If you're contemplating weaning your baby onto solid foods, you could be forgiven for feeling a bit confused. Baby-led weaning or old-school spoon-feeding? It's a bit of a minefield.
But according to a survey conducted by Vital Baby earlier this year 64% of parents choose to combine elements of both spoon-feeding and baby-led weaning, rather than opting for just one method of weaning. Based on that finding, nutritional expert Dr Rana Conway, has shared these top weaning tips with us:
Tip 1: Offer your baby a wide range of foods
"Babies naturally like sweet foods to start with, but offer slightly bitter foods too such as spinach, broccoli and green beans," says Dr Conway. "Don’t be surprised if these are rejected at first as your little one gets used to different flavours and textures. Every time you try, the chances of success increase." That'll account for the puree-splattered floors and walls in my kitchen, then. Good to know it's normal!
Tip 2: Let your baby set the pace
If your baby shows signs that he’s had enough don’t keep trying for one more spoonful, advises Dr Conway. Remember, too, that teething and colds can put a baby off their food so try to avoid food battles, especially at those times, by resisting the the urge to persuade your little one to eat.
Tip 3: Don’t give too much milk
According to Dr Conway, giving too much milk is one of the main reasons why babies don't take to solids well. I know I made this mistake with my youngest. She loved her milk so much that I was loathe to mess with it by reducing her intake, but the knock-on effect was that she wasn't fussed about mealtimes. "Babies under 12 months need 3-4 breast feeds or 500-600ml of formula a day, and giving more than this can make them too full for meals," agrees Dr Conway. Lo and behold, when I eventually wised up and cut down my daughter's milk feeds, her interest in eating solids soon perked up.
Tip 4: Give your baby plenty of opportunities to handle food
"Whether you’re starting with spoon-feeding or baby-led weaning, give some finger foods every day," suggests Dr Conway. Steamed vegetables such as carrot sticks or pieces of broccoli and soft fruit like bananas and pears are ideal. And yes, this means embracing a bit of mess.
Tip 5: Make meal times enjoyable
Finally, try not to let worries about weaning impact on your mealtime experience together. I got this badly wrong with my eldest, to that extent that one or both of us ended up in floods of tears on numerous occasions, and of course a sobbing fit tends to ruin even the best appetite. Instead, make meal times enjoyable by sitting and eating together whenever possible, recommends Dr Conway. "If you relax and take your time it will help your baby develop a healthy relationship with food," she says.
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