Mealtime with 13 Mo. Old

Updated on April 07, 2009
R.H. asks from Merrimack, NH
11 answers

My 13 month old refuses to feed herself. She is capable of picking up little pieces of food; I've seen her pick stuff up and then drop it on the floor. She will also pick up her food and try to feed it to me and my husband. She is very whiny and impatient with meals as well. For some reason she insists on being fed from a spoon which makes for a very long and frustrating mealtime. Once I tried putting everything on her tray and then leaving the room to see what she would do. She screamed and cried real hard and eventually I caved. Have any of you experienced this? Should I wait until she's ready to take the initiative or should I force the issue?

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So What Happened?

Thanks! My expectations are clearly too high. We spend time with much younger babies (7-9 mo.) who feed themselves easily, so I was starting to think something was wrong. The pedi showed some concern at our 1yr visit which naturally worried me even more. She was a late roller, late crawler, and I was told I was holding her too much, not "frustrating" her enough to make her want to do those things...(early intervention consult) so I guess I figured I should be more firm in order to foster her development. I'm surprised and delighted to hear from those of you who had kids her age who still required spoon-feeding as I have yet to see a child her age who doesn't cram food into his/her mouth, so thank you, thank you, thank you!

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answers from Boston on

I agree with Nancy C, she is right on target with my thoughts. Enough said, w/o sound rude as well....

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answers from Portland on

Hello R.,
And this is an issue for you, why? I don't mean to be overly facetious here, but I guess I don't completely understand the concern here...a 13 month old wants the attention of her mom (no surprise to me) and has chosen mealtimes as the time for her to get special attention (makes sense to me) and this is a problem for you? Why is this? Why not simply play it out until she no longer needs you to do so? What is the harm here? I don't get it, I guess. Call me silly, but as a parent whose children have long been gone, I'd do anything to have a little one to sit across from, smile at, and spoon feed now. This is your first baby...don't be in such a rush to have her move on. I ask that you seriously consider 'letting go' of the perception that your 13 month old is developing monster like qualities (your words...acknowledge and accept that this is a belief of yours...GET RID OF IT NOW!!!) and ask YOURSELF instead, what monster like emotions of MINE am I projecting onto my little year old + child?

Mealtimes are about receiving nurturance....on more levels than just physical. Nurture. Give. Don't be in such a rush. Enjoy. Breathe. Best regards R. and please don't be offended by my is meant to be firm, but friendly. Be Peace. N.

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answers from Boston on

I wouldn't push her, she'll self feed when she's ready. Encourage her when she does it herself but don't force it. Her independent streak will soon emerge. Are there any older toddlers that you can do lunchtime with? She might see older kids self feeding and get interested in it that way...

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answers from Boston on

Hi, My little one was still being spoon-fed at thirteen months. Now, four months later, she is big into finger feeding herself. Luckily, she'll still allow me to spoon-feed her yogurt and soup, since she hasn't mastered using a spoon yet.

Maybe your baby enjoys the one on one attention and eye contact of your meals together. Maybe she's not yet ready to make the leap to feeding herself. Maybe she gets impatient because she senses your impatience. My daughter gets impatient when her dad feeds her because he gets impatient. I'm more relaxed during meals, so when I feed her she is relaxed.

Also, some children are very sensitive about how food is presented. My daughter won't eat if I put too many pieces of food on her tray at once. She gets overwhelmed. And, she also gets overwhelmed if I give her multiple foods at once. She does great if I present one food, and just a few pieces of it, to start. Then I gradually add in the other components of her meal. So, as your daughter progresses, watch for signs of what strategies work for her.

Remember, she's a person with opinions and needs but she doesn't yet have language to express these. If she's fighting you, she's trying to tell you something. Life will become significantly less stressful for both of you if you can step back and allow her to progress at her own pace.



