For regular Freddie’s Food readers you’ll know that Freddie wasn’t keen on being fed so I ended up letting him feed himself for most of his meals from about 7 months old. In contrast Lottie is still happy to be spoon fed but definitely enjoys feeding herself. I’m very pro letting your baby feed themselves alongside spoon feeding. Letting babies feed themselves has so many benefits:
- They are able to control how much they eat and stop eating when they are full so you don’t have to try and encourage “one more mouthful”.
- It gives babies the opportunity to ‘explore’ (yes its messy!) new foods by feeling and looking at them before eating them and I’ve found with my own children and friends’ children who have been allowed to feed themselves that this seems to lead to much more adventurous eaters.
- It is great for their hand eye co-ordination and pincer grip development.
- It encourages your baby to eat a variety of textures and makes them less likely to refuse ‘lumpy’ foods.
- Letting your baby feed themself seems to equal stress free, happy meals for both the parents and baby.
- Your baby is part of family mealtimes – Lottie is now 11 months and I’d say that for the past 4 months she has pretty much eaten what Freddie has which makes my life so much easier!
Feeding themselves doesn’t have to just be with their fingers. From around 8 months you can load a spoon for you baby to aim into their mouth. If Lottie is eating something that works best on a spoon, like Weetbix, I just get two spoons one for her and one for me and do a mixture of her feeding herself and me feeding her. She really enjoys it, but watch out as a loaded spoon waved around can make a real mess. I wouldn’t recommend feeding your baby like that in your work clothes!
Once they have mastered getting the spoon into their mouth then you can let them use a baby fork too. Baby forks are great for pieces of pasta, chunks of meat and veggies.
The main downside to letting your baby feed themself is that it’s messy! My husband finds the mess really frustrating and you might do too. To try and make it more manageable I would recommend investing in pelican bibs and possibly a splash mat under the highchair. Although I found that cleaning the splash mat is just as time consuming as washing the floor. The advantage is that you can pick up the food that drops on it and give it back to your baby knowing it is clean.
I think there is possibly more waste, although it is hard to know as with purees there is wasted food too when meals aren’t finished and leftovers have to be thrown away. You might also find it harder to tell exactly how much your baby is eating when they are feeding themselves which some parents find stressful.
Some parents worry about their baby choking when they give them whole foods rather than mashed up foods. The gag reflex helps prevent this and because the baby is in charge of handling and moving the food in their mouth the risk of choking is reduced. It is really important to never leave a baby eating on their own and I would definitely recommend attending a first aid course where you will learn what to do if your baby ever does choke.
If you have found these hints and tips on weaning helpful you might like to check out my other weaning posts that I’ve written in recent weeks.