Self feeding

Feeding skills develop as part of a baby’s overall development and each baby develops at their own pace with some babies needing more practice that others before mastering new feeding skills. Your baby may well have already started eating thicker textures and lumps and feeding themselves with soft ‘finger foods’ such as fingers of soft cooked vegetables, cauliflower or broccoli florets, pieces of ripe fruits, or soft crusts of bread and are ready to move on to a wider range of firmer finger foods. But don’t worry if you baby is still working on perfecting these skills, just keep offering these lumpier and soft finger foods and they will learn how best to handle them very soon.

From 9 months onwards, if your baby is getting on well with lumps and the softer finger foods, the time is probably right to start offering larger soft lumps, minced or even chopped meals and a much wider range of finger foods with a slightly firmer texture. At around 9-10 months, babies develop the ‘pincer grasp’, with the thumb and finger giving them more control over holding these foods. I suggest parents try offering some of the following at this stage if your baby seems ready:

• Fruits with the pips or stones removed e.g. halved cherries, halved grapes, and segments of citrus fruits such as clementines

• Raw vegetables: sticks of cucumber, peppers, courgette

• Strips of pitta bread with hummus or smooth nut butter • Sandwiches with soft fillings e.g. cream cheese, nut butter

• Fingers of toast, rice cakes, oatcakes • Pieces of hard-boiled egg or omelette

• Grated or small pieces of hard cheese

• Soft cooked pieces of chicken, fish or falafel

You may also notice your baby becoming excited when they see you preparing their foods, pointing to foods they like, and trying to take foods that you are eating. To help their hand-eye coordination and boost their confidence and feeling of independence, why not give your little one a go at feeding themselves using a spoon now? Provide one spoon for them and one for you!

All these new skills your baby is developing play an important part in the development of their eating habits and moving them closer to family meals. If you haven’t already done so, another useful skill is to get them used to holding and sipping drinks from a non-valved cup – they might need your help at first, but before too long they should be able to do this by themselves. You really want to aim to stop using bottles for your baby’s milk and drinks by around 12 months if possible to benefit their oral health.