You’ve pushed out a baby, kept them alive and well, and endured sore nipples from breastfeeding. We’re sorry to say it doesn’t get much easier from here. After breastfeeding comes weaning, the time when you gradually take a baby off breastmilk and get them eating solid food.
As with potty-training and teaching toddlers to speak, the process can be long and frustrating. It’s easy to let stress take over and run new mums absolutely ragged. It’s not particularly realistic to expect a dreamy, problem-free weaning experience, but what we can do is reduce the stress involved as much as possible.
We spoke to Alice Fotheringham, an infant nutrition specialist and the co-founder of baby food brand Piccolo, who shared her advice for making sure weaning doesn’t completely wear you out. Baby weaning plan Before you go on to the stress reduction tips, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
Listen to your baby
You don’t need to panic too much if your baby isn’t eating at their strictly designated meal times, or won’t finish their plate. Every baby is different and they won’t let themselves starve. Tune into their behaviour and emotions and go from there.
‘It may seem strange, but your baby is actually a smarter eater than the average adult – they’re great at self-regulating their appetite, and actually know that it’s time to stop eating once you’re full,’ says Alice.
‘Many parents are worried that they’re not feeding their baby the right way, concerned that they’re either over or underfeeding their little one.
‘There is no need to stress about this – your baby will let you know once he or she is full, and will definitely let you know if they are hungry!’
Remember to try a mix of everything
Now’s the fun bit, before kids get stuck in their ways and become picky eaters. The best way to ensure a balanced diet is to give babies a mix of a little of everything, with plenty of nutritious vegetables, fruits, grains, and proteins.
Don’t be afraid to try strong flavours
Baby food has a rep for being bland, as often parents think their kids won’t be able to handle anything intense. It can be enjoyable to try giving your baby more bold flavours.
If they don’t like it, they won’t eat it, and then you can try something else. ‘Slowly introducing various herbs and spices into your babies diet is actually beneficial in developing a more sophisticated taste palate, helping your baby be a much less fussy eater later on in life,’ says Alice.
‘Don’t be discouraged if your baby isn’t receptive to a new taste at first – it can take up to 12 tries to get your baby accustomed to a new flavour.’
Enjoy meals together
Try not to make your baby’s meal their own stressful experience, instead incorporating their meals into your own sit-down eating times. Look at the weaning process as a way to still spend quality time together after the closeness of breastfeeding comes to an end.
Alice says: ‘Mealtimes are a great way to bond as a family, no matter how and when you may eat – so whether its an on-the-go snack or a sit down meals, the important thing is that you make time to share healthy, nutritious meals together.
‘Babies are social beings, and making a small occasion out of a meal helps to make the weaning process that much more integrated into their overall growth and development.’
Don’t worry about what you ‘should’ be doing
You don’t need to follow some other mum’s complicated guide or stick to a regimented plan with deadlines for each step of the process.
Take as long as you need and do it your way. Alice says: ‘Throw the weaning rulebook out the window. There’s no one size fits all baby or family. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break, and make time for what matters.
Remember weaning isn’t the most important thing in life
As with most baby-related things, weaning will be a struggle… but it will turn out okay. Try to relax and enjoy it instead of dreading every moment, and make sure to spend time with your new baby doing things unrelated to their diet.
‘It can be easy to get caught up in all the stress of what you can and can’t feed your baby, so you could forget to take a step back and enjoy spending time together getting out and about,’ says Alice.
‘Remember to enjoy yourselves and take the opportunity for a mini adventure – from a baby swim to walks in the park to soft play – wherever you can.
‘These formative years are all about having the best adventures with your family – showing your little one what the world is like, and building up experiences you’ll cherish for life.’