Lucy Thomas, Fussy Eating Expert and consultant at Organix, shares her top tips for weaning success.
As a Fussy Eating Expert, I have worked with babies, toddlers and children of all ages. It is common to be anxious about doing the right thing when it comes to weaning success. I would say as a guiding principle, no two babies are the same, each can be ready for food and weaning at different times, with different foods. Don’t force, keep it fun and relaxed, and rest assured they will get there in the end!
There is so much for our babies to take on board through the weaning process, from the visual sight of food to the tactile touch and texture, the sound it makes, the smell and the taste. So many pieces of the puzzle have to come together in a huge feat of development, that it’s no wonder all babies take to weaning at different stages. Here are my top tips for weaning success.
10 Top Tips for Weaning Success
Perseverance is key
It can take between 10 – 15 times before a baby accepts a particular food. They need to learn to like the taste of some foods e.g. bitter foods such as broccoli, cauliflower and spinach. They might pull a face or spit it out, but this is not a sign of dislike, merely unfamiliarity. The taste and smell of these bitter foods can lead to food refusal. But don’t give up! Research shows that repeated and frequent exposure to them is the most successful route to familiarity and their ultimate acceptance.
Embrace the messiness
Try letting your baby explore and play with their food, and don’t worry about wiping them down until the end. You could do this by putting a vegetable or fruit puree directly on their highchair tray and letting them put their fingers into it. Getting messy is a great way to desensitise your baby to the texture and sensory experience of food.
Reduce baby’s oral sensitivity
Remember eating requires a multitude of skills both physically and cognitively. Your baby’s sensory perception will be going into overdrive with all these new sensations. Focus on reducing their oral sensitivity by using a soft toothbrush, teething toys (both warm and cold), melty finger foods that babies can gum on to (Organix Melty Veggie Sticks and Organix Rice Cakes are good for this) and can be dipped into puree for a yummy first meal.
Read More: Your Weaning Survival Kit
Start with tiny tasters
A great exercise is to place tiny dots of food at the corner of your baby’s mouth. It is a gentle way to introduce them to something new or different, their tongue will naturally reach out and explore it. It’s also a good way of helping them strengthen their fledgling tongue muscles.
Make the most of cheeky older siblings
Another way of increasing oral dexterity and having fun, if you have older siblings, is to get them to demonstrate sticking their tongue out and stretching it to the sides of their mouth and see if your baby wants to copy. This is a great exercise for your baby’s mouth before it learns to talk and will help it to control food in their mouth.
Get playful with fruit and veg
Helping your little ones to have fun and explore green vegetables and fruit, without any expectation of them actually eating them, is a great place to start. The idea is to offer your baby a fun way to explore a green vegetable that doesn’t force them to eat it, but offers them a positive exposure and a very subtle taste. Singing is such a simple yet effective tool to help build positivity for eg Row, Row, Row Your Boat (using a courgette!), Five Green Peas (rather than bottles!). Squashing and popping the peas or just trying pincer practice with thumb and finger to put them into a bowl provides a great hands on way to expose them to peas.
Use a mirror with your baby so they can see themselves, and encourage them to use soft green vegetables like a toothbrush, to gently brush their gums. This will really help them get used to these vegetables. You can also try this out yourself.
Don’t try and fool baby
Don’t disguise or hide vegetables (for example don’t mix spinach with apple or peas with pear) – this can lose trust and make our little ones suspicious of what we are offering them.
Keep things simple with soup
Soup is a great way to encourage your baby to get on the green train and for you to join in and gain the nutritional benefit too. A simple leek and sweet potato soup made with low salt stock and blitzed to a smooth soup is a lovely option. My girls also love dipping their Organix Melty Veggie Sticks in their soup!
Add a subtle hint of extra flavour and colour
Herbs are very effective in adding a splash of green to your baby’s food and give an interesting flavour – consider chopped chives in scrambled eggs, dill on fish, pesto on pasta, mixed herbs on roast veg– this will help your baby become familiar with green in other ways.
Read More: Healthy Weaning Recipes for Baby