Refusing a spoon is actually an important milestone—no less significant than the first tooth or the first step. Most babies go through this developmentally appropriate stage at around 9-11 months when they do not want to play a passive role in feeding anymore. They want to do it all by themselves! Of course, all children develop at different rates and some babies are happy to be fed with a spoon longer, especially those who were born prematurely or have oral-motor delays. But a vast majority of babies rebel against the spoon shortly before they turn one.
As parents, we choose to control many areas of our children's lives. Eating is no exception. When we allow babies to self-feed more, we may need to give up the power we have over what and how much they are eating. We fear that our baby will eat little of what we offer, choose less nutritious foods, or decide to eat nothing at all.
If seeing a barely touched dinner gives you nightmares, it is encouraging to know that research shows thatsmall children are great at self-regulating. And if nutritional balance is your concern, try recording everything your baby is eating over a week's time. Chances are you will see a decent intake from all the food groups (as long as you're offering a healthy variety, of course).
As someone who often works with parents of "problem eaters" I know that it can be especially hard to trust your little one around eating if your baby is a cautious eater, has a clinical diagnosis, exhibits strong food preferences, or is smaller than most babies his age. That's why, if your intuition tells you that your case is more complex, always talk to your doctor or dietitian to rule out underlying issues that may affect your child's eating.