As a baby and child nutritionist, I spend A LOT of my time talking about weaning. Weaning your baby is a really exciting time but it can often be a source of stress and anxiety for parents when they don’t know how to get started or what to expect. So today I’m sharing some of my top tips which I hope will help to reassure parents and give them that little bit of confidence to enjoy all of the ups and downs of the weaning journey!

Weaning top tips

Written by Charlotte Stirling-Reed

Eat together and get baby involved

Whenever possible, eating together with baby either as a family, with one parent, a sibling or anyone who can be a role model, can really help the enjoyment for your little one. Bringing your baby to the table really early on, even before they start weaning, can help get them familiar with mealtime routines and what’s to come. Once you start weaning, your baby will learn a lot from simply watching you. Sitting together and making sure you’re eating something yourself, rather than just sitting and watching them eat, will help them to follow your lead and get curious about what’s happening at the table.

Don’t expect things to go to plan!

Even with the best planning in the world, babies are wonderfully unpredictable and don’t follow rules or expectations! Food refusal, disgusted faces, A LOT of mess, disinterest in food are all PERFECTLY normal during weaning but often parents get disheartened by this. Starting on solid foods is a lot for a little baby to get used to; from developing the skills of eating, getting used to all of the new flavours and textures and going from having only milk to a variety of solid foods.

ALL babies are different and so no one weaning journey is going to be the same. As much as you can, follow baby’s lead and go with the flow. And don’t be put off by their facial expressions – you might think they hate the food you’re giving them, but they’re just not used to it. With time you might be surprised by what their favourite foods turn out to be!

Have fun!

Of course, it’s easier said than done, but taking the pressure off and enjoying the whole process can really make such a difference to how well your baby eats. There is no perfect way to wean your baby, so explore, experiment and leave behind any strict rules. Offer lots of smiles and encouragement and you can even add some fun to mealtimes with colourful napkins, tablecloths or music. Always remember that babies will all move through weaning at different paces and with different likes and dislikes. This is all totally normal, so just try to relax and enjoy it as much as possible!

Follow baby’s lead

I get asked all the time about portion sizes for babies and how much they should be eating. It’s impossible to be specific as it will vary so much for each baby, and there are no guidelines around portion sizes for babies. The best way to know how much to feed your baby is to let them guide you with their appetite. After all, they are the best person to know when they’re hungry or they’ve had enough. Signs to look out for that signal your baby is full include; clamping their mouth shut, turning their head away and spitting out food. I like to follow the concept that you decide what baby eats, but they decide how much.

Vary your meals

Boredom is often one of the biggest reasons why children lose interest in food. Changing up the meals you offer as often as possible can not only help to increase the variety of flavours, textures and nutrients they’re exposed to, but also help prevent them getting fed up with the same meals. One of my favourite ways to eat with little ones is Mediterranean style sharing platters where everyone can take a little bit of what they fancy and try a whole variety of different foods. It is a little bit more time consuming, and obviously it’s not going to be realistic for every mealtime, but it can be an ideal way to role model by filling up your plate with a variety and get baby interested in what you have.

Routine

Establishing a routine around when you’re serving meals to your little one can really help, especially for young babies. Even from before you start eating, a routine that signals it’s time to eat – for example clearing away toys, playing music or laying the table can let baby know that it’s time to eat and get them excited for it. When you start weaning, try to offer foods at time when you can have a calm environment and when your baby is most likely to have an appetite. Keep to this routine so that your baby knows what to expect and then build on this gradually by adding in an extra meal.

Patience, patience, patience!

Patience really is the name of the game when it comes to weaning. You might go into it expecting that your baby will eat everything right up and be eating three meals a day in no time. And while for some babies, that may be the case, the reality is very often the opposite. Babies are completely up and down and there are so many things going on that can affect their appetites. One day they might be loving everything you give them and then the next day refusing absolutely everything – even if it’s a food you KNOW they love! Try to remember that this is all COMPLETELY normal. Try to keep encouraging them, keep role modelling and keep offering them foods even if they’ve refused them a few times – it can take up to ten times for babies to accept some foods!

I hope you found these tips helpful and it’s given you a little more confidence to get started with and enjoy weaning. You can find me, Charlotte Stirling-Reed – The Baby & Child Nutritionist at my website www.srnutrition.co.uk & on social media @SR_Nutrition.