When your baby starts to feed herself, she is learning important life skills and moving towards independence. It takes a long time, however, for a baby to successfully learn to self-feed, and while she is learning you will need to be vigilant and very cautious about what she eats and how she is eating it.
Self-feeding and Choking Hazards
Although your baby might be feeling confident about her ability to handle any baby food put in front of her, remember that she also thinks it’s a good idea to put everything in her path into her mouth. Your baby can’t judge the size of a piece of food and know whether or not it could cause her to choke. When serving finger foods to your baby, you must make certain that the pieces of food are small enough and well cooked enough that they aren’t likely to become lodged in your baby’s throat causing her to choke. Foods that dissolve easily are the best choices for first finger foods as they will break down quickly and reduce the risk of choking.
There’s another choking hazard inherent in self-feeding that can occur no matter how small you cut up your baby’s food. Many babies get a little overzealous with the joy of being able to get food into their own mouths, and will continue to stuff more food in before they have had the chance to chew and swallow what is already in there. The best solution to this problem is to dole out the finger foods only a few bites at a time, but if you want to put the whole bowl in front of your baby, stay close and make sure she chews and swallows each bite before going for another mouthful.
Avoid foods that might seem like a good choice but are in fact some of the top choking hazards for babies. Raisins, grapes and nuts are all choices to save for when your baby is a little older. Although grapes can be cut up into smaller, more manageable bites, they outer skin can still be tough for a baby to handle as an early food. Hot dogs and sausages are another choice that can be made safer by cutting them into small pieces, but are probably best saved until your baby is a little older.
Safe Use of Utensils
When you introduce baby to a fork and spoon in order to feed himself, be sure that they are safe choices. Look for forks with slightly rounded tines. Plastic is an even safer choice, but plastic forks rarely work well due to their general inability to spear food effectively. Instead, choose metal, but make sure the tines can’t hurt baby – or you! Purchase baby forks and spoons rather than using regular utensils, even the smaller dessert forks and spoons you may have. A baby spoon should have a rubber tip or be made of plastic to be gentle on your baby’s gums.
Your baby isn’t all that good with the fork and spoon yet, and it may not land right where he aimed, so make sure he is holding a tool that will do the job for him, but doesn’t pose any risk of injury. You will probably need several sets, as you’ll find your baby drops his utensils a lot during the learning process, and will need a clean one!