Along with your baby's increasing manual prowess comes the ability - and desire - to self-feed. He'll let you know when he's ready for this challenge by grabbing at the spoon-and the food itself-as you feed him. Even though it's likely to be a while before your baby can manage to get anything into his mouth on his own, it's important to encourage this new interest. Give him a child-size spoon as soon as he's willing to take it, and let him wave it around so that he gets used to its shape and feel.
If you've been giving your infant thinned cereal and strained baby foods up to this point, now is the time to move up to lumpier foods. Mix cereal with less liquid so it's thicker, and switch from beginner baby foods to soft, smooth mashed foods. This way, your baby can begin to pick up gobs of the food with her fingers, an important (though messy!) step in her burgeoning independence.
Chunkier foods will teach her chewing skills. Even though she doesn't have enough teeth yet to actually grind food, lumpier items will help her to learn the up-and-down and side-to-side motions of chewing and help her to start manipulating her tongue to guide the foods. Some good nibbles for your baby at this stage include:
Because foods that can't be mashed with the gums present a choking hazard, don't give your baby raisins, grapes, popcorn, chips, meat, or pieces of hard, raw fruits and vegetables such as carrots, apples, and pears. You can, however, puree cooked meat and other hard foods, or put them through a food mill. That way, your baby can enjoy almost anything that the rest of the family eats.
Another common food concern at this age is whether or not baby is getting enough nourishment, especially since growth is likely to slow down a bit. (You can expect a weekly weight gain of only two to three ounces now.) The average 7-month-old needs between 750 and 1,000 calories a day. Four bottles, two four- to six-ounce jars of commercial baby food (or an equal amount of homemade), and a few finger food snacks should provide the right amount of nourishment.
If you're providing every opportunity for your baby to eat, you can relax. No infant has ever been known to starve himself! If your child's growth has been steady, he seems energetic and happy, and your pediatrician is not worried about the situation, then you shouldn't be, either.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.