Weaning your baby is a really exciting time but it can often cause a lot of worry or anxiety for parents when they don’t know what to expect, Especially for parents who might be struggling with fussy eaters. The importance of mealtime environments is a factor to think about when weaning but can be easily forgotten. Stress and pressure can impact anyone’s experience of eating and this is true for babies too. Of course, not every mealtime is going to be smooth or easy, but the aim of these tips is to help give you ways to make mealtimes as relaxed and enjoyable as possible to help make your weaning journey that little bit smoother!
Whenever possible, and even right from before they start weaning, getting your baby involved in mealtimes can really make a difference to their enjoyment. Sitting and eating together will help your little one to be more involved and become curious about what’s going on at the table.
This can also help to show babies the social side of food and mealtimes too!
Use role modelling
Babies are constantly watching what others are doing and learning from what they see. This is absolutely true when it comes to eating and using mealtimes as an opportunity to show your baby what to do with the food in front of them can really help to get them eating more and get them engaged.
Even if baby isn’t eating a lot themselves, playing with foods and experimenting are all good ways to expose them to new foods and help them to enjoy the process of discovering new tastes, textures and smells.
Something that can be quite easy to forget is that the words we use can really have an impact on our little ones. Saying things like “please just have one more bite” can make them feel pressured into either eating something they really don’t like or want, or eating past the point of fullness.
Refraining how you speak to say “that’s ok, you don’t need to eat it,” takes away any pressure and allows them to decide what and how much they feel they need to eat.
Create a mealtime routine
Trying to establish a routine around mealtimes can help your little ones know what to expect. In time, this can help to stimulate their hunger cues and understand how food fits into their day.
Getting your little one involved in the preparation for mealtimes however you can – i.e. setting the table, sharing out cutlery or just talking younger babies through what you’re doing helps to include them in the process.
Take the pressure off
Taking the pressure off and enjoying the whole process can really make such a difference to how well your baby eats. While there can be lots of overwhelming information when it comes to the “right way” to wean your baby – the truth is that there is no perfect way. Embrace the mess and don’t expect everything to go perfectly. Try to think of it as a journey that you’re on together with you baby.
Add some fun to mealtimes with colourful napkins, music or even a doll to engage with them. You could try a food-based quiz or talk to them about the importance of mealtimes. Always remember that babies will move through weaning at different paces and with different likes and dislikes. This is all totally normal, so just try to relax and enjoy it as much as possible!
Hopefully these tips on the importance of mealtime environments helps to take the stress out of weaning so that you can both enjoy the journey.
You’ll find more tips and advice on weaning your baby all in my new book. Order here: How To Wean Your Baby.