Weaning your baby can definitely be an exciting, experimental and fun time. Today on Little Extras, Baby & Child Nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed joins us to talk all things weaning. Charlotte is really passionate about helping to boost parental confidence around introducing solid food to babies, in order to make it as enjoyable as possible for everyone involved!
However, even if you have your own ideas of how weaning is going to go, the best laid plans don’t always work out when it comes to babies, and Charlotte's here to tell you that THAT’s OK.
WEANING Q&A: Charlotte will also be hosting an exclusive Q&A on weaning with us on Thursday. See end of this blog post for details.
Weaning is a process of learning – for you and your baby. Your baby has to go from a milk only diet to all of a sudden learning how to eat a complex array of different foods. On top of that, eating is a skill that needs to be developed with time and experience as babies move through their weaning journey. Additionally, most babies take time to accustom to new flavours and textures, it doesn’t usually happen overnight.
Babies are also all so different, some take to weaning straight away and seem to love the process of eating, whereas other babies are often slower to accept solid foods. This is totally normal too.
So, what should we expect from those very first weeks of weaning?
What to expect during the first weeks of weaning
1. Lots of Mess
Weaning is a messy time. In fact, in those first weeks you might find that a large amount of the food on offer doesn’t even make it into your baby’s mouth. Instead, it may be more likely to end up lobbed on the floor, smashed into highchair cushions and covering every other part of your baby’s face! Embrace the mess as much as you can, and know that this is all part of their learning and acceptance journey with solid foods.
2. Unsightly Facials
Babies pull all sorts of facial expressions when they're having their first tastes of food. These facials don’t necessarily mean “yuck” (even though they might look like it…!) they may just be your baby’s way of expressing surprise at this new food experience. My best advice – don’t write any foods off after a few tastes and get those cameras well and truly ready to capture those hilarious expressions!
3. Food Rejection
Early on in weaning babies may be seen to reject certain or lots of different foods. Maybe they show this by simply not eating the food, turning their head away from the spoon or spitting certain foods out. This is completely normal too. My son wasn’t a fan of egg at first, but now it’s one of his favourites. So respect your baby’s signals at a mealtime, but remember that research shows us it can take around 10 “exposures” before some foods are accepted.
4. Disinterest in Food
This is completely normal at the start of weaning. At around 6 months of age, when we usually begin solid foods, your baby might be hitting lots of other milestones such as learning to crawl or teething. This can impact on how willing your little one is to engage in mealtimes and how long they want to be in the highchair for. My advice here would be to ensure that “mealtimes” become part of the routine so that your baby knows when to expect this as part of their day. Additionally, try and make those mealtimes fun and engaging for your baby; sit and eat with them where possible and offer lots of smiles, encouragement and interaction.
5. Ups and Downs
Just as with us as adults, babies will have ebbs and flows in their natural appetites. Their appetites will likely vary day to day and meal to meal as some days they want more and some days less as they grow and change so much. We can’t ask our babies why they don’t want food, so my advice is to try and allow your baby to follow their own natural appetite and simply go with their flow. You decide what you offer and let them decide how much they eat at meals. Babies are pretty good at following their own appetites and sometimes just taking the pressure off is all they need.
Of course you might not experience any of these and your baby might glide through weaning happily accepting and tasting most of what is on offer. They are all so different. However, remember to sit back, let your baby take the lead and do lots of role modelling by eating similar meals to your baby whenever possible. This can make a really big difference to helping create your own little foodies.
A few final top tips from me
1. Follow your baby’s appetite lead
2. Keep offering a variety, even rejected foods
3. Eat together when possible
4. Make food and mealtimes fun
5. Let them explore, even if that means making a mess
6. Take pressure off yourself and them to “get it right” – it’s a journey
7. Have fun yourself!
Do you have more questions about weaning?
Submit your questions over on Instagram from 2pm tomorrow (6th May), then join our exclusive Q&A with Charlotte Stirling-Reed on Thursday 7th May at 11am, where she will resolve all your weaning woes and offer her expert advice.