How to start weaning - tips for first time parents
As a child nutritionist, and mum, here are my 5 top tips for new parents who are about to start weaning. Ready?
Do what's right for you
Take things slowly
Don't buy all the gadgets
Let go of perfection
Enjoy your own food
Let me elaborate. When I look at what information and guidance is out there now for new parents about to start weaning, it is often very much led by following a plan that will lead to a specific outcome - eg offering green veggies to get your baby to enjoy them, or offering the allergenic foods to reduce allergies, or giving certain purees to reduce their reflux.
I love weaning. It's one of my favourite parts of those early baby months. Because I enjoy food, I enjoy cooking and I enjoy eating. Sharing food is a way of communicating with someone. It can be about sharing something you love, about showing someone you love them and want to nurture them. But above all, I think that starting weaning, introducing your child to foods, should be enjoyable. It should be something you can look forward to, and not feel tied to a plan or having to follow something exactly.
So my tips for any new parent about to start weaning have enjoying food at the heart.
1. Do what's right for you
You can find research, celebrities, guidelines and experts to back up anything you want to believe, so listen to them with caution. Just because a method of weaning works for one family, doesn't mean it is the right thing for you. If it causes you anxiety, creates friction within your household, or feels overwhelmingly challenging, then it's probably not right. At least not right now. What's right for you and your family may change over time, but don't feel forced to do baby-led weaning if it really feels uncomfortable. Likewise, you don't have to use baby rice just because your sister did. There is no right or wrong, only what is right for you.
Have a read through my '5 things to know before you start' baby led weaning post!
2. Take things slowly
Weaning is meant to be a gradual move from an 100% milk diet, to one with a mixture of milk and food. It's meant to take some time. If only for the fact that your babies digestive system needs time to adjust to these new substances that take a bit more processing than milk. There's no rush to start weaning, replace milk and be eating 3 meals a day - there are no prizes for getting there sooner than someone else either. Your baby will generally give you a guide of when to move things along, but don't be worried if they seem to be taking their time. They'll get there. And then you'll long for the days of milk only.
3. Don't buy all the gadgets
As your baby approaches weaning age, your instagram will be flooded with ads for all the baby weaning gadgets under the sun. The bibs, the highchairs, the blenders, the bamboo bowls and plates in every shape imaginable. And they all scream of promises for the perfect mealtime experience - your baby, sat beautifully in their highchair, picking up that perfect steamed carrot or using the spoon to eat porridge. You don't need them. Certainly not to begin with. Your baby will eat small amounts. They will cry in their high chair after approximately 3 minutes. Food will cover them, their hair, your floor and be pressed into the crevices of highchair for months to come. Buy the basics, and then add to your collection over time if you need to.
4. Let go of perfection
The start of weaning rarely looks like images online suggest. That batch of broccoli puree you prepared will separate and be watery, your baby will wake from their nap late, be screaming for milk and refuse to entertain even the idea of a bib. But why does it have to be such an event at all? If you let go of the idea of the 'start' of weaning happening on a specific day, in a specific way, then all the pressure and performance will go away too. Instead, plan to introduce food at a meal, sometime this week, and then see how the days pan out. Offer them a piece of your food to hold and play with, see if they put it in their mouth and go from there. Perfection is overrated anyway.
5. Enjoy your own food
This is the most important point!! You must continue to enjoy your own food. Babies learn by watching us - they need to see you eat and enjoy the foods that you want them to have. Otherwise they have nothing to copy. So yes, make those meals from that baby recipe book, but make them for yourself as well. And when you make the effort to get the bamboo plate all set up, pop some on a plate for yourself as well. Show your baby that there is something to be enjoyed by food - that it isn't all following a strict regime, and a way of getting in nutrition. Show them that foods have different textures and tastes, and can be absolutely bloody delicious!
Ready to start weaning?
If you want some more specific advice on how to start weaning, or to get a bit more prepared for what those early weeks will look like, then you should definitely check out my First Tastes - Starting Weaning Online Workshop
First Tastes: Starting Weaning is a 2 hour online workshop designed to help you take the pressure out of introducing food to your baby, leaving you both free to enjoy eating together.