From around 6 months,maybe earlier my daughter has been putting things in her mouth.She was already taking purees so I just sat her in her highchair and gave her things to try,pieces of cheese,fruit,biscuit,cheerios.I was right there beside her I let her experiment while I did the dinner or other stuff in the kitchen.She wasn't going to choke with me right there.
Matilda's now 15 months,she's been feeding herself for 6 months.Once I realised how much she could chew with gums and a couple of teeth I stopped doing the purees and just gave her food cut up.
You have to let them try,and be prepared for mess.Feeding themself is a learning process.Matilda still eats her dinner with her hands mostly,which isn't pretty,but spoons and forks are next thing to learn,she's feeding herself well.It's certainly been easier than trying to introduce lumps to a fussy one year old
I do a mixture with my 7 month old son as well. Some purees, especially when I'm in a rush or we are out (he loves yohurts) and some finger foods. This has really helped with him eating lumps and now I can just cut the food up.
Lunch today was egg sandwich, cucumber fingers, a few wotsits and a slice of melon. He had weetabix for breakfast and then screamed until I gave him a bit of my toast. Tonight he has spag bol along with the rest of us! Yesterdays dinner was chicken korma, rice and naan....which he loved.
I prepare my veg into pieces he can hold and feed himself and give him anything that goes soft when he eats it.
Babies have very efficient saliva that breaks down food much better than you expect. Until their teeth come through, they gum their food and roll it around their mouth before swallowing. You need to recognise the difference between gagging (which just brings the food back into their mouth and you can leave them) and choking (where you need to get them out and remove the offending item - this has never happened to me - touch wood!). I never strap my son into his highchair. As long as they are closely supervised, they love it and cope much better than you imagine.
My son weaned himself. At the time, I wasn't aware it had a name but when we knew he could tolerate food, we allowed him to feed himself. We personally found that giving very large chunks of something was safer than giving very small as he could hold them and he sucked and tasted rather than tried to eat them. At first any food swallowed was accidental. Without going in to too much detail I would say obviously do not leave the baby for a moment but leave the high chair restraint OFF as there is a strong possibility that you are going to need to whip the baby out of the chair and slap their backs a good few times untill they are used to moving the food around in their mouths. Have a strong stomach and you will need the confidence to just dislodge any food as if it were a natural part of a meal. It's not necesarily something I would suggest all parents do with their children but it does allow them to explore food and textures and now age 3, my little boy will happily eat anything he is given and is also not afraid to try new foods. My little girl on the other hand brought every bottle back and would eat pureed food but completely refused lumpy purees. She was V. prem and didn't have the calm times we had to spend with bro and is actually only now discovering foods. (she's nearly 2) She has been able to eat and swallow for a long time but bypassed the lumpy puree stage so it was very unusual attemting to wean from near liquid to gradually eating with us all. We would never have attempted to feed her in the same way as her brother though. (Never with a prem)
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