When your child is ready to wean from milk to more solid foods, there’s no denying that food may end up in the strangest of places! The weaning process will take a lot of patience and perseverance, but it will be a rewarding experience for you and your baby.
Find a quiet time of day, maybe between meals when your child is not too hungry. Teaching a child a new life skill is going to be hard if they are tired, cross or – ironically in this case – hungry! In this way they won’t be frustrated by the fact that their hand to mouth co-ordination needs a little work and more food is spilling out than actually going in. Gently encourage them, with plenty of eye contact and smiles.
Relax – Food is fun! Meal times are a wonderful social time for children to interact with an adult, and learn through observation. Your baby naturally will be interested in the foods you eat yourself, so you may like to involve them with a taste of plain mashed potatoes or pureed carrots. Just remember that too much added salt or flavourings are not recommended for young children so keep the soft foods you are preparing for your child as plain as possible. This way they can learn to appreciate the taste of all the news foods they are trying!
Weaning is an exciting time for both parent and child but sometimes your baby simply doesn’t want to know. Children will usually give you a good indication of when they’ve had enough or they lack interest on that particular day. If this is the case, don’t worry, simply try again in a few days. Sit with your child at mealtimes, bringing their chair to the table so they can see how you and your family enjoy eating different foods. Watch for the cues: If you are spoon feeding your child, take regular pauses to allow them the time to think and feel if they are full. You may see your child show you they are full with these cues: Keeping their mouth shut, pushing the spoon away, turning their head away from the food, sometimes spitting food out or holding food in their mouth longer than usual.
In the early stages, it is important to introduce new foods one at a time, so as not to overwhelm your baby or risk digestive issues (or allergies). Once weaning is more established, make sure to offer your baby different tastes on a regular basis. You wouldn’t choose to eat carrots at every meal, so realistically why should your baby, regardless of whether they’re pureed, lightly mashed or teamed with baby rice? On the subject of texture, once your baby has mastered the basics and a few teeth are present, leave in some lumps, bumps and crunchy stuff for your child to enjoy and explore. Offer some water to your baby with their meal to ease digestion and keep them well hydrated.
If you plan to be out for the day with your child, prepare a weaning meal ahead of time and have plenty of finger foods available to encourage your child to keep weaning. When your child is in crèche or being minded by someone else, ask whoever is looking after them to continue to offer the weaning foods as well.
Prepare for a mess
Not only is weaning an important bonding process between you and your child, it also means a lot of cleaning! Babies naturally want to feel the texture of the food in their hands but will also grab tables, chairs and you when they are finished eating! Be prepared with a few wipes close by and cloth to wipe down any eating surfaces. A waterproof, full body washable bib is a good investment and can save at least one change of your baby’s clothes. Most of all, allow your child to explore their food, taste it and enjoy, the mess is easily cleaned!