When baby is 7 to 8 months old, they’re ready to start doing some eating all by themselves (with supervision, of course). Here are some things to avoid, some things to not avoid, and other tips to make this process go by a bit easier.
Self-feeding at first should supplement the foods they’re being spoon-fed. At 7-8 months baby is still learning how to use their hands, which means that when they’re trying to fist their food, they don’t get a lot inside their mouths.
As they get older (think: 9 to 12 months), they have more motor control and this expands all the foods they can eat and the amount of food they can eat without being fed.
Make sure baby is always sitting down when eating. Not only does this help them associate their high chair or bumbo with eating, but it also helps to avoid choking or other problems.
The best foods to start with are ones that can be gummed before swallowing or dissolve in baby’s mouth. Some of the best foods are the ones that went well when they were pureed--just make sure that the fruits are soft and the veggies are steamed and easy to eat. ALWAYS cut foods into smaller pieces to avoid choking. (Note: gagging is different than choking, and is scary but okay--it helps baby learn how to chew and swallow). Small pieces of any of the following are GREAT and allow baby to get all the nutrients he/she needs: Cheese, cheerios, fish, cooked pasta, meatballs, tofu.
Positively avoid anything that can get stuck in baby’s windpipe or that is hard to chew. Things like popcorn, carrots, hard fruits, pitted cherries, grapes, hot dogs, honey (which can sometimes have spores that are harmful to a developing immune system), and cow’s milk (at least until baby is one year old).
Even though there has been a taboo against trying allergenic foods at an early age, studies now show that exposing baby to allergens safely (usually through eating them) can prevent the development of an allergy. 4 to 11 months is a safe time to introduce foods like soy, peanut butter, eggs, soy, wheat, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and strawberries. Consult with your child’s physician before introducing any of these foods--especially if your family has a history of certain allergies.
Make sure to keep an eye (or two) on baby whenever they’re eating. It’s so so important to help you recognize how they learn, how to help them, and to be right there in case a problem pops up. It’s time-consuming at first, but you (and baby) will be pros in no time.