Hesperian Health Guides
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If your child can see a little, be sure to adapt these activities to best use her remaining sight.
Blind children can learn eating skills at the same time as children who can see. Expect your child to do what other children her age in your community can do. These ages differ from community to community. But many children learn eating skills at about these times:
|Birth to 4 months: A baby sucks and swallows. She also learns to open her mouth when she is about to be fed.||6 months or older: Along with breast milk, she begins to eat soft, mashed foods, like cereal or rice. She may begin drinking from a cup.||6 to 12 months: She begins feeding herself small bits of food with her hands. She should still breastfeed whenever she wants it.|
|9 months to 1 year: She begins to eat mashed foods and to use some eating tools, like a spoon.||1 to 3 years: She learns to better use eating tools and a cup.||3 years: She can eat most adult foods.|
A child who cannot see well will learn to feed herself more quickly if she eats about the same time every day, in the same place, and with other people. This helps her learn that eating is done in a certain way. She will also learn the names of foods more quickly if everyone in the family uses the same name for the same food.
To prepare your child to eat by herself
Before your child begins feeding herself, you can help her prepare to learn these skills.
When nursing your baby, give her a sign, like touching her cheek, to let her know you are about to feed her. As she feeds, place her hand on your breast. This helps her learn where the milk comes from.
When you start feeding your baby soft foods, tell her when you will be putting food in her mouth. Let her touch the bowl and keep her hand on yours as you bring the food to her mouth. Describe what she is eating and how it tastes, and encourage her to touch and smell the food. If she spits out the food, keep trying. She needs to get used to eating in other ways than sucking on a breast.
Encourage your baby to try different kinds of food. When she can eat mashed foods, feed her the same foods that adults eat. Then she is more likely to want these foods as she gets older. If she does not like foods with different textures, keep trying. Eating different foods will help her learn to swallow well.
If your baby cannot hold her head up, hold her in your lap and support her head with your arm. See information on how to help strengthen her neck muscles.
To help your child learn to eat by herself
When she is learning to drink from a cup, first let her feel the cup and the liquid inside. Then let her hold the cup and smell the liquid as you guide it to her mouth. Encourage her to take a sip of liquid. Finally, help her set the cup back down in the same place.
Help your child learn to use the eating tools — spoons, or chopsticks, or fingers — your community uses. Teach her how to hold the tool, how to pick up the food, and how to bring the food to her mouth. Slowly give less and less help. Sit behind her as you guide her hand. Be patient. Your child will be messy at first. It usually takes a year or more for a child to become good at these skills.
Even after your child begins using eating tools, let her touch the food so that she knows what the foods are and where they are in her bowl. It also helps to put her food and drinking cup in the same place at each meal.
Let your child eat with the rest of the family so she learns that eating is a social time. Encourage everyone to include her in what is happening.
Help your child learn to bite off pieces of food with her front teeth and chew with her back teeth. Show her what chewing is by putting her hand on your jaw as you chew. If she does not follow your example, gently move her lower jaw up and down to show her how chewing feels.
When your child can hold a jug or pitcher, help her learn to pour her own water. By putting a finger in the top of her cup, she will know when it is full. (Try this yourself with your eyes closed.)