Is Hand Feeding Your Baby Chunky Foods Acceptable?

Hand feeding is gently placing food, whether chunky or pureed, in a child’s mouth. In many areas of China, children are routinely hand fed chunky solid foods until they are school age. A child can feed himself, but an adult hand feeds to ensure proper nutrition and to keep total control over what the child eats. Hand feeding strengthens the parent and baby connection. The interaction creates more eye contact, engagement, and boosts trust.

Should You Hand Feed Your Baby?

The concept of hand feeding is worth a look as a loving gesture to promote healthy eating. In many parts of the world, we encourage independence with eating.  At check ups, one of a pediatrician's main questions is,  “Can your child use a spoon and feed himself independently?”  Toddlers, especially, will often wait until we give them what they want or basically select out what they desire from their plate. Even though America has an abundance of families who can provide plenty of food to our children, this fortunate fact can work against us from a nutritional and vitamin standpoint.  We have so many choices, and those children who are wired to enjoy certain food groups and reject others will do so because they know there is a variety of food available.

Are you interested in hand feeding?  It's easy with a few suggestions.

  • Use a combination of hand feeding and finger feeding. The flexibility of both techniques allows your baby to practice fine motor skills and develop feeding confidence.
  • Hand feed soft foods only. Your baby has not touched the food you are giving them, so the food should be soft and easy to chew.
  • Do not hand feed foods until the age 9 months. Before age 9 months, spoon pureed foods to your baby. Children are typically not ready for chunky foods until around 9 months. Introducing chunky foods too early increases the risk of choking.
  • Never put ‘unexpected’ food in your baby's mouth.  Your baby should see the food you are placing in her mouth. Your little one should open her mouth to receive the food. Forcing food in the mouth may cause distress and increase the risk of choking.
  • Use a combination of healthy foods. Good choices include fruits, vegetables, legumes, soft lean meats, and dairy. Nut pastes may be placed on pieces of soft bread.
  • Minimize hand feeding after age 18 months. As your toddler gets older, you will notice an increased preference for independent feeding. You can build your toddler's self confidence and independence with eating skills. Continue to put healthy foods down in front of him so he doesn't start selecting unhealthy foods instead of healthy ones. An occasional treat just twice per week is fine, too!

Wondering about food selection? Easy-to-read, healthy feeding guidelines are available from


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