The weaning process is looming, you have that excited but anxious feeling, and the huge quantity of information out there is overwhelming. Panic not!
Here’s a few simple weaning journey markers or milestones for you. Alongside a warm fuzzy reminder that all babies are different. And establishing a positive relationship between your baby and food is a marathon not a sprint. At doddl, as fellow parents, we have all been through it. It is genuinely why we designed cutlery specifically for babies and young children, to make the whole mealtime experience easier and more enjoyable for everyone. So here goes:
Milestone 1. My baby is ready to go (whoop!).
General advice is that most babies are ready to be weaned at six months. They are able to sit independently, hold up their head and have shown an interest in food. In all the anticipation, our simple advice is to remember weaning is just the very start of your baby’s lifelong relationship with food. The first weeks and months are about having positive experiences. Ignore the proud well-meaning social posts of friends kicking this off at the same time. Go at your baby’s pace.
Milestone 2. Making the ‘how to wean’ choice.
This milestone is definitely for you rather than your baby, and remember, your baby, your choice. But as we’re writing this blog, we’ll tell you what we think. We’re big supporters of baby-led weaning (we don’t have t-shirts, but we do prefer it). Having said that, puree foods can also help support baby led weaning as and when you feel it’s right. During BLW you’re basically encouraging your baby to explore the types of food you eat for themselves (as long as it’s appropriate). You're offering them a level of control over how much they want to eat and (to an extent) choice over what they eat. It can be messy, but it’s so much more fun for them.
Learning their own full signs (as opposed to you spoon-feeding them until the food has gone) is an essential development milestone. And will help your baby avoid overeating as they grow. There's a whole load of useful information on getting started in hints and tips to get your little one set up for mealtime success blog.
Milestone 3. My baby ate kale!
There’s no right answer for what you should begin with. You’ll no doubt have read books that say fruit and vegetables are your go-to here. We would highly recommend starting with the more bitter green vegetables. Sounds harsh, what tiny person wouldn’t prefer something sweet after all. But once you go sweet it’s hard to go back. By offering the green vegetables first and then introducing other vegetables, you will probably find your baby will be more open to suggestion. Smooth is the word of the moment. Hard and lumpy food are not your friend at this point. Nor is anything that is too sweet, salty or generally over produced. And it goes without saying, really think about the shape and size of the food you give. Think chopped (not whole) grapes for instance!
Milestone 4. OMG my baby put food in their mouth!
But how to start?! Simply place a small range of foods onto the tray or table in front of your baby and watch (alongside usual enthusiastic words). Think about what foods might be easier for your baby to pick up and hold, such as cooked carrot batons. They will start to explore with their hands and then, maybe with some encouragement, their mouths. Be ready, some of the facial expressions are priceless...! At doddl, we truly believe that introducing great mealtime habits early, offers lifelong benefits. Sit together with your baby to eat and encourage them to be part of the mealtime experience, and the conversation (however limited at first). Doing this without distractions offers great development and learning opportunities for your baby.
Milestone 4. My baby used a spoon to feed THEMSELVES.
BLW encourages babies to touch and hold foods. It's all part of exploring, so your baby can develop their senses in relation to food. Introducing cutlery that they can use themselves at the same time will help build familiarisation between cutlery and food at mealtimes. Choosing the right utensils for this is critical (obviously we would say that, given that here at doddl HQ we spent years researching this…). Short handles help to avoid any gagging incidents. And the right cutlery, used at every mealtime will also help develop your baby’s key motor skills like co-ordination, dexterity and control. Simply lay the baby cutlery on the tray/table in front of them at every meal and encourage them to pick it up. You can add some of their food to the ends while they get the hang of it. And don’t worry if they chuck it around a bit or put the wrong end in their mouth, it’s all part of learning.
Milestone 5. My baby tried something new (woohoo!)
Banish bland (or at least mix it up a bit..). It’s time to show your baby the marvelous big wide world of foods. If your baby is now eagerly eating the initial introduction of vegetables, proteins and fruit then go a bit more combo. Mix some of their familiar tastes together in more of a one pot meal (it's ok to keep with some soft manageable lumps). Then, if that works for your baby, try introducing cheese, herbs and spices and sauces. Obviously be careful of any reactions to new foods and speak to your health visitor or doctor if you’re worried. Oh and watch out for your own face (stay with us). If you are making a face that has ‘they're not going to like this’ written all over it, that’s a huge clue to your baby how you are expecting them to react.
Milestone 6. We’re both enjoying this (hurrah!)
It’s fair to say that food and mealtimes are a huge part of our lives from the moment we start eating. And the social, developmental and emotional benefits of happy mealtimes are enormous. That’s why we do what we do, to help make mealtimes easy. So just crack on and soak up some fabulous mealtime memories with your little ones. Enjoy!