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Ten top expert tips for weaning success
You've bossed blending, and you’re a pro at pureeing, so you’d be quite right in feeling like you’ve earned the right to your weaning wings. You’re doing great but reaching the rank of Smooth Operator is just the start of the story. Now, you’re ready to start introducing more texture into your little one’s mealtimes.
This is an exciting time in your weaning journey but also vital in terms of the developmental skills it equips your little one with. Advancing the textures, tastes, and foods that your baby is exposed to is not only important from a nutritional point of view. It also helps to develop and strengthen mouth muscles, and provides the coordination skills required for speech and successful feeding. The added bonus is that the more foods your baby is exposed to before 12 months old, the less likely they will be a picky eater.
Knowing which new textures to add and where to start can feel like a minefield. Know that many have walked the road before you and that there are a host of experts who offer brilliant advice, recipes and tips to support you along the way. One expert Bibado has had the pleasure of working with is Edwena Kennedy, mum of two and a leading paediatric dietician. Edwena uses a signature tool called The Texture Timeline in her baby-led feeding classes. It offers a practical, guided way to ensure that parents move their babies through several distinct phases of food discovery to expand their exposure to a broad spectrum of food types, flavours, and textures. You can read about it in more detail here and also listen to the podcast here.
Wherever you’re at in your weaning journey, Edwena offers some brilliant advice to help you get the most out of your weaning experience. Some of it might feel obvious, but it’s easy to overlook when you’re batch cooking in earnest, working out what tasty treats to serve up, and getting to grips with the demands of a hangry little person.
Here's ten top tips you can start implementing right now. They’ll help create more memorable mealtimes and take the stress out of your weaning adventures.
1. Be present
It’s very tempting for busy parents to multitask during mealtimes. After all, if baby is safely strapped into their highchair, it’s easy to make the most of that extra five minutes here and there. Hands up if you’ve decided to tackle the mounting pile of dishes while your little one tucks into their meal or popped that next load of washing on. It's essential to set an example and demonstrate the importance of taking time out to enjoy a meal. Don't wander off or multitask. Sit down and take part. Observe as they tackle new foods and watch as they learn and grow.
2. Slow mealtimes down
See 1. above! Don’t view each mealtime as a chore or box-ticking exercise. Look at it as another opportunity to take five and join your baby as they explore their plate. Make adequate time for your baby to be able to touch, taste and play with their food. All these steps are just as necessary as physical eating itself.
3. Seek progression, not perfection
We want the best for our children, which sometimes means striving for unrealistic perfection. Give yourself permission to do your best and know that that's good enough. What's important is to make progress at a pace that feels right for you. Keep notes on your phone or in a diary to record what new foods and textures you're introducing to baby. You could even try our 50-First Foods Exploration Chart.
4. Separate milk and mealtimes
If you're still giving milk, it's essential to distinguish between milk and solid feeds. All babies progress at different rates, and some struggle to let go of those soothing milk feeds. Leave enough time, so they don't bypass solids if they know milk is coming 30 mins later.
5. Try to be agenda-free
It's common for parents to approach weaning with military precision and a raft of strategies for every eventuality. Planning isn't bad, but try not to put too much pressure on yourself. You'll get more out of your weaning experience if you learn to go with the flow and let go of preconceived ideas. Like us, babies can be unpredictable, have off days or want to interact with their plate in surprising ways. Take each meal as a unique experience and deal with it in the moment. The emotions and behaviours you demonstrate at mealtimes can go a long way in making your little one feel at ease and confident, so be aware of the vibe you are channelling!
6. Talk to baby
One of the many benefits of being present and giving your undivided attention to mealtimes is the verbal encouragement and commentary you can provide. Face your baby during meals and communicate with them. Highlight the colours on their plate and name the foods they are eating. Make encouraging noises, sounds and expressions and exaggerate your own mouth movements if they are showing an interest in what and how you are eating. Remember, you are their first teacher, and what you do and show can significantly impact their development.
7. The oldest trick in the book
Following on from point 6 above, you can help your little one by modelling eating behaviours and exploring foods outside of mealtimes. Our Interactive Weaning Sound Books use friendly characters to introduce and familiarise little ones with new foods. They use actions and sounds to mimic the mouth movements needed for successful feeding, and help to reinforce positive reactions.
8. Create mealtime adventures
Exploration is the name of the game if you want to get the most out of your weaning adventures together. Encourage your baby to be curious and be prepared to let them make mess & play as they explore their food.
Sensory exploration plays a vital role in the weaning journey, so be sure to incorporate it into at least some of your mealtimes. Foods like spaghetti and jelly can be a great place to start. Combining foods like yoghurt with a dollop of fruit puree can also encourage them to mix with their fingers or a multi-stage weaning spoon like the Dippit. You’ll find lots of inspiration and practical ideas on our Family Hub. Make mealtimes a social event and get the whole family involved.
9. Read the cues
Cues are everything. Try not to be too single-minded in your focus. It's easy to be so set on getting your little one fed or making sure they've had a substantial meal that you forget to watch out for the crucial signs they're giving us. For example, pushing away an offered spoon doesn't necessarily mean they don't want what you're giving them. Maybe they want to explore with their hands instead? Are they yawning and rubbing their eyes? Perhaps they're tired and less open to trying new foods. Be alert to the signs they're giving you, and don't push past them.
10. Let go of responsibility
Your baby knows their body. Don’t be tempted to make them eat more if they are showing signs they have had enough or force them to eat if they’re not interested. Trust them to know how much to eat, just like they did on milk feeds. They knew then when to start and stop, and it's that natural innate ability we want to carry over to mealtimes with solids. Let them lead their way and enjoy the time.