This week’s guest post is from Charlie Wilson. I love reading her posts on Macaroni Mums, a place for “real, down-to-earth, bumbling-along-and-having-a-lot-of-fun mummies.”
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Weaning. Ah, the joy of carrot puree up the walls and your baby sending projectile missiles of mush right into your coaxing face. Weaning’s a really exciting stage in parenting – your little one’s expression as he experiences new flavours! – but it’s also a whole new world: What foods to offer? How much? When? What about milk feeds? And allergies? And choking? Parents in the throes of weaning can find themselves floundering and anxious and suffering from ‘spaghetti bolognaise aversion’. So here are some top tips for weaning to make the whole process much easier – and much more enjoyable:
1. Arm yourself with info.
Read one or two childcare books or baby websites that include guidance on weaning to establish the basics of how it works, such as which foods to avoid for the first year and how to transition from smooth-mush to lumpy-mush. Note the words ‘one or two’ in the last sentence – no need to become a weaning expert, which simply leads to obsessing over each detail of weaning.
2. Take your time.
There’s no rush! You don’t need a weaning schedule on the wall outlining on what exact day your baby must try his next new food. Take it easy on yourself and your baby, and find your way gently. Just as with all baby development, they get there in the end – your baby won’t still be on milk feeds only when he starts school…
3. Try what your baby’s eating.
Seriously, give that puree a go! If you think it’s vile, perhaps that’s why your baby’s rejecting it. If you think it’s delicious, your baby watching you eat some and then hearing your mmmmmmmm will be inspirational.
4. See weaning from your baby’s perspective.
How would you feel if you had to try a huge array of new foods over the coming months? Some days you may be up for it, some days you just want familiar tastes. Some new tastes you love, some you just don’t. That’s just how your baby feels.
5. Let your baby lead the way.
If he doesn’t want to eat, he doesn’t want to eat. If he doesn’t like something, he doesn’t like something. Yes, perhaps you try a touch of gentle (gentle!) coaxing before giving up, but don’t force him. Your baby’s best chance at growing up to have a healthy relationship with food is eating according to his appetite and body signals from the word go.
6. Eat with your baby.
I spent the first two months of weaning standing over my son in his highchair and trying to slip spoonfuls of puree into his mouth. Often, he lost interest after the first couple. But then – eureka! I moved his mealtime to coincide with the grownups’ mealtime, and at once he was much more interested in this thing called food. Think about it – how much do you enjoy eating alone? We’re all sociable sorts and sharing meals is great for bonding and for helping babies learn by experience.
7. Be flexible, not rigid.
Read enough baby books and you’ll have a head full of weaning rules. Don’t do this. Do this. Add to that the wealth of info available via the media and you may find yourself restricting your baby to nothing but home-grown, organic porridge oats mixed with soya milk. Great! But don’t be afraid to branch out. Relax! Follow the rules set by health organisations and be sensible (no hunks of steak for your nine-month-old) but don’t be strangled by what ‘some’ people think your baby should or shouldn’t be eating.
8. Chill out about mess.
Mess is essential for your baby’s development. He doesn’t just want to taste that yoghurt, he wants to squish it about with his hands. Oh yes, and perhaps a little exploration of what yoghurt looks like in Mummy’s hair – ah ha! As I thought. Stunning. Most adults don’t love mess. But honestly, the more you chill about it while your baby weans, the easier everyone finds this stage.
9. Don’t make a big deal about weaning.
Your baby picks up on your tension. If you’re fretful at mealtimes, so will your baby be. Be as relaxed as possible, and then your baby will relax too and think, Okay, I’m up for this.
10. Laugh, laugh, laugh.
Weaning is so much fun, if you let it be! See the humorous side of mess, of raspberries, of shocked ooooooo faces brought on by a new flavour, of your baby trying to feed you a slimey handful of banana. Laugh, smile, encourage your baby to have fun. And take lots of pictures. Because soon enough your baby will be spooning in dinner like a pro, and those ‘wearing my meal’ looks will be but a distant memory.