Often, especially new mothers are uncertain if they are on the right track with food and feeding. Find out more…
At around 9 months, it’s time to expect and make the most of baby’s inherent drive to explore.
Babies will start to pick up pieces of food using pincer movements. They often explore by smashing the food they have picked up or may become quite absorbed in the physical activity associated with eating. Mothers may be worried that too little will reach their stomachs. For some, it may even work to have some of the same food offered while the baby is trying to feed him/herself. For example, as the baby is attempting to get some steamed carrots into his/her mouth try at the same time to get a spoonful of coarsely mashed carrot into the side of his/her mouth.
Babies will want to start to use a spoon independently because they see adults using a spoon. They are however unlikely to be able to keep food on it. Mom should therefore still keep her spoon close at hand.
The more variety, texture and flavour the baby is exposed to during this period, the less likely he/she is to grow up with definite food dislikes. Since it is now possible to offer foods that may not necessarily be included in the smooth phase, food can and should become a feast of different colours, shapes and textures. (See TIPS on food choices for Babies 9 – 12 months)
Keep in mind that unfamiliar foods may be rejected the first time they are offered, but often a toy may not catch a baby’s attention first time around either. So keep offering, keep exploring and the baby is likely to become more familiar with whatever is offered and will eventually accept it.
During this period a baby may also be ready to experiment with a cup as they become able to aim their lips towards the rim of the cup.
Consider using different cups for water and for milk. Should you decide to include diluted fruit juice occasionally, a different cup may be used for this as well. This will make it easier for the baby to communicate its needs at an age when he/she is not yet able to talk. You may be surprised by how a baby may actually prefer one or the other at different times.
It is important to remember that milk remains the most important source of nutrients up to one year of age and there is little use in getting upset should a baby not eat much during a specific meal. It is more important to understand that this stage is often “make or break” in terms of the experience associated with food and mealtimes – rather than achieving perfect food and nutrient intake. Mothers and caregivers should very gently and VERY patiently offer baby the opportunity to use the “play with food” stage to explore! Accepting different shapes, colours, textures and smells is more important than finishing a full plate of food at every meal.