How do I know if they’re eating enough? What if my baby refuses to eat anything? Why does my baby keep gagging on food?
These are just some of the fears I had when I started weaning my first baby. It was a nerve-wracking time, not least because I was on a really strict routine with her at this stage and I was worried about how to fit food in to her day.
Worrying about whether your baby is getting enough solid food during weaning is a really common fear among parents.
It’s easy to get stressed out about weaning, because your child can’t tell you that they are full and they aren’t always open to trying new things.
You might be spending hours creating purees from freshly steamed organic veg or batch cooking delicious one-pot meals to introduce them to new flavours.
While you might have lucked in with a baby who scoffs down every bite and then asks for seconds within a few minutes, many kids will nibble down one bite before refusing to try any more.
I thought I would share my 17 top tips for weaning to make life easier for you:
1. Food is for fun until they’re one.
This is the number one thing to remember when weaning. Your baby can still be getting the majority of their nutrients and calories from milk until age one.
Six months is a long time to get used to this new skill, so if after just one month your child is still refusing to open their mouth for a bite of solid food, remember that a LOT can change in this period of time.
2. Be positive
If you’re uptight, stressed and trying to pressure your child into eating, then you’re going to make the entire experience unappealing to your child.
Try to smile, make it fun, sing songs and eat the food yourself.
If after all of that they still don’t eat a thing, just smile and move on.
3. Go for variety
I had a few weaning books and tried to pick a variety from each of them. One book in particular relied heavily on cheese in nearly ever single fish dish, so I tried to make up my own fish dishes so that my kids wouldn’t associate fish with handfuls of grated cheese.
Try lots of different meat and veggie combinations to see what your child likes, but also to give them a balanced diet.
4. Rethink your routine
It can be tricky to squeeze trying solid food in when you’re busy going to baby groups and have naps to fit in as well.
Try to think about where food can fit into your current routine and take it from there.
This was my weaning routine at around six months when we started on solid food:
7am – Milk
8am – Breakfast
9am – Nap
10am – Milk
11.30am – Lunch
Midday – Milk – she didn’t drink much if she had a decent lunch but sometimes she refused all solids
12.30pm – Nap
3pm – Milk
6.30pm – Milk
I then moved up to this by around eight months:
7am – Breakfast with a cup of milk
10am – Milk
11.30am – Lunch
12midday – Nap
3pm – Milk
4.30pm – Dinner
5. Offer the same thing again and again
Don’t give up after just one try and don’t allow yourself to be influenced by your own attitude to vegetables and other foods. Veggies have a bad reputation, but greens are tasty and your child will get used to them!
If your child rejects broccoli every day for a week, then give them a break for a few days and try again.
6. Look for inspiration
There are so many amazing websites with ideas for baby weaning food. If you’re struggling with what to cook, check out Pinterest and websites such as Mumsnet.
You don’t have to buy a book, but there are some really good ones on the market that give a great idea for what to offer as first foods and what to cook when you move onto second stage weaning.
7. Plan around your own meals
Offer your baby whatever food you are having, as long as it’s suitable.
When you’re cooking a roast dinner, add a few extra florets of broccoli and cauliflower into the pan and then puree these when cooked.
This saves you buying extra food just for the baby.
8. Eat together
This can really make a huge difference, especially if you are eating the same thing. Your child will automatically want to eat the same as you.
If they want to steal from your plate, then let them. Some people may say that this is setting them up for bad habits, but I liked to get my kids tasting new things and this is a brilliant way of encouraging it.
9. Buy low salt stock cubes
There is so much salt added to food these days that it’s hard to avoid.
The NHS recommends that children under 12 months eat less than 1g of salt a day. If you look at how much is contained in some of your favourite foods, including bread and cereals, it’s quite shocking.
I use low salt stock cubes in my children’s cooking. Sometimes I made my own stock, or simply simmered stews and casseroles in chopped tomatoes. However this wasn’t always practical as I was often limited for time.
This is a great way of saving you time and cutting back on salt.
10. You don’t have to use jars
I totally understand why people use jars and sachets. There are loads on the market and it saves so much time.
But I really wanted my kids to be used to my cooking so I made all of their meals from the start. As a result, I found they refused the jars and toddler ready meals when I did offer them on the odd occasion.
11. Wean the way you want to
A lot of people swear by baby-led weaning. I read many websites that informed me that baby-led weaning was better for my child, and actually the purees were a really bad idea.
In my opinion, whatever way you choose to wean your child is totally fine.
Baby-led weaning is of course a great option because it means you don’t have to be endlessly mashing and processing food.
However purees worked well for me because I could spoon the food directly into my child’s mouth and I knew how much she had eaten. I wasn’t a fan of the mess baby-led weaning can produce.
With my second child I did use a lot more finger food however.
My message is, just do it the way you want. There are no hard and fast rules. The ultimate goal is to get your child used to eating sold food three times a day.
12. Build up the amount gradually
Start with just a few teaspoons of baby rice or a simple vegetable like potato or carrot.
Do this just once a day for the first few days. If your baby is taking to things well, try offering a bit more each day.
Start with providing one meal a day, whether that be breakfast or lunch, and then add the other meals as your child gets used to eating.
13. Ditch the bottles when you think the time is right
Dropping daytime feeds is not an exact science. If your baby has started to eat a proper breakfast and lunch, and they are not finishing bottles at certain times of day, then it’s safe to drop those.
By 12 months, my kids were on three bottles a day. One first thing in the morning, one as a snack mid-morning and another before bed.
Both my children still have milk in the mornings and evenings now, though I don’t worry too much if they don’t finish their serving.
14. Get a splash mat
Put a wipe clean mat underneath your child’s chair, because things will get messy!
15. Stock up on bibs
The plastic ones that catch food are brilliant.
16. Keep an eye on weight gain
This is a good way to see if your child is getting enough food at each sitting. If you are worried about your child losing weight, always see your GP or health visitor.
17. Hang in there
If your child is refusing every bite, totally attached to their bottle and you’re worried they just don’t like solid food, don’t panic.
Some little ones are difficult about eating solid food in the first six months. But if you stay patient, keep offering a variety of foods at every meal time and encourage your child, eventually it will click that food is pretty awesome!
Are you weaning your baby? Do you have any tips?