7 mistakes parents often make when weaning
If your baby is coming up to weaning age, you might be wondering where to start. Which flavours will your child feel drawn towards, and which will they spit out? Should you wear a smile or a raincoat? Is it best to start with fruit or vegetables, invest in a gallon of baby rice, choose baby-led weaning, or just throw your hands up in the air and admit you don’t have a clue?
Try to cook from scratch when possible
Whatever your starting point, I think it’s a great idea to cook from scratch when weaning. Having had trouble with breastfeeding, I found that cooking pots of stews and sauces and making hummus delivered a different – but just as welcome – opportunity to bond with each of my three babies.
A saucepan bubbling away on the stove felt very soothing. These were freshly prepared ingredients with zero additives, full of flavour, and all prepared by hand, specifically to nourish my baby’s growing body.
The weaning experience also taught me a lot about cooking – I learnt how to make my own stock for a start. And I emerged from it with some wonderful recipes, like a mean tomato sauce, that I still use today with my kids, now aged eight, six and three.
I’m no angel, and I did use ready-prepared pouches when we were out and about for my younger two – it really was so much easier than worrying about whether your child’s lunch was quietly defrosting at the right rate in your chill bag. (Pouches weren’t around with my older one, otherwise I’d have used them too.)
But back home, I had a freezer full of delicious home-made foods for my baby. And I think all those flavours and textures have stood my kids in good stead – my older two are really good eaters now.
But I know that at first, weaning can seem daunting.
In a bid to clear up some common misperceptions, here are some of the mistakes that parents commonly make when weaning:
1. Translating a wince, frown or gag as a no
This actually doesn’t usually mean that your baby hates a food. “Even though it might look like an expression of disgust, it’s more likely to be shock or surprise at trying something new,” says Lucy Thomas, nutrition expert and founder of Mange Tout, whose classes help children to learn to like fruit and veg.
“Babies are not really born with a sense of like and dislike. Babies are born with a preference for sweet and they simply need to learn through exploration and new offerings to adjust to other flavours and textures.”
2. Avoiding certain weaning foods or flavours – because you don’t eat them
Just because you don’t like, say, aubergine, it doesn’t mean that your baby shouldn’t get a chance to sample that taste and texture.
“Ask yourself whether there are particular foods that you exclude without realising,” says Lucy. “Weaning is a great opportunity to explore some new flavours yourself – and you might find that your taste buds have changed too.”
3. Constantly interrupting your baby’s meal to mop up the mess (from the floor, their hair, their clothes, all over you etc etc)
Okay, so weaning is quite messy. Accept it, relax – and put the cloth down.
“It’s important to give babies the opportunity to touch, feel and explore food without having their hands and faces wiped every minute,” says Lucy. “If babies are allowed to squash, squeeze and smear their food, they learn more about textures, cause and effect. At some point, messy fingers covered in new flavours and textures end up in their mouths.”
To keep things as clean as possible, she suggests donning a raincoat and covering the floor with an old shower curtain. I bought full-length bibs with arms for my baby.
Don’t blunt the flavours of stronger-tasting food by mixing them with easier ones, for example by stirring apple puree into broccoli puree.
Instead, let your baby enjoy the real taste of different vegetables without blurring them with sweet fruits, or they may struggle to accept them later on.
5. Giving up on a particular food after a couple of failed attempts
Nutrition experts all agree that it can take 14 to 20 tastes before a child starts enjoying a new flavour, so don’t worry if your little one refuses certain foods at first.
6. Worrying that one failed meal = malnourished baby
If your child just picks at their lunch or seems to exist more on air, don’t focus on one meal, but what they eat over a three-day period instead.
7. Limiting meals to same time, same place
“Molly can refuse new foods up to 10 times at home,” says Lucy. “But if I offer it to her in a different environment – for example, in the supermarket trolley or a bench in the park – and at a time when she is not over-tired or too hungry, she often surprises me and accepts it. So don’t just feed in your high chair in the kitchen. Mix it up.”
It is available free to download at: www.organix.com/littlebookofweaning
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all views are my own.