We’ve teamed up with our friends at Little Dish, who make healthy fresh kids’ meals, and their nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed to bring you some top tips for weaning.
As a Baby & Child Nutritionist I’m asked questions every day about introducing solid foods to babies. It can be a really nerve wracking experience for many parents. One of my aims is to try to help take the pressure off and fill parents with confidence around offering foods to babies to help make the experience enjoyable for both parents and their little ones.
Here are my TOP TIPS for introducing your little one to solid foods.
HAVE FUN WITH IT AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE MESS!
Introducing solid foods should be all about experimenting with baby! Trying new tastes and textures, and all the wild facial expressions that will likely go along with it, is an exciting time. It’s so important to try and stay relaxed and calm to make mealtimes an occasion that baby wants to be part of. They will pick up on your anxieties at mealtimes, and it might make them more anxious to try new foods. Mess is par for the course but having a trusty muslin to hand will help the clean-up process and protect your little ones clothes.
TRY TO GET INTO A GENTLE ROUTINE
Children (and babies) notoriously love routine, and this is the same when it comes to introducing solid foods. Try to start offering foods once a day at a time when you have a nice calm environment and when baby is not too full and not too hungry. Offer foods at a similar time each day so that baby knows when to expect their usual milk feed and when to expect solids. Start building on this routine by adding another meal in after a week or so and then finally a third meal in so that baby is having something like breakfast, lunch and dinner after a month or so of weaning.
It’s also a good idea to bring baby to the table before they start their weaning journey, so they are familiar with the mealtime routine and environment.
ALLOW BABY TO GUIDE YOU WITH HIS OR HER OWN APPETITE
Your baby is the best person to know when they are full or hungry, so learn to recognise and respond to signs that your baby has had enough or wants more at mealtimes. Clamping their mouth shut, turning their head away and spitting food out are all signs that baby has had enough. It’s good to remember that you should decide what food baby eats but let them decide how much.
ALWAYS THINK VARIETY!
So often I get asked questions about what foods should or shouldn’t be given to baby. After 6 months most foods are OK to offer except honey, salt and sugar, undercooked meat or fish and certain types of fish and cheese (read more from the NHS here). So, after introducing first tastes, it’s a good idea to then build on the variety they have in their diet every day. Lots of research shows that the more variety children are offered in the early years, the more variety they are likely to eat as they get older.
DON’T GIVE UP
Weaning your baby onto solid foods needs patience and persistence. It can take up to ten times before new foods are accepted, so if baby refuses foods make sure you are offering the right texture and try again next time. I always recommend that people don’t add foods to a list of foods that baby won’t eat too soon.
EAT TOGETHER WHERE POSSIBLE AND BE A ROLE MODEL
Your baby will learn a lot about food and eating from watching you eat, so try to avoid simply sitting in front of your baby with a spoon and instead sit back and feed yourself at the same time. This can take the pressure off baby and allow them to observe and copy your skills. Try to model all the behaviours you’d like your little one to follow, including eating well and eating a variety of delicious foods.
KICK OFF YOUR WEANING JOURNEY WITH VEG!
Babies are often familiar (and very accepting) of sweeter tastes, but they need a little nudge to learn to accept other flavours, especially bitter and sour ones. Try offering these first by starting to wean with a variety of tiny veggie tastes – including green veg - for the first week or so, before exploring more of a variety in their diet.
REMEMBER THERE ISN’T ONE PERFECT WAY
Babies are all so individual and take to weaning at completely different paces. Some like finger foods, others like purees initially. Some babies move through meals quickly, others are slower to take to the process of eating. It’s all pretty normal so don’t think you’ve failed, or you’ve done it wrong. If you’re ever worried, book to see a healthcare professional who can help guide you.
We hope you find these tips helpful. In summary, it’s all about taking the pressure off, eating a wide variety of food together and most importantly enjoying the weaning experience with your little one.
For more weaning advice from Charlotte you can join one of her online weaning courses https://www.srnutrition.co.uk/online-weaning-course/ Visit https://www.littledish.co.uk/advice for more top tips on feeding little ones.