Sometimes, parenting feels like one big question mark and the steepest of learning curves. Weaning is another adventure and one that comes with its own set of conundrums that can throw us into turmoil. It can be a stressful and confusing time for both parent and baby, but it doesn’t have to be. Weaning is about introducing our little ones to a lifelong love of food and there’s a lot we can do to make it easier for everyone involved. We’ve gathered our top weaning tips to provide some answers to your big questions.
Introducing your baby to solid foods, often known as complementary feeding or weaning, should start when your baby is about six months old. The first thing to remember (which will make the whole transition smoother) is that at this stage, it’s not about how much your baby eats. They’ll get all the nutrients and energy they need from breast milk or formula, so weaning is just about them getting to know what eating solid foods is all about – it’s about exploring, learning and having fun with food. Our weaning tips will help you and your baby do just that in a way that feels right.
How will I know my baby is ready?
Giving your baby a range of foods from the age of six months alongside breast milk or formula will set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating. According to the NHS, you’ll know your babe is ready to start trying solid foods when they’re able to sit up and hold their head steady, are able to co-ordinate their hands, eyes and mouth so they can look at the food and put it in their mouths themselves and can swallow food, rather than spit it back out. When all of these boxes are ticked, it’s time to start experimenting.
Our top weaning tips
Remember it’s about exploration. Don’t worry too much about how much your baby does or doesn’t eat. Let them play with their food as much as they want. They need to get used to how it feels, smells and tastes
Try to build different flavour profiles. Try sweet and sour and sharp and bitter and gently spicy – the more you can do this early on, the less likely you are to have picky eaters when they’re older. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Try different flavours and textures. Mix it up and keep it varied with finger foods and purees, fruits and veggies and try gentle herbs and spices too
Eat together (when you can!). Eating together can be tricky if your little one is eating much earlier than you are, but even just sitting down with a cuppa while they eat can be a gorgeous way to spend time together and introduce good habits from an early age. Kids learn by watching, so if you can eat together, baby see, baby do.
Let go of control. We’re pretty sure this is one of the best ways to get by as a parent but if you can let go of control when it comes to weaning, you’re onto a winner.
Embrace the mess. Baby led weaning is a messy business and once you get your head around that, you’ll start to feel better about things. Your baby is going to get food in places you didn’t know it was possible they will be wearing mango puree in their earholes but, that’s what bath time is made for.
Be consistent. Unless they’re allergic to something, don’t take it as a personal affront if they don’t like a food and try it again. Be consistent with your approach to weaning – and don’t give up.
Take your time. Like every new skill, learning takes time. Go at your baby’s pace and let them let you know when they’ve had enough. Make sure you leave plenty of time for eating, especially at first. All this exploration will take a while, for sure.
HAVE FUN with it! Food should be a joy for you and your baby. If you can have fun now, you’re more likely to have a child that loves eating later. Fussy eaters happen – and that will never be your fault! But if you can have fun with it, you’ll be creating wonderful relationships between your little ones and food.
Great weaning foods to start with
Cucumber (skin off)
Sweet potato – works really well with mild spices like cinnamon or mild paprika
Rice cakes without salt or sugar,
Cooked vegetable pieces such as cauliflower, broccoli and carrots,
Cubes of cheese
Cooked pasta shapes
However you approach weaning, remember to follow your baby’s lead. And remember that eating is natural, so in time your little one will be chomping away like there’s no tomorrow. Try to relax into it, and like with every other aspect of raising a small human, you’ll both figure it out in time.