Your weaning adventure
Babies' food preferences and feeding skills go through stages and phases, just like the rest of their development. Read our tips and advice.
You have mastered the introduction of solids, where your primary goal was to get your baby through the transition from liquids to solids, and from sucking to chewing. Now is the time to concentrate on chewing and swallowing different tastes and textures.
At the beginning, most children only dabble in solid foods, eating only a few spoonfuls at a time, and of a few select foods. A hugely important part of learning to eat solids is that the food and method of feeding should match.
Progressing at mealtimes
From seven months on, a baby is developing several skills that will make mealtimes way more interesting. They will begin to pick up pieces of food with their thumb and forefinger (known as a pincer movement). They will develop a fascination with tiny objects, and how to get them into their mouth! From this age on, babies also tend to exhibit an independent streak, and will want to do it all themselves. While this will inevitably end up with lots of food on the floor, the high chair, and probably you (!), this is a good thing, and you should foster your child’s independence.
Between seven and nine months is the right time to start introducing lumpy food and texture to your baby’s diet because chewing helps to develop the muscles your child needs for speech.
This second stage of weaning is an exciting time for both parent and child, but can also be a time when babies who have been great eaters begin to become more difficult to feed. Appeal to your little one’s senses by making food, look as well as taste, great. Pop their food in coloured bowls and use their favourite bibs at mealtimes.
Once your baby is eight months, you can start to slowly introduce finger foods. At the beginning, give your baby any bite-sized piece of food that they can pick up and eat by themselves. Pieces of banana or toast are great starters. Not only is eating finger food great fun for your baby, it’s a hugely important step towards developing excellent motor skills and co-ordination.
You’ll know when your baby is ready to try finger food because they will be grabbing the spoon you’re feeding them with or stealing food off your plate. This stage of feeding can get messy, but don’t be too vigilant with the clean up – allow your baby to get dirty and enjoy this exciting experience.
To begin, arrange four or five pieces of finger food onto your baby’s high chair tray or a plastic plate. You can add more pieces as your baby eats them. Feeding your baby in a high chair, rather than a car seat or the buggy, is much safer and will massively reduce the risk of choking, as well as teach your baby that the high chair is the best place to eat.
While your baby may be hungry, there probably aren’t teeth peeping through yet, so start with foods that can be mashed against the gum and will dissolve easily into the mouth (rice cakes are ideal for this stage). As your baby grows, so too will their ability to eat everything you’re eating.
Bear in mind that your baby is learning all the time – about texture, colour, taste and smell – so don’t stick to the same ‘safe’ foods every day. Resist the temptation to feed your baby lots of convenient foods which purport to be ‘healthy’ but often hide large amounts of sugar and salt. Your baby needs nutrient-rich foods at the moment, not empty calories.
– Article contributed by easyparenting magazine