"Help! My baby just stopped eating!" This is a common opening to many emails and phone calls I receive from worried parents.
I remember one case especially vividly. A 10 month old girl suddenly started refusing all her meals. When I visited the family at their home, the girl's mom tried to feed her some mashed-up chicken soup. The baby clamped her mouth shut, pushed the spoon away, and arched her back, screaming. Every attempt to feed her with a spoon was met with a similar response. But guess what happened when we scooped some of the food right on the tray of her high chair? The little girl promptly picked up every single piece of chicken and veggies with her fingers and ate them all!
When I later followed up with the parents, they told me that the girl had been happily and almost exclusively self-feeding since my last visit. They never thought that letting her be more independent would make such a difference in their mealtimes. And although the amounts she was eating were not as consistent as they were with spoon-feeding, it was obvious that overall she was getting all the nutrition she needed to grow and develop.