8 Top Tips For Weaning Your Baby

5 May

When I first started weaning Aspen, left, I was incredibly excited.  I knew many mums who were nervous about making the switch from milk – whether breast or formula – to solids, but while I had my fair share of things I was apprehensive of, weaning wasn’t one of them.

I decided right away that I would be fairly strict with Aspen’s diet, which is perhaps no surprise given my background.  I also knew immediately that all her meals would be home made, and I have stuck to this with just the occasional exception.

If you’re feeling at all nervous about weaning your baby, all I can say is to dive in and make it fun.  It’s a wonderful new experience to share with your baby, as you introduce them to the wide range of flavours out there.

There are, of course, things you can do to make the experience more fun and enjoyable for you both, and here are some of my top tips – these are written both as professional advice for encouraging a healthy, balanced diet at an early age, but also as a mum with practical experience!

  1. Buy a hand blender – they’re inexpensive and easy to use, and if you just try cooking, pureeing and freezing your own baby food you’ll probably be amazed by how enjoyable, easy and rewarding it is.  The only equipment you’ll need is the hand blender, and ice cube trays to dish the puree into and freeze.  I then put each batch of ice cubes into a freezer bag and wrote the contents and date they were made on the bag.  Your frozen food will last in the freezer for up to 6 weeks.
  2. Introduce vegetables before fruit – fruit has a natural sweetness that baby’s can easily grow to love, and this can cause problems as some babies will then reject vegetables and anything else less sweet.  I weaned Aspen for several weeks on single vegetables, and then vegetable mixes, before introducing pureed fruit as dessert.
  3. Try each new flavour 30 times – yes, 30 separate times!  I hear so many parents talk about the foods their babies dislike when they have only offered it to the baby once.  Trust me, your baby is going to pull a face and shudder at many new tastes – that’s natural, and it’s also due to the texture.  Aspen pulled a face at every food I introduced, but I coaxed her to eat a few spoons, and then gave it to her again and again to get her used to it.  She’s now 14 months old and eats anything.
  4. Talk to your baby – as you are feeding your baby, talk to them about what they are eating.  You don’t need to scientifically break down the food, just say “this is carrot, isn’t it yummy. Baby’s doing very well eating this carrot.”  Babies grow to understand by being spoken to and involved in everything.  Whether you are going to use baby sign language extensively or not, the sign for eat is an easy way to communicate with your baby on another level, and it’s likely your baby will perform the sign earlier than they will say the word ‘eat’.
  5. Eat with your baby – again, involving your baby in mealtimes encourages social skills and good table manners, and the earlier you get into the habit the better.  Even if you just grab a bowl of cereal or a sandwich, by sitting with your baby and doing the same activity as them, you will bond and encourage their development.  Again, talk about what you’re doing; ‘Baby and Mummy are eating, isn’t this nice.”
  6. Avoid children’s food – it’s a sad fact that most of the foods aimed and marketed at children contain high levels of fat, sugar and salt.  Everything from potato waffles to chicken dippers to children’s yoghurts are less than healthy choices… and are unnecessary in a child’s diet.  There are plenty of healthy alternatives that you can either buy or produce at home – good quality chicken cut into strips and coated in breadcrumbs, organic natural yoghurt mixed with fruit, wholemeal bread with cheese, tomato and more as home-made pizzas.  As your child gets older they will enjoy making these meals with you, so get in the habit now of choosing or making healthy options for your little one.
  7. Be brave – particularly while your baby is eating pureed food, introduce them to as wide a range of foods as possible.  By the time Aspen was 6 months old (she was weaned early at 16 weeks), she had eaten more varieties of fruits and vegetables than I had!  I kept a list of all of the ones she had tried, and would choose new ones each week.  There are some delicious recipes for babies out there.  In fact, Aspen ate so well I remember my partner coming into the kitchen to see me taking a fish out of the oven that had been cooked in orange with pasta and vegetables  – it looked so good he wanted that instead of his own dinner!
  8. Get out there – babies love to see other children eating particularly, so find out if you have any weaning cafe groups at children’s centres near you and join in.  If not, an outing to a soft play centre or children’s farm park can double as a social lunch for your baby.

The key is to relax and enjoy your baby’s weaning experience, while doing all you can to provide them with as much goodness and as wide a range of flavours as possible.  As well as these tips, I’d strongly encourage you to give your baby home-made, organic food and to make the eating experience social.

I’ll be doing more weaning posts in the near future, but if you have any questions in the meantime, contact me.

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