My Son Doesn't Feed Himself. What Should I Do?

son doesn't feed himself {Guest post I contributed to the Love Child Organics blog. } Thanks to the Love Child Organics community member who asked a question regarding her 9 month old son. “My son doesn't feed himself. He is 9 months and has been eating finger foods since about 7 months. Is there something I can do to help this? Or will it just come to him?”


 Without doing a full assessment I can't tell you for sure why he isn't feeding himself. Here are common causes that I see and their solutions.

Why Babies Don't Feed Themselves

  1. Medical conditions or developmental concerns. Because you didn't mention it, I'm assuming that your son doesn't have any medical conditions or developmental concerns that would affect his dexterity/ motor control.
  2. Missing role models. Kids learn from watching others - particularly older kids and adults. If no one else is eating there isn't anyone to act as a role model for how to do it. Also, eating is a social activity for us human beings. Kids of all ages eat better when adults join them at the table.
  3. Temperament (also known as personality). Some little ones are what I call "outsourcers". They're happy to sit back and let others do things for them instead of doing the hard work of figuring it out themselves. Because learning to self-feed does take work at this stage.
  4. Over-helpful caregivers. Sometimes parents (and other caregivers) have such strong desires to help their little ones that they jump in and "help" instead of sitting back and allowing their little one figure things out for themselves. This can sometimes also be fuelled by impatience and/or anxiety about your little one getting enough to eat. The result is a learned helplessness.


If the cause is #1 then working with an Occupational Therapist can be a great help.

The solution to #2 is to sit and eat with your child. Ideally, eat the same foods too. This way you're sending a message loud and clear that you want him to eat what’s in front of him. And, you’re creating the social environment that’s most conducive to eating and learning.

The solution to #3 and #4 is the same. Resist the urge to jump in and "help". You're actually being more helpful by holding off and allowing him to learn the skills himself.  

Bottom Line: Just like learning any new skill, kids learn to feed themselves with finger foods at different rates. Join your child at the table and give them the opportunity to practice. They’ll learn this new skill in their own timing that’s perfect just for them.


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