How to start weaning a baby
The time soon comes when baby needs more than just milk. It’s time to introduce solids!
There are two main approaches to this, usually described as Baby-led weaning and Parent-led weaning.
Which you choose is up to you – and baby. Some babies take more easily to one or the other. And each approach needs slightly different purchases!
What is Baby-led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning means mess as baby explores the taste and texture of food! Your first line of defence will be good bibs! Choose ones with long sleeves and bodies so baby’s clothes are protected. No one wants to have to change outfits after every meal!
Second is the highchair. All the normal considerations about buying a highchair still apply. Do you want one that folds? Do you want one that will grow with your child? Is it comfortable?
That last point is interesting. Some highchairs are luxuriously padded but if you are considering Baby-led weaning then finding a highchair that is easy to keep clean is a top priority! Look out for nooks and crannies which sticky hands can reach and fill with food! The cushions are some highchairs are not removable and food can get hidden behind the padding.
A highchair with an extra-large tray is useful. Some even come with two trays! One fits on top of the other and is easily removed for cleaning, leaving a clean surface underneath for toys (or a second attempt at self-feeding!). A tray that can easily be removed (and kept horizontal! Some would require you to empty all the remaining food into baby’s lap as you remove it) and taken to the sink is a lot easier than trying to wipe a tray with a cloth.
An extra supply of cloths for cleaning highchair and baby come in useful. If baby is still safe in the highchair when the tray is removed, it does make life so much easier as you can remove the temptation to play with that mess before cleaning baby. The kitchen floor will also get messy as baby explores and drops food. It may go against the grain but you will need to recycle this back onto the tray! So either keep the floor scrupulously clean or use a highchair mat. Lay it on the floor under the highchair and take to the sink for washing after dinner.
What Parent-led Weaning
For parent-led weaning, the highchair and its surroundings don’t get so messy so you have a wider choice in bibs and highchairs.
Baby’s first foods will be purée’s – either in the form of shop bought jars and packets or purées you have made yourself. In the first weeks of weaning, baby will actually eat very little, and normal food processors will only purée large amounts. It’s no fun pureeing a load of carrot and then finding baby won’t touch it. There are some hand-held processors which can manage smaller amounts and there are a few special machines designed for weaning. These are rather expensive, but they steam cook and then blend it all into a smooth puree.
Save yourself cooking daily and invest in small storage pots for the freezer or use ice cube trays. Prepare a large batch and freeze in baby-sized portions. With the purée ready to eat, you will need a spoon. Weaning spoons are cheap enough and with a long handle and flat open bowl so baby can suck the food off, feeding is easier.
Whichever style of weaning you choose initially – and there is no reason why you shouldn’t mix and match depending on how you both feel, there will come a time when baby will be feeding themselves with a spoon from a bowl. Small spoons with an odd angle to the handle are good as baby will find it easier to get the food from spoon to month. Some bowls are shaped so that it is easier to scoop up food and bowls that adhere to the highchair tray reduces the likelihood of everything being tipped onto the floor. However, they don’t stick as well on trays with textured surfaces.
If you’re confused about what to actually feed baby, there are some excellent recipe books aimed at both Baby-led and Parent-led feeding.
But before you know it, the time will pass and they will be joining you at the table for family meals