Introducing solids was the thing I was looking forward to most about having a baby and being on maternity leave. I’ve talked about weaning for my entire nutrition career as a child nutritionist, spoken to hundreds of parents about their experiences, eaten SO much baby food, read all the research and met all the experts - but without having actually been through it myself, I always suffered a bit from imposter syndrome.
When it came time to wean my little boy I was really excited. Food is a huge part of my life - I LOVE cooking and eating a whole array of different flavours, although I am very picky about certain foods: Sushi, Thai curries, marmite - yes yes yes; Bananas, peanut butter, yoghurt - keep them away from me!
I would love for my son to be adventurous with food, and happy to give anything a go. It was because of this that we decided to follow a mostly baby-led weaning approach.
There’s also a certain amount of pressure, real or otherwise, that comes with my job. Surely if anyone can get their baby to eat well it’s a child nutritionist - I run weaning workshops, have written baby weaning guides and made a lot of baby food, so I should know what I’m doing right?? To be honest, there was a degree of trepidation about starting weaning - this is my territory, and if it all goes wrong is it my fault?
But six months later, and I think I can say we’ve ‘survived’ the first stage of weaning - my son is very much eating family meals, sat at the table with us, for 3 meals a day. And so far there hasn’t been too many foods that he has refused. So I’d count that as a success!
Here are some things I’ve learnt in my role as mum and child nutritionist. Remember that all babies are different, and will progress through weaning in their own way.
1: Babies might eat really tiny amounts, to begin with. No, really tiny!
I knew this but never really understood what it might look like, or how disheartening it feels when they do only have a lick of the spoon. All the more reason to not prepare specific baby meals, as they are very likely to be wasted.
2: Babies get distracted easily.
In my role as a child nutritionist, I talked about keeping a calm eating environment, no screens, time to focus on your baby. However, I wasn’t expecting how easily the straps in a high chair, the bowl, or the hoover in the corner of the room would become distracting. This is not to say that babies should be fed in an empty quiet room, but minimising the number of things they have to grab onto means that they can focus on what’s in front of them.
3: Babies respond to your reactions.
It’s fairly well known that babies pick up on facial expressions and tone of voice from an early age. This is how they bond and build attachment, and it helps your baby feel safe and secure. This applies to feeding too - if you aren’t cool, calm and collected around food, then babies are so much more likely to be fussy and distracted when eating. I’ve really found that talking positively and having a normal conversation, not too focused on food, makes for the best eating experiences.
4: Babies appetites are SO varied.
As a child nutritionist, I knew this. But when you see your baby eat 2 bowls of porridge one day, and barely nibble a piece of toast the next, it can be really unsettling and I found myself starting to think about how I could encourage him to eat more. I have had to catch myself numerous times and remind myself that it is completely normal for babies to eat very different amounts, and I’ve now started to see the correlation between teething, heat, growth spurts etc and the amount of food eaten. It can feel really uncomfortable to see your baby not eat much food, but I know that he is in control of his appetite and that the best thing I can do is to trust him.
5: Babies will eat ANYTHING if given the chance.
There aren’t many foods that I haven’t offered, with the exception of things that are unsafe, but even I’ve been taken by surprise at what foods have gone down the best. Lentils and beans have been a welcome success - the texture is great and easy for spoon feeding, whilst bigger beans have been squashed and picked up with fingers. Slices of orange, complete with peel, get chewed on and have provided relief when teething. And prawns have been a huge hit - another great texture for those gums to tackle! It’s amazing how babies adapt to eating with no teeth too.
As we head into toddlerhood, I have no doubt that we will encounter some bumps in the road with feeding - there is likely to be some foods that get rejected or refused, and others that become firm favourites. But all in all, I have thoroughly enjoyed introducing food to my son, and the mess has all been worth it! Speaking of mess, if you are a clean freak then check out my post about managing mess during weaning here.
Good eating habits start from weaning, so if you're about to introduce food to your baby, why not join an online weaning workshop with a child nutritionist and increase your confidence in building healthy eating habits. You can sign up here. Or if you've been struggling with introducing foods to your baby, send me an email and we can come up with an approach that works for your family.