A family reports to you that their 9 month old is still only eating pureed baby foods. Aside from suggesting possible food options to try, how else might you approach this conversation?
First, a refresher on grasp development. Can you identify the grasp in the video clip? Its tricky… I would say a radial digital or scissor type grasp based on the way she sort of wipes the puff into her mouth at the end.
Did you get it?
Grasp development is one of the major milestones from 6 months to 1 year. At first, infants use a raking grasp (shown below) that results in palmar placement of an object. An exciting skill for babies, this allows them to begin to manipulate objects, bring them to their mouth for further explanation and transfer hands (to grab more stuff of course).
Around 7-8 months, the object is moved radially, producing a radial palmar and radial digital grasp – the scissor grasp is similar to the radial digital though the thumb is used to press the object into the side of the index finger (imagine using a pair of scissors and the name becomes obvious). An inferior pincer results when the block can be grasped with the distal finger and thumb as shown.
And then, finally around 10 months, the tip of the index finger and thumb come together and you have the pincer grasp!
So what’s the connection to eating? At first, the range of foods an infant can self-feed is a bit limited compared to the variety of purees they are likely getting via spoon – so what’s the rush to offer finger foods? Introducing new foods is a great way for infants to practice their fine motor skills. Small non-edible toys present too much of a choking hazard, so finger foods (like puffs, soft beans, plain Cheerios) are a great way to practice safely. Many older infants and toddlers demand to self-feed but it is also a great way to help your child regulate their appetite, learning to eat when hungry and stop when full.
Many babies sputter a little bit when they first sample soft solids, it just takes practice. I use this as an opportunity to highlight a child’s fine motor skills and explain that parents can use feeding as a way to promote curiosity and development of skills (like holding a pencil) that will be important down the road. Taking note of the way a child is learning to interact with the environment helps to promote social meal times where caregivers interact and play during meals and focus less on getting a kid to eat a certain amount (a losing battle, I promise).
I really like some of the advice from Dr. Tovah Klein on feeding if you are looking for more advice.