, and easy enough to mash up with their still-mostly-bare gums. At this point, Baby may still be getting the majority of their nutrients from formula or breast milk, and so the most important part of the process is the practice Baby is getting with eating.
Cereals that dissolve easily, soft, well-cooked vegetables like carrots or celery, and soft meats cut up into pea-sized pieces can be good places to start. Raw vegetables, cherry tomatoes and hot dogs, on the other hand, can be choking hazards, even when they’re cut up.
At first, when Baby is using their hands to rake through food, or when they are just starting to get a feel for the pincer-like grabbing motion that comes next in their development, eating this way can take a long time, possibly longer than you have. Baby feeding themself isn’t a process that needs to happen all at once, though. If it’s taking Baby a while to pick up speed with eating finger food, you can let them practice at the beginning or end of the meal, then take over feeding them.
Baby will be ready to start using a spoon around one, but they will probably start showing an interest in spoons even sooner. If you let them hold a baby spoon on their own while you feed them, they will be able to start to get familiar with the spoon, and how to hold it. Just like when Baby was just starting to eat finger food, letting them practice a little near the beginning or end of the meal can give them a big head-start in learning to eat with one.
When Baby is just starting to eat with a spoon, thicker substances, like yogurt, can be easier for them to handle, since thin liquids slip off the spoon so easily.