8 | Chapter One
Feeding as a Chore to Get Done
What We SaW
The new child care facility was bright and cheerful. In the infant room,
four babies (eight to twelve months old) were lined up in their highchairs,
each with a small jar of applesauce and a spoon in front of them. The
teacher went from one baby to the next, lifting the spoon to the baby’s
mouth and then quickly moving on to the next child.
What It MeanS
No doubt this teacher saved lots of time by lining the children up and
speeding through their feedings. But feeding is more than a task—it is a
key time for interaction with each child. Long ago, research on babies in
orphanages found that even when they were fed enough and they slept
enough and they had all their other physical needs taken care of, babies
would become developmentally delayed in their social-emotional abilities
if they had no regular, emotionally satisfying interactions with a consistent
What Would Work Better
Even before he can talk, a baby wants to communicate and interact. Talk
with the baby as you feed him. Provide the words for his experience. “Oh,
I can see you really were hungry. You really like this applesauce, don’t you?
Uh-oh, some of it is sneaking out of the corner of your mouth!”
Around four to six months of age, most babies are ready to start eating
from a spoon, though they still get the bulk of their nutrition from breast
milk or formula. At this age, tongue and mouth reflexes stop pushing
food out of their mouths, they can swallow substances that are thicker
than milk, and their necks and backs are strong enough to allow them
to sit with support.
As the baby is exposed to greater variety in the baby foods she con-
sumes, you can gradually increase the texture of the food, from smooth
to slightly chunky. Chapter 3 has more information on helping babies
and young children develop their eating skills, including self-feeding.