The Weaning Journey Started Off Right
It’s impossible to avoid your toddler being a fussy eater but you can definitely make some decisions early on to help them to build positive behaviours around food.
When I do troubleshooting on eating with my 1-1 clients, I often see toddlers only eating a handful of things and “that’s all they eat”, I’m told. Parents can feel stuck in a rut and easily become very stressed and anxious around teaching their little one to eat. This means that food doesn’t become fun and mealtimes are fraught. Nobody wants eating to be a negative experience but it is really normal to want to feed your baby and toddler! However, what you’ll know is that the more stressed or anxious you are as a parent, the more likely your baby or toddler will pick up on it and will be less likely to eat well.
Anything we can do to keep a positive vibe when it comes to eating can really help.
So, what can you do in the early months to start weaning in a positive way?
At 4, 5 or 6 months – whenever you start – you’ll probably find that your baby is quite receptive to trying new tastes and flavours. I’m sure they will show preferences to some foods and that’s absolutely ok. It is really normal for them to pull funny faces! A baby’s taste buds are far more sensitive than ours and they’re not used to different tastes and textures because they’ve only ever had milk. Them finding it overwhelming is totally normal, too! When you introduce a new food sometimes they might refuse it or they won’t seem to like it and here lies the first trap. If you start to give into this and give them something else instead then you are much more likely to end up with a baby or toddler later on who will become more fussy.
Did you know it can take up to 21 times for a child to like something?
Therefore, it could take a baby that long to actually learn to like a particular food! Some foods they may never like – this is human nature – but, ultimately, if you keep trying it is very likely that they will end up liking that particular food.
The best thing you can do for your baby is to keep trying every 4-5 days with a particular taste.
It could be months down the line that they will finally like a particular food! The best thing that you can do, as a parent, is to persevere significantly.
I know that those first few months of weaning are quite intense. It becomes easier for us to say “it’s ok if they missed a meal today because they still have a milk feed to come”. It’s ok to have the confidence to say “it’s ok: it doesn’t matter if they don’t eat this food because I know they have another milk feed coming”. Try your best to stay relaxed and calm if they refuse it. Be confident that you can try again, and again.
We do not need them to eat a huge amount at this very early stage of weaning.
One of the big factors when it comes to parents wanting their babies to eat well is sleep. You will worry they won’t sleep if they haven’t eaten well; but missing one meal at this stage will not be the factor in affecting their entire sleep at this phase. It’s easy to blame early and night waking for missing one meal but it is rarely the case, it’s more an overall approach to eating as a whole day intake or a whole week intake that can affect that much sleep as at 4-5 months they’d still be having milk at night time anyway.
Accepting that your baby doesn’t want to or won’t eat something can be difficult. Most of us have made that meal or puree ourselves and then it feels like a waste and exhausting emotionally when they refuse it. It’s easy to wonder what the point is – being a parent is exhausting in itself without this – but try to think about how you cook that food to take away some of the anxiety. It might be that you decide not to cook fresh every day; if you have batch-cooked a recipe then you’re only using one portion at a time. Batch cooking saves a huge amount of time and energy for the start of the weaning journey. Also using leftovers from your meals or veggies and fish can be whizzed up, this makes you feel better because you haven’t had to go above and beyond. This takes off the pressure from feeling it’s another task.
Another thing to think about is adding in some shop-bought purees but be warned they are very very smooth and pure so potentially you’ll find your child prefers them because there’s a lot of fruit in them, too, so your child might take to them more. Most families that I work with prefer home cooked food so use these only when you need to.
Be ok with your baby not liking everything you give them but don’t throw it away – keep offering it on a regular basis and see where you get to. Don’t forget you could offer the same food in different formats, too. Remember that one day they might love it!
Another thing to consider is texture, it’s really important to introduce to your baby’s diet as time goes by. Gradually moving away from puree to a more lumpy food (if you have used Baby Led Weaning then this would not apply to you) at around 6 months of age (if you have started before 6 months) is important. By around 9 months of age you’d want your child to have finger foods and be confident with more lumpy textured foods. To add texture you could blitz food less or use a fork to mash something up and there’s always the opportunity for you to revert to a more puree texture if they don’t like it.
If your baby has a sensitive gag reflex or they’ve had reflux, you might find they struggle with this transition. This is totally fine and doesn’t mean that they won’t be a good eater! They all develop at very different paces, however, it’s important to keep giving them textured food and finger food so they know it’s safe and ok – eventually they will become interested in it.
If you would like to learn more tips and practical recipes suggestions for your baby’s weaning journey then please click below to access my Online Weaning Workshop.