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answers from Hartford on

I wouldn't stress too much about it sounds really normal taht she still needs help with eating. It will come over the next year or so! I would talk with your pediatrician if you would like more info about normal development. Your little one sounds very normal to me!



answers from Springfield on

She's only 13 months old as long as she can pick up the food that's all thats important. She wants your attention and wants to be fed she won't want to be fed forever so for the time giver her her own spoon and fork as you feed her w/ a spoon my son had his an early intervention evaluation done and I believe that eating w/ a spoon and fork on their own is something they start to look for at 24 months. My little guy is MR. do it myself but my oldest is 7 and if given the opportunity I bet he would let someone feed him if he could.



answers from Pittsfield on

She's only 13 months old - give her some time! She just wants to be with you so of course she screamed when you left the room, she was all alone! Babies take a LONG time to eat on their own. My daughter is 11 months and is only starting to pick up food with her hands - she's a LONG way away from eating on her own. I give her practice: during meals I feed her with a spoon and give her stuff to grab at the same time (small pieces of boiled potatos; well cooked peas; Heinz Fruit Puffs to accompany dessert). She'll get more & more practice as she gets older. My daughter is also VERY fussy at mealtime & it takes FOREVER to feed her, but to pass the time (while she slowly swallows), we clap as I sing song & I try to make it fun. Inside I'm exasperated but that's the way she is. It's getting better with time. Don't force the issue - they change as they grow ... eventually.

My son who's 2 1/2 still loves to eat with his hands, though I now remind him to use his fork & spoon. He was more advanced than my daughter as he started eating with his fingers around 8 or 9 months, spoon around 15 months (though only for oatmeal and stuff that could easily stay on a spoon) and fork really only around 20/21 months. It takes time... it takes developing fine motor skills that really only take off ~ 2 yrs old. They're only little and you don't get this time back. Enjoy the fact that they depend on you - they grow too quickly as it is!



answers from Boston on


My daughter is similar in that she doesn't always feed herself. My doctor said it's normal. Sometimes she just wants to eat off my plate and my fork. I know it will change and I really don't want to make meal time a battle so I go with it and always have a few piece of food on her tray so if she wants she can feed herself but when she wants me to feed her I do.

Good luck,
L. M

PS Basically the doctor told me to not make a big deal of it because that creates more issues.



answers from Hartford on

A 13 month old really can't entirely self feed. I'd keep feeding her with the fork and spoon. Occasionally giving her the opportunity to pick up stuff with her fingers. Also, you could try preparing a meal of finger foods yourself so you and your husband are also eating with your hands. My son is 17 months old and about a month ago he started wanting to feed himself with the fork. You've just gotta take cues from them and what they are ready for. I most definitely wouldn't worry about her not self feeding herself an entire meal though at 13 months.



answers from Boston on

Are all meals the same or does your daughter do better at one time of day than another? You said she is whiny and impatient at meals. Do you think she could be too tired at mealtime or too hungry? Maybe you could try feeding her a little earlier and then giving her a few things to feed herself while you eat. Maybe she won't be as hungry then and would be more willing to feed herself. I probably wouldn't force the issue too much though. You don't want mealtime to be a battle ground. I think it is pretty normal (and cute sounding) for her to try to feed you and your husband. She has been watching you feed her for awhile now and is probably trying to practice that new skill. And as far as dropping food on the floor, every baby does it. I think some of it is cause and effect. They love to drop things and see what happens. Try not to get too frustrated with your daughter. I would continue to give her some food that she can feed herself, but feed her with a spoon if that is what she prefers. Does she have her own spoon to use too? My little one is 10 months old and I wish she would let me feed her. LOL She wants to feed herself everything, but still doesn't quite have the knack of eating solids. Just try to enjoy your daughter. I'm sure this is just one of many phases and soon she will be doing something entirely different at mealtime.



answers from New London on

I just started having my son work on feeding himself with fork and spoon...he is 19 mths...maybe I'm a little late but I think it is ok to feed a 13 mth old still.

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