5 tips for successful weaning

Posted in Tips on 28 September 2017 by Laura

From letting the veggies lead to good mood mealtimes - your expert guide to weaning and feeding your little ones

If the thought of dinner time with your little ones isn't as appetising as you'd like, you're not alone! Weaning and the early years of feeding can prove to be one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. Every family is different; there's no set rulebook, but here's some handy hints for your kitchen cupboard to help you on your way:

1) Let the veggies lead
Babies naturally gravitate towards sweeter tastes during weaning. Recent research however has highlighted the benefit of a "vegetable first" approach, where using single vegetable flavours at the very start of weaning, helps to increase a baby's liking of bitter tastes. Avoid using pureed combinations where sweeter fruits disguise the bitter vegetable tastes; not only will this delay a willingness for bitter tastes in the longer term, it's likely to boost a preference for sweet tastes also.

2) Little mouths, lot's of variety
Most babies will be ready to transition to solid foods when they reach 6 months of age. Readiness for different tastes and textures and an eagerness to handle foods will vary between baby. Start with soft or cooked foods and use a selection of smooth (blended with milk if needed and pushed through a sieve), mashed (with a fork leaving a slightly lumpy consistency) and finger foods (an adult's finger is a good sizing guide allowing them to grab and hold food in their fist) - variation is key to developing a confident eater!

3) Let baby's tummy do the talking
Our hunger and satiety signals are strong from birth. Let your baby decide when they’ve had enough to eat. Encouraging them to clear their plates can embed the idea that eating past the point of fullness leads to positive recognition from parents and may lead to an unhealthy relationship with food in the longer term. For toddlers and older children, avoid food bribes such as the promise of dessert if they eat their vegetables. This approach reinforces the message that healthy food is to be endured, rather than enjoyed, in order to gain the more satisfying reward of a sugary treat.

4) Good mood mealtimes
Babies and children watch and learn -what and how we eat is no exception! Try to make mealtimes a sociable environment where you all enjoy the same foods; show positivity through facial expressions and by making "yummy" sounds and gestures. Remember that a child's appetite and desire for different foods can fluctuate in the same way as an adults. Avoid showing anxiety if your child appears to eat more one day and less the next, or seems to enjoy a food but then refuses it the following mealtime. These are natural tendencies so stay calm and avoid forcing foods.

5) Fussy and frustrated
It is very common for pre schoolers to enter a phase of fussy eating. Despite parental assurances that food may be "tasty" or "good for us", new foods still seem alien to young children. Avoid making mealtimes solely about tasting foods and urge children to explore foods in other ways. Help them to identify bright colours, ask how a new food smells and encourage them to snap or squeeze foods to pacify unfamiliar textures. If reluctance to tasting persists, prompt children to "kiss" a food as a gateway to their taste buds. Research suggests that it can take children between 5 and 15 times to fully embrace a new food, so don't give up!

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