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Becoming an independent eater

Now that your 10-12-month-old is really getting the hang of feeding themself, keep offering them a wide variety of foods and textures to establish good, healthy eating habits.  

4 mins to read Dec 29, 2021

At this age, it’s likely that your baby will be able to grasp and pick up small pieces of food. This finger-feeding stage is messy and fun! It is also a crucial part of developing his motor skills and increasing their confidence and independence. Eating food with your fingers seems easy to us as adults, but for a baby there are a lot of steps they will need to learn and practice. You may notice they are now reaching these stages: 

 

Now… your baby is picking up small pieces of food. 

Because… their ability to grip and to control their fingers is becoming more assured. 

Help him by… providing appropriately sized and textured pieces of soft foods for them to practice picking up. 

 

Now… your baby is lifting food to their mouth. 

Because… your baby has enough hand-eye coordination to bring their hand to their mouth. 

Help him by… showing them how you put food in your mouth. Be a role model for your baby: take a bite of food from your plate, and then encourage them to copy you by taking a bite of food from theirs. 

 

Now… your baby is able to release food from their hands into their mouth. 

Because… they are  beginning to better understand how to feed themself. 

Help him by… offering small amounts of finger foods at a time. Wait until they chew and swallows what you have offered before giving them more.  

 

Now… they are able to fit appropriate-sized bites into their small mouth. 

Because… they are learning what fits into their mouth. 

Help him by… offering bite-sized pieces of soft-cooked vegetables, such as carrots, or soft fruits, such as ripe banana pieces. Choose developmentally appropriate textures and foods that are easy to pick up, like well-cooked pasta pieces. Continue to avoid any large chunks of food, and watch out for those that may present a choking risk, such as whole grapes, hard chunks of uncooked vegetables, cherry tomatoes, apple chunks or slices, hot dogs, sausages, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter, whole nuts, seeds, raisins, and candies.

 

Tips for successful eating  

All your baby’s senses are in gear to respond to the new textures, flavours, and smells that are coming their way every day. As they get older, your baby will become more vocal in letting you know what they want. They’re deciding how much they’ll eat while you decide what healthy foods to offer. Here are some pointers for ensuring mealtimes are pleasant and relaxed. 

  • Sit down and eat with your baby at the table, and make their mealtime your family’s mealtime. Children should be seated and supervised when eating.
  • As your baby is still learning to manage more textures of foods, offer soft foods in small, diced pieces.
  • 10-12-month-old babies still have small tummies, so it’s best to offer three meals and two snacks a day.
  • Early on, your baby may begin improving their abilities to drink from a cup and handle a spoon. As they develop, they may be able to spoon-feed themself with a bit of help.
  • Keep offering a variety of foods to your baby. Eating a banana a day may be good, but eating a variety of fruits, like peaches, plums, cherries, and raspberries throughout the week is more fun! If your baby doesn’t seem keen on a certain fruit or vegetable, try offering it on another day. It may take as many as eight tries for babies to accept some new foods. As always, offer only one new food to your baby at a time so you can identify if they have any intolerances.

 

The birthday cake question 

Your baby’s first birthday is fast approaching, something all the family is sure to be looking forward to. What a milestone, you’ve been parents for a year! Time goes so quickly. You may be planning a party for them and also be invited to other babies’ birthday parties or family gatherings. So now is a good time to consider the approach you will take to the sweets or cakes that are often served at these occasions. 

Special occasion foods 

Research in older children shows that the more parents strongly restrict what their children can eat (such as saying certain foods are never allowed), the more likely it is that their children will overindulge in the restricted foods when given the chance. Although experts recommend choosing foods with little or no added sugar or salt, you may decide to make exceptions for some special occasions.     

 

Many cultures associate certain foods with special occasions or holidays. It’s important to teach your baby about these foods that are offered at these festive events. By exposing your one-year-old baby to these types of foods in the context of celebrating, you let him know that food is part of your culture. Practice your responsive parenting feeding style by not pressuring them to eat special occasion foods. At the same time try to be relaxed about them having a taste.

 

By letting them know, for instance, that birthday cake only appears when there is a birthday,  

the message they receive is not one of total restriction of these types of special occasion foods, but of the link between food and family or cultural events.

Portion sizes 

It’s easy to overestimate the amount of food you need to give your baby. Remember they still have a small tummy and their portions will be significantly smaller than those you give yourself. Always try to maximize the nutrient value of the food you offer.  

Sources

  • Nicklaus S. Complementary feeding strategies to facilitate acceptance of fruits and vegetables: A narrative review of the literature. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2016; 13(11):1160; doi: 10.3390/ijerph13111160.

  • Shelov SP & Altmann TR (Eds.). (2009). American Academy of Pediatrics. The complete and authoritative guide Caring for your baby and young child birth to age 5 (5th ed.). USA: Bantam Books.

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