PARENTS

10 Ways To Make Weaning Your Baby Go Smoothly

20/01/2015 18:28 | Updated 20 May 2015

feeding of a small child

1. Embrace the mess

Forget dining etiquette. This is not Downton Abbey – and your baby is not going to master the art of taking dainty little mouthfuls from a spoon anytime soon. Whether you're spoon-feeding with purées or baby-led weaning, things are going to get messy. Very messy. Cover the floor, cover your baby and cover yourself (or wear something you don't mind getting splattered).

Think of this as messy play but with nutritional benefits. It should be an all-encompassing sensory experience for your baby – she is not just exploring taste, but textures and smells, too, so let her get stuck in. Just try and ensure that some of it gets in her mouth.

2. Be positive

"Begin with a smile! No matter how anxious you feel, you are going to teach your baby to eat and enjoy solid food, one of life's great pleasures," says Judy More, paediatric dietician and author of Stress-Free Weaning.

"As your baby can read the expressions on your face long before he can understand what you are saying, if you are anxious he will become aware of this and may become anxious also. Put a smile on your face and talk positively to him about the food."

3. Be persistent (but don't push)

While it's fine to introduce new flavours at every meal, as this will help to broaden your baby's palate, you will only slow things down in the long run if you push your baby too fast.

"Let him dictate the pace and remember he has a lot to learn, which will take time and patience and encouragement from you. Try to make every meal a pleasure for both of you," says Judy.

4. Make puréeing fun (yep, fun)

If the thought of spending hours chopping, mashing and puréeing food (not to mention all that washing up) sounds about as much fun as an explosive poo situation, why not turn the situation to your advantage.

"Pureeing time is 'me time'," says Anna, 31, a florist. "I make sure my husband is around for childcare duties, shut the kitchen door and then either tune into the radio or listen to an audio book. These have been an absolute revelation to me. I rarely get time to read a real book these days, so this is the perfect opportunity for a spot of escapism."

5. Make time

Making time is easier said than done when you barely have a moment to pee these days. But mealtimes are right up there with naps, when it comes to important tasks to safeguard your baby's health and wellbeing.

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It's no use trying to squeeze in their lunchtime feed five minutes before you dash out of the door to your baby swimming class or NCT catch-up. Allocate at least half an hour for each feed to give both you and your baby time to fully engage with this all-important event and make it as relaxed and stress-free as possible.

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6. Be adventurous

The food your baby eats now can have a long-reaching impact on her eating habits in the future, so the more flavours she experiences early on, the better chance you have of staving off fussy eating problems further down the line.

Don't be afraid to introduce herbs, spices and strong flavours, such as garlic and ginger – just stick to small amounts as your baby's taste buds become accustomed.

7. Play games

Pretending the spoon is an aeroplane or a choo-choo train about to enter the tunnel, might seem like a bit of a cliché, but there's a reason why it works. Babies love play and that is how so many of their developmental skills are fine-tuned – just ask any nursery manager.

If your baby seems reluctant to accept food, turn it into a game – anything to make it fun! And that means making sure the TV is switched off. A CBeebies fix might seem like the quickest way to divert a mid-weaning meltdown, but in the long run, you want your baby to engage with the act of eating, not see it as just another thing standing in the way of them and Mr Tumble.

8. Ditch the scales

Okay, well don't actually ditch them – you will need to use them if you're going to make delicious recipes like these. But don't be a slave to weights, measurements and portion sizes. Unlike some of us greedy adults, who will eat whatever is put in front of us, however large, babies are pretty good at understanding when they are full.

Let them be your guide. "Babies can judge better than you when they have had enough to eat and they will signal this to you by keeping their mouth shut, turning their head away or putting their hand up in front of their mouth," says Judy.

9. Give yourself a break

There is something deeply satisfying and rewarding about watching your child eating a fresh, healthy, nutritious meal lovingly prepared by you. But life can be busy and stressful – particularly if you're getting no sleep – and, even with the best of intentions, you might not always have the time to do this.

Exhaustion is a high price to pay for being a Perfect Mum.

If that's the case, there are plenty of pre-prepared meals, available on the high street, that are packed with a perfect balance of nutrients and with little or no additives. There is no shame in using these in tandem with your homemade meals. Remember, a happy mum is a happy baby.

10. Relax

Don't be anxious or concerned if your baby doesn't seem to be taking to this food lark as easily as you thought. This is not a race to turn him into a gurgling gourmet. Who cares if your friend's baby went through the entire weaning process in three weeks? What does she want – a Michelin star? Take your time, take it easy and expect a few hiccups along the way.

Watching someone being sick on their plate after you've just spent hours preparing their meal can take a bit of getting used to, but one day you will look back on this experience (and all those 'sweet-potato beard' photos) and wish you could do it all over again.

More on Parentdish: Baby weaning recipes

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