I have been asked by quite a few people how my baby has adapted so well to weaning. The truth is, it has been a very long and sometimes frustrating journey and occasionally I have really doubted myself. There are certainly meals where A has eaten every last scrap, but there are more meals where he has picked at some things and left pretty much 75% of his food.
The most important thing to remember is that BABY WILL GET THERE! Even when you are scraping your lovingly made tomato sauce off the walls and crying that it took you two hours to prepare, you can assure yourself that this stage will not last forever.
It is a myth that babies are fussy about food when they are first weaned. Babies cannot differentiate between what might be healthy or junk- all food is new and this is the prime opportunity to give them exposure to a rainbow of healthy grub. If a baby is not eating very well, it is unlikely that it is the food itself causing the issue.
Here are some of the main reasons that your baby isn’t eating as well as you might have liked:
- BABY OR PARENT LACKS CONFIDENCE
I cannot emphasise this one enough, and it is probably the toughest nut to crack – especially when you first start weaning. Babies are perceptive little things and will pick up on their parents’ feelings and actions. Therefore, if you are hovering around your baby like a worried fly while she eats her apple, she is likely to feel worried too and probably stop eating. Of course there is a risk of choking with weaning, particularly with BLW. But if you are willing to give it a try, you HAVE to allow your baby to get on with it.
Do not feel like you have failed if you cannot relax enough to allow your baby to handle her own food. Just try traditional weaning instead until you feel that you can confidently give her solids. And don’t forget that babies have a very sensitive gag reflex so there will be times that they cough up their food. My friend taught me the easy rhyme about choking: ‘if they are red, let them go ahead, if they are blue, they need you’. It works.
2. BABY NEEDS TO BE WEANED ANOTHER WAY
So many parents feel they need to stick with a certain type of weaning once they are ‘signed up’. Why? By far the trend amongst 2018 parents is BLW. But as Annabel Karmel promotes, it is so important to use precious weaning time giving your baby variety in the early days. If it is taking your baby half an hour to munch through one piece of pasta it is unlikely that she is getting many tastes. So perhaps consider adding in new flavours via a spoon – whether that is puree or otherwise. Equally if your baby is existing on Ella’s pouches, the same textures might quickly become boring so why not throw in a few veggie sticks for her to sharpen her teeth on?
Remember that weaning is not about ‘filling your baby up’ as much as giving them as much opportunity as possible to discover the joy of eating. So you have flexibility to ensure that they can love every moment.
3. THE TIMING OR SITUATION ISN’T QUITE RIGHT
Babies tend to only do things their way and to their own schedule. This means that they may not fancy food at the same times that we do. And to make life even more complicated, this will obviously change as the baby grows. We used to give A his breakfast at 8am after his 7am milk and a bit of playtime. He now gets grumpy if he is not fed straight after his milk, so I am now scrambling eggs at 7.30 while yawning into my first coffee. Any later and he would be cross and falling asleep into his brekkie.
It is just one of those things with babies – if you want them at their best you really do have to try to work with their natural rhythms as much as possible. This is easier said than done – especially when you have work, school and other schedules to take into account. Having said that, if you are all enjoying a meal together rather than bunging her into a high chair alone to she is much more likely to eat more enthusiastically whether she is tired or not. So take care to balance both timing and eating environment to optimise the opportunity for everyone to enjoy a social dinnertime.
4. BABY IS NOT READY
It is hard for parents to admit when they are surrounded by friends who are showing off their baby’s latest food conquest, but it is really important to only wean when the time is right for YOUR baby. Babies do not need to eat ‘meals’ until they are a year old as long as they are getting adequate nourishment from their milk. So do not stress if your baby is just not up for it yet.
There may also be days where baby is just not fancying it. This can be affected by many factors such as weather, feeling poorly or even the mood of parents and siblings in the house. Eating is a massive deal for babies and the very act can be mind, time and energy consuming. If your baby is just not feeling like they want to eat today that is OK. They will not starve!
I think that we forget sometimes that babies like FLAVOUR! Breastfed babies particularly will get the taste of the food mum eats through breastmilk, and on the same note formula fed babies will probably be gagging for something that tastes a little different once they are weaning. So don’t hold back with the flavours! A has just started rejecting pouch meals and I think this is mainly because I pack herbs, spices and flavours into his homemade meals which ready prepared food just cannot do. As annoying as this may be from a convenience point of view, it does bring home to me that babies do need excitement in their food. So next time you are making mashed veggies, do add some extra flavour to spice things up a bit. I actually listed some of my favourite food hacks to make food more interesting, the blog post can be found here: https://thebabyandthebean.com/2018/05/29/cooking-for-babies-my-essential-hacks/
The main thing to remember aside from all of the above is that weaning should be an ENJOYABLE experience for both parent and baby. If you are not loving it, there are things you can do so please do not feel like you are failing. Identifying what needs to change is a huge step towards happy eating habits that will last a lifetime. So go for it and enjoy the ride (and make sure you stock up on your cleaning wipes…!)