Plenty of babies take the decision about when to start self-feeding into their own tiny hands by grabbing the spoon straight from the hands of a parent or caregiver (or the food straight off of the spoon), but others don’t seem to have any interest in feeding themselves when they can get their parents, other family members, or caregivers to do it for them. Others will self-feed happily right up until the day when they go on a mysterious strike and expect to be fed by a caregiver again. In themselves, none of these three situations are reasons to worry, but in a few cases, at a certain point, refusal to self-feed can be a sign of a medical problem or developmental delay.
If a baby who has been a strong self-feeder in the past has decided he wants to go back in time to the days when you were feeding him, there’s a good chance that he is just a little nervous about how fast he is growing up, and is hoping for a way to stay a baby a little while longer. Growing up is scary, and there’s nothing wrong with indulging Baby a little, especially once you already know that they can feed themselves.
If Baby is just having a hard time making the initial transition from being fed to self-feeding, there’s no need to rush him unless the doctor is concerned, or you feel he isn’t getting enough to eat. You can encourage Baby to start feeding themselves by making sure that if you’re feeding him finger foods, there are in pieces that are the right size for him to grasp, as well as to eat without choking.
In some cases, just giving your child the space to explore his meals at his own pace will mean that he may start to investigate the food he previously refused all on his own.
If you’re spoon-feeding Baby, let him hold his own spoon while you do, so he can start to make the connection between the spoon and his yummy dinner, and work on his coordination at the same time. If Baby is still working out the ins and outs of eating, and he is used to seeing you feed him, he may also go through a phase that involves trying to feed you, your partner, or the dog or cat, more than trying to feed themselves. This phase can be cute but also a little frustrating, so spending some time eating around Baby so he has a model for self-feeding can also help.
If Baby won’t accept solids at all, is not gaining weight at the expected rate, or seems to have trouble or pain while chewing, your pediatrician may want to take a closer look at him to make sure nothing more serious is wrong. For the most part, though, delays in self-feeding come down to the fact that babies go through an immense number of serious changes during their first few years of life, and different rates of development and interest are just to be expected.