“How did you get DJ to eat independently so early?” This has got to be one of the top 3 questions I’m asked constantly so I decided I needed to dedicate a blog post to answering this question.
Well, he started showing signs of wanting to self- feed with cutlery at around 16 months. I would allow him to do so but would still have to help him out. At the time, I didn’t know it was such a big deal till I posted videos of him eating independently and had a few followers who were teachers and other moms say to me it was impressive because even 3 years olds weren’t doing that.
Let me just say this, you can’t force a child to eat independently so don’t give yourself too much pressure, it will happen. I’m yet to meet an adult who can’t self-feed. However, here are a few of the tricks and tips I’ve learned along the way which have helped make this process easier.
- From the period they start solids, allow them to pick and grab foods like baby wafers, very soft carrots , bananas, mangoes etc, which have been cut up in small pieces and feed themselves. i.e Baby- led weaning. I did a combination of traditional weaning and baby-led.
- Once they start showing signs of wanting to grab the spoon on their own to feed themselves, allow them. Yes it’s VERY messy at the beginning so you can stick around to guide them but that’s the only way they’ll learn.
- Get very good training cutlery. I use Nuby. These are soft and curvy and have easy grip handles so you don’t worry about them slipping.
- A good bib! I bought different kinds of bibs before finally settling on these. These are silicon, waterproof bibs and they are the best baby products I’ve ever bought. There are various types out there but this “Little Big Dude” brand has been my favorite by far. It’s broad, so it covers their entire chest. It’s very durable and super easy to clean. I’ve had them for over a year but it looks good as new every time it’s cleaned because it’s stain resistant. The crumb catcher is very sturdy and doesn’t flatten like the others on the market. It remains open during meal time and catches all falling food and liquids , so less mess! Their re-enforced button holes makes it difficult for them to take off easily. I also use this bib for snacks. So I put their snack in there and they can just move around and pick as they please without coming back to me for more or tipping over their bowl. I ordered these from AmazonUk and had my mother-in-law bring them but you can also check with our local baby shops, I’m sure they have some in stock. The first ones I ever bought were from @diapersonwheels and another from @babyblissgh . They were similar but not exactly like this kind.
- High-chair . This is another essential. I know lots of kids hate being strapped in it, so did Drew but I had to insist on it because he wasn’t going to self- feed on my lap. Personally I’ve always found it clumsy feeding him on my lap anyway and I just didn’t have the energy for that anymore. One of the tricks is to place them in the highchair and immediately start feeding. Don’t waste time placing them in and then leaving to go bring food while they cry and try to get out. Sometimes I just drop some snacks on the tray and allow him to pick from it so he actually enjoys sitting in there . Once he’s done eating, I simply take off the tray with the mess and wash. I got my Joie highchair from @diapersonwheels.
- Nice plates with demarcations.I got these skiphop plates and bowls from @littlehipkids .
- If you prefer one with suction, I got this from @babyblissgh over two years ago.
- Water bottles. I got these very durable Tommee Tippee water bottles from a baby shop in East Legon. They are easy to hold and drink. They don’t spill even when turned upside down ( which is a problem I had with so many other bottles ). Skip hop water bottles are also great.
- Messes. Again, like I mentioned, it starts out messy but as they grow and get used to feeding, it gets better. They learn how to fully control their cutlery and scoop all the corners of their bowls and plates.
- Time. Most of the complaints I’ve had is with the amount of the time they spend eating. Most moms say that they just don’t allow them to self- feed because it wastes time, I disagree. You see, if they are never eating on their own, it’s always going to get hard to build up speed. DJ took forever at the beginning but today he eats within 20-25 minutes depending on whether or not he went for a second helping. Drew’s obviously takes longer as he’s now learning.
So far Drew is 16 months and is attempting to eat independently. I allow him for a bit but I help him towards the end since he hasn’t quite figured out the corners yet. The thing with my boys is , they don’t like to be fed. DJ won’t even allow you to touch his spoon, he wants to do it all on his own so I allow him to. Drew seems very pleased to be allowed to self- feed so it’s always a bit of a struggle once I step in to help but I do anyway otherwise half of the food would be in his bib! The advice I would give is, go with their flow. If they are not ready, don’t rush it. If they are , allow them to no matter how slow they eat. Just have patience and trust the process ( no matter how messy) they will get it one day. All the best! 😘