Wondrous weaning - my top ten tips
It's always a treat to be asked to write a guest post and this one is no exception. Weaning is an exciting time in your baby's development but it can also feel a little overwhelming. Who knew food could be a minefield? Those of you who follow me over at Thursday's Child will be no strangers to E, my 20 month old daughter. Weaning her started at 17 weeks: she was not shy off 20lbs by then and drinking 60oz of milk a day. It feels like a distant memory now, but I could do with a refresher as we are expecting our second baby in March next year and the big W will be with us before we know it. Would I change anything next time? Absolutely not, E is a fantastic eater with a hearty appetite. She loves strong flavours and is usually adventurous when it comes to new things. Here are my top ten tips for weaning.
1) Eating is a social thing so eat together. We can't expect our kids to know what to do and learn good table manners if we don't model good behaviour, so join in as much as possible.
2) Always offer water with food. These new flavours might be a bit much for untrained pallets, let them wash it down!
3) Go cautiously if you have allergies in the family. Until E was born I was allergic to strawberries. My mother was allergic to them until she had me. We held off red berries for quite a long time until E was fully weaned, that way we could ascertain a genuine reaction over a newly weaned baby grumble.
4) Don't cook something different for them. (The exception being if you're on the purée thing before 6 months unless you fancy mashed avocados and pear for tea - yum). My feeling is that giving your children something different sets up a habit of them being allowed to have different meals. If they always have what you have, they'll never expect to have something different. Simples.
5) Don't be afraid of insisting people cook without salt when cooking for a young child. I've calmed down about this now but when she was smaller I always insisted and used to feel a bit guilty about asking, but too much salt is dangerous. Naturally occurring is fine, added is not.
6) Leave them to it. I'd hate it if people sat and watched me eat. If they're not eating, get on with your food or go and make a drink. Stage fright has a lot to answer for.
7) Expect mess. Kids learn by making mess. Spillages, stains and splats are par for the course and you getting stressed about the mess won't help the situation. Strip off or get some big bibs and accept that the washing machine will work harder. Get a mat for the highchair if your dining area has carpet. E can eat most things, with her hands or cutlery, without making much mess most of the time now. She wipes food off her hands and face and recognises that spills aren't desirable. That comes with a lot of rehearsing. Embrace it.
8) A mixed approach is best. Ultimately you want to try new flavours and fill their bellies. I found that the baby led approach didn't fill her belly. So lunch was predominantly baby led, with a yogurt for pud and dinner was hot and off a spoon. They need to know how to eat from cutlery too and I hated the thought of her going to bed hungry. She is one of the best eaters I know and certainly isn’t an “over eating” from having been partially weaned on the spoon.
9) It's absolutely not ok to have food fads in front of your children if you want them to be good eaters. I have reluctantly put away red cabbage and mushrooms in front of E because I refuse to let her think it's ok to reject food. Remember it's all about modelling good behaviour. I can’t digest fish, so I make fish pie in ramekins and freeze them and she has it with daddy when I’m not around. Find ways to make sure they eat the stuff you don’t!
10) Enjoy it. They won't looks cute with a bowl of yogurt on their head forever. They will pick up on your stress and worries so relax and celebrate this stage in your child's life. Let them try everything. Just keep a close eye when they're trying things that could be choking hazards; avoiding grapes won't help them in the long run. Get messy and explore new stuff, you might just discover things you didn't know you liked. We are better and healthier eaters for weaning our daughter.... A hugely positive experience for all of us!
Mama H, mother of one with another on the way. Wife, teacher, photographer, crafter and a lover of homemade, homegrown and locally sourced, not always in that order. Blogging about the ups and downs of parenting over at Thursday’s Child, Friday’s Thoughts, and tweeting as @oneformybaby12 with a penchant for talking about herself in the third person.
Interested in our weaning adventure? You can read more here.