How to feed: Spoon and self-feeding

Summary
  • Some babies need more assistance to feed themselves than others.
  • Don’t feel locked into any particular way of feeding.
  • Feed in a way that suits you and baby.
  • All feeding should be baby led. 

Baby learning to self-feed

Some babies need more help to feed and some less. How much ASSISTANCE we provide, is guided by THEM.

  • Starting off feeding with a spoon may be right for you and baby or…

  • allowing baby to feed by themselves might be right or…

  • both feeding with a spoon and letting them feed themselves might be right for you and baby. 

Babies need to the opportunity to progress their self-feeding skills. 

Feeding baby with spoon and finger foods

Help baby by pre-loading food onto the spoon, bring it to their mouth before STOPPING. They control when or whether they take it. 

Do not dump the food into their mouth or scrape the food off the spoon onto their top lip. Baby needs to clear the spoon with their mouth by themselves. Never put food right into baby’s mouth. 

The amount of assistance baby needs with eating from the spoon will depend on them… but this assistance should only be getting the food onto the spoon and taking it to baby’s mouth. 

If your baby isn’t accepting the spoon or they are getting grumpy because you are doing it for them, get more spoons! One for you and one for them (or more if needed). If baby takes one spoon, you can pre-load the next one ready for them to pick up. 

Expect mess! Touch, smell, licking, and rubbing all over their face, body and hair is how they are learning about the food. You can clean them up at the end of the meal… let them play!

Babies feeding signs and signals to look out for:

“Yes! Please feed me!”

Baby saying yes please feed me.

  • Baby is awake, happy, and upright in a comfortable feeding chair.
  • Excited by the look and smell of the food/s in front of them, reaches out to the food or spoon.
  • Opens mouth when food is offered.
  • Leaning forward and has open body language.

STOP! I’ve had enough!!”

  • Baby is turning head and/or body away from the food.
  • Is getting restless, kicking feet and waving hands to push food away.
  • Mouth is closed when food is offered.
  • Repeatedly throws food on the ground or flicks food everywhere.
  • Hiccupping, sneezing, coughing, twitching (without medical condition or cold).
  • Is crying and distressed.

Baby saying 'Stop I've had enough' and pushing spoon.

Finger foods
Some babies aren’t ready for finger foods early on. Others are. Some parents are also anxious about choking with different textures. For more information visit Progressing food texture safety. You don’t have to be locked into just one way of feeding. All babies are different and need their own approach.

If using a baby-led weaning approach, provide finger shaped foods when beginning solids at 6 months. This is because baby can only use ‘palmer grasp’ where they use their whole hand to hold a food. A ‘pincer grip’ is using index finger and thumb. This develops around 9-10 months.

Spread peanut butter on toast, or roll slippery food like mango into shredded coconut, ground flax seeds or baby cereal.

Don’t feel locked into any particular way of feeding. Feed in way that suits both you and your baby.

What’s the go with baby led weaning?

Baby-led weaning has become popular recently and is a feeding approach where baby is provided with finger foods from the start and they self-feed from the beginning. Baby-led weaning helps baby learn to feed themselves, allows baby to eat the amount they want at the speed they want, in addition to progressing textures. 

Feeding is always baby led!

This approach is respectful of baby’s appetite and helps develop their skills, BUT… it isn’t for all babies. If we are careful and recognise our baby telling us if they want to eat or have had enough, we can feed in a way that respects baby’s appetite and fullness signals with a spoon.  Feeding is always baby led

Some ‘how to’ feeding tips

  • When feeding baby hold the spoon near the front of their mouth and let the decision to come forward and eat be theirs.
  • Don’t play games to try and get them to eat, they will eat if they need the food.
  • Don’t dump the food on the tongue.
  • Don’t scrape the food off the gums or lips.
  • Don’t follow them with the spoon when they are trying to avoid it.
  • Don’t prompt to eat or show disapproval when they don’t.
  • Read the signs that they have had enough.
  • Stop the meal when you can tell they are done eating.

baby holding a spoon out towards the camera