Weaning is a time of enormous change for you and your baby. Over the space of a few short months, your little one will go from being solely dependent on milk to enjoying their first taste of solid foods.
The early stages of weaning are an important time for your baby, and the things you do during this period can have a big influence on their enjoyment of food later on.
Here are seven easy, everyday things you can do with your baby to help them develop healthy eating habits that’ll last for life.
Introduce adventurous tastes
Weaning is so much more exciting than it used to be. Forget soggy rusks and baby rice; today’s mini gourmets are tucking into everything from avocado to sweet potato and butternut squash.
And the more varied tastes you can offer your baby early on, the better: introducing them to a range of flavors often makes them more adventurous eaters later on.
Kiddylicious Wafers come in four flavors – blueberry, strawberry, sweet potato, and banana – and are perfect for developing your little one’s taste buds and introducing some variety to snack time.
Let them feed themselves
Whether you’re cooking up purees or trying baby-led weaning, aim to introduce finger foods such as pieces of soft fruit, cooked vegetables or healthy snacks from the early stages.
Handling finger foods develops many important skills that your baby needs for self-feeding. This includes developing their pincer grip and hand-eye coordination, helping them on their way to becoming an independent eater.
Mix up the textures
Many of us start weaning by offering our babies runny purees, and while this can help them get used to taking something other than milk, it’s important to move onto offering chunkier food sooner rather than later.
Research by the University of Bristol has shown that if you delay giving your baby chunky food until they’re nine months old, they’re likely to be reluctant to accept it. If you introduce it earlier, they should be more willing to give it a try.
Chunks and firmer textures will also develop their jaw muscles and their bite, chew and swallow skills, all of which are vital not just for eating, but also for speech development.
Max their vegetable intake
Children may be renowned for avoiding greens like the plague, but research published in the British Journal of Nutrition has shown that introducing vegetables in the early stages of weaning could make your baby more accepting of them later on.
Scientists from University College London, who led the research, found that babies who were offered a wide range of veggies in the first 15 days of weaning were more willing to try, accept and even enjoy eating veg in the later stages of feeding.
Bring on the broccoli!
At first, your baby’s likely to only take a small amount of food, once or twice a day. As weaning progresses, you’ll need to offer three meals a day, plus healthy snacks, like Kiddylicious Wafers, in between.
Snacks are important to keep your baby’s energy levels up. Eventually, they’ll replace the mid-morning and mid-afternoon milk feeds, so that by the age of one, they’re getting almost all of the nutrition they need from solid food.
Embrace the mess
Your baby uses all of their senses to understand the world around them. This definitely applies at mealtimes, where they won’t just taste their food, but will also squish it, smell it and drop it on the floor.
Yes, it’s a messy business, but it’s important to let your baby get stuck in and explore their food with their hands. Touching, holding and squashing food will help familiarize them with it, and is a vital step in their development.
But it doesn’t have to be messy all the time: convenient finger food snacks such as Kiddylicious Fruity Puffs will give your baby hands-on experience without you needing to jet-wash the highchair afterwards!
Eat as a family
We know that it’s often easier to give your baby tea on their own and save your dinner till later, when you can enjoy it in peace. But eating as a family will set your child up with good habits that could last a lifetime.
Studies show that eating together has a whole range of benefits, from encouraging children to eat a broader diet to improving their speech and communication, so try and share a family meal when you can, even if it’s not every day.