Speech therapist and author of speech-boosting book Small Talk, Nicola Lathey, nutritionist Dr Frankie Phillips, and children's food expert Lucy Thomas have years of weaning wisdom between them.
Here they share their suggestions to encourage a relaxed and enjoyable weaning experience.
Set the scene for mealtimes. Have a routine in place for meals, just as you have an established bedtime routine.
Make sure your baby is well supported in a comfy high chair, they shouldn’t be wobbling about. If they are, stuff a towel down the side for a snugger fit.
Before you wipe their mouth, encourage your baby to lick the food residue away, it's a good way to get that tongue moving in preparation for talking.
Look at the bigger picture. Remember that health visitors advise parents to consider what the child has eaten over a week, rather than just one mealtime.
Aim for a puree with a consistent texture. Babies will find this far easier to manage in their mouths.
If in doubt, spoon puree out onto a plate and mash down any lumps.
If you are making your own, add texture to a puree by adding a variety of foods which naturally have different textures.
Avocado will give a very smooth texture, pulses when pureed will be powdery, and butternut squash will be grainy.
Be prepared for mess!
Wear an apron, put a plastic tablecloth under the high chair and find a suitable bib.
If your baby doesn’t like wearing a particular bib, they will already have a negative attitude to feeding.
Don’t force your child to eat a meal they don’t like.
If they turn away from cauliflower cheese don’t make them eat it, but do take time to explore cauliflower away from mealtimes.
Relax and take your time.
If your baby seems to be struggling with a new texture, take time to pinpoint the textures they can and can’t manage successfully.
To help them move forwards, you may need to go back a level and repeat some stages along the way so that they regain their confidence.
Let's get social
Meal times are all about being sociable and sharing good food, and it’s good for weaning to be a shared and sociable experience too.
There are benefits for mum, dad and baby of getting together at mealtimes as a family, and with other parents and their little ones.
Social experiences can also have a positive impact on little ones being more open to trying new foods.
It’s good to sit down to eat with your little one as it allows your baby to copy how you eat.
At family meals pull your baby’s high chair up to the table so they can join in, it shows your baby that they’re important and mealtimes are for sharing.
It’s great for babies to be sociable and eat with one another too as it helps make them curious and interested in what other little ones are enjoying.
Parents can learn from each other too, so getting together for lunch can be really positive and help you feel more relaxed and confident about weaning by sharing your experiences, tips and ideas.
“We try and eat lunch and dinner together at the table so that Ella can see us eating. It isn’t always possible due to time tables and work, but she seems to enjoy it when we all eat together. While we talk and catch up on our days, Ella chats away too.Sarah & baby Ella
Playing with food
When your baby first starts to wean – and even well beyond this stage – they will want to play and experiment with their food.
And that’s just great because:
- Squishing and squashing will help them gather sensory information so they know how to pick up lots of different foods.
- The licking will strengthen their tongue, which will help your baby move the food around their mouth to chew a wider range of textures and consistencies of food and help them articulate clear and crisp speech sounds.
- When you talk to your baby about the food they’re eating, licking or smearing, you will be helping your little one to expand their language.