When does a baby start to feed himself?

Your child grows day by day, you watch how he discovers his world, and you are excited to see how your little one learns new skills, but you also feel nostalgic thinking about how quickly he develops. An essential step in his growth is feeding, so you wonder when a baby starts to feed himself.

This may be a habitual action to you, but it is one of the first steps to being independent. At this stage, you will have many questions, but remember that each child has their rhythm and a series of skills that your child will develop before eating alone.

Eating alone is an important step in your baby's development. Photo: Shutterstock
Eating alone is an important step in your baby’s development. Photo: Shutterstock

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How to know that your baby is ready for complementary feeding?

Around six months, complementary feeding begins; in addition to breastfeeding, your little one’s diet should include solid foods, as he requires other nutrients.

Dr. Ángel Robledo, a specialist in child nutrition, comments that at six months, babies acquire skills that allow them to start complementary feeding, such as:

  • Keeping his head up
  • Sitting with support
  • Showing interest in food
  • Losing the extrusion reflex (movements of the child to expel the food)

At what age can your baby eat alone?

When you start complementary feeding, you must support your little one in eating. Around nine months, a baby begins to feed himself, although he will do it with his hands. The Nemours Kids Health Foundation explains that at this age, he can take food with his little hands, as he has developed fine motor skills, which is the ability to make small fine movements. By holding food in their hands, children get to know its texture.

“A 9-month-old can grasp food (and other small objects) between his index finger and thumb in a pincer. At first, they use this finger grip a bit clumsily, but with practice, they soon learn to use it deftly and effectively”.

Although your little one will still need your help, let him eat alone as much as possible. By encouraging him to eat with his fingers, you are helping him develop healthy habits for feeding independently.

“Eating with just the hands, and later with cutlery, gives your child a certain degree of control over what he eats and how much he eats. Sometimes he will eat the food; sometimes, he won’t; this is all part of learning to self-regulate. Even a young child can tell when he is hungry and full”.

Around nine months, a baby begins to feed himself. Photo: Pxhere
Around nine months, a baby begins to feed himself. Photo: Pxhere

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How to help your baby feed himself?

Pediatrician Gracia María Martínez comments on the importance of developing healthy eating habits from an early age, so she recommends the following:

  • Sit him in his chair to eat: The child will know when it’s time to eat.
  • Give him a plate, spoon, and glass of water suitable for his size: They should be made of resistant materials in case they fall.
  • Eating together as a family: He will learn to hold the cutlery and glass, imitating the others.
  • Let him touch the food: Your little one is getting to know the textures of the food and fine-tuning his movements. Be patient because he will get dirty and throw the food. Little by little, he will have the ability to hold cutlery.

At what age do babies eat with a spoon?

The Nutrition Coordination of UNAM details that learning to use cutlery is a process maintained during the baby’s first years and is related to each child’s motor skills. Hence, the time it takes to master its use depends on each child. You can stimulate him and put these utensils near him so that he becomes familiar with them.

From the age of six months, when complementary feeding begins, you can give your baby his spoon. He will likely play games, but it will help you get to know her. Show him how to use it; little by little, he will learn to use it.

Around 10 or 12 months, even after this age, children begin to put the spoon into the plate and then into their mouths. Their movements are not yet very fine at this stage, and they will make a mess, but with time they will get there. Help your little one by guiding his hand in the right way.

Remember that each little one has her rhythm and develops differently; he can acquire new skills before or after other kids. Tell us on Facebook when your baby started feeding himself.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish version: here