As your baby advances in age and growth, he’ll reach milestones of development. One key milestone for a baby is learning how to pick up food by herself. These skills develop gradually throughout the first year as your baby matures and perfects the use of her tiny hands and fingers.
Around 6 months of age, your baby will give you some clues that he’s ready for more than pureed squash and peas. He might start trying to swipe the baby spoon out of your hand as you try to spoon-feed him. He might also begin grabbing for your own food if you’re holding him while eating something. These behaviors tell you that he’s ready to start working on getting food to his own mouth.
First Finger-food Feeding
Once your baby is ready to begin building self-feeding skills, it’s time to set him up with some baby-friendly foods on a highchair tray. Try small chunks of banana, cooked peas, soft carrot pieces or pieces of diced pasta. With the food on his highchair tray, you will probably see him make his first attempts to feed himself. Beware: This won’t be a neat process. A baby’s ability to pick up food at first involves raking the food up with his entire hand and putting it into his mouth. Your baby’s fingers aren’t adept enough to pick up pieces of food yet, but that’s coming.
Between 8 to 12 months of age, babies progress to using the pincer grasp to pick up small objects. The pincer grasp involves using the thumb and index finger to precisely pick up items. Once your baby masters the pincer grasp, you should notice him carefully picking up each piece of food on his highchair tray and moving the pieces adeptly into his mouth. Be careful – while the pincer grasp works well for food, it also works well for virtually any small object. You will need to exercise diligence to keep the floors clear of any small objects that your child can pick up and put in his mouth.
Eventually, your child will be ready to move on to feeding himself with utensils. WebMD.com advises that babies generally reach this milestone around the first birthday. You might try filling a spoon for your baby and then giving it to him to get to his mouth. There’s no harm in giving your baby a short-handled baby spoon to “practice” this skill in the months leading up to his first birthday. By watching how you handle a spoon and learning self-feeding skills, he’ll eventually be able to maneuver food from a bowl to his mouth using a spoon. Don’t count on this being a neat process, though.