your baby is growing more and more independent every day, and now that she is starting to eat foods across the solid spectrum, she may be growing more and more interested in the way you and the rest of her non-infant family members eat. There’s still a pretty huge gap between the way the grown-ups eat and the way your baby has been eating, but her interest is a good sign that she is ready to start bridging that gap.
Most babies start being able to feed themselves finger foods around the time they start being able to lift small objects with their fingers, which can happen any time between 6 and 10 months. your baby will probably grow into the dexterity to use a spoon when she is around a year old (though that’ll go more smoothly if she gets the chance to practice for a while first), and a fork not long after that, though she may still be a bit of a messy eater for a while.
The important thing about early finger foods is that they’re small enough for your baby’s fingers and small enough not to be a choking hazard, and easy enough to mash up with her still-mostly-bare gums. At this point, your baby may still be getting the majority of her nutrients from formula or breast milk, and so the most important part of the process is the practice your baby is getting with eating.
Cereals that dissolve easily, soft, well-cooked vegetables like carrots or celery, and soft meats cut up into pea-sized pieces can be good places to start. Raw vegetables, cherry tomatoes and hot dogs, on the other hand, can be choking hazards, even when they’re cut up.
At first, when your baby is using her hands to rake through food, or when she is just starting to get a feel for the pincer-like grabbing motion that comes next in her development, eating this way can take a long time, possibly longer than you have. your baby feeding herself isn’t a process that needs to happen all at once, though. If it’s taking your baby a while to pick up speed with eating finger food, you can let her practice at the beginning or end of the meal, then take over feeding her.
your baby will be ready to start using a spoon around one, but she will probably start showing an interest in spoons even sooner. If you let her hold a baby spoon on her own while you feed her, she will be able to start to get familiar with the spoon, and how to hold it. Just like when your baby was just starting to eat finger food, letting her practice a little near the beginning or end of the meal can give her a big head-start in learning to eat with one.
When your baby is just starting to eat with a spoon, thicker substances, like yogurt, can be easier for her to handle, since thin liquids slip off the spoon so easily.