If you have a baby approaching 6 months old, you’re probably wondering where to start with weaning. There’s a myriad of ever-changing information out there, so you need to figure out who you trust and how to create a strategy that suits you and your baby without feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Here are some helpful tips to get you off to a good start.
1. The NHS are the most up-to-date source of accurate information for the latest recommendations in weaning.
They have comprehensive weaning guides written in very simple terms. Start there and then expand your knowledge.
2. Don’t buy loads and loads of equipment.
The weaning gadgets industry is massive. You will be targeted by marketers online and in magazines with the message that you can’t live without their products. And your friends will likely be inundating you with recommendations for all the products they prefer too. I found that it was better to wait until I noticed that I really needed an item before making a purchase. That way I could be sure it would get daily use. You may also find that your friends and family have a load of hand me down bits that you can use. Save the planet and your bank balance at the same time.
3. Don’t let the naysayers get you down.
It’s really common for new mums to feel unsure about their approach to weaning when well-meaning grandparents or friends raise concerns about how differently it’s all done now. A lot has changed since our parents weaned us (when we were 2 months old most likely), so they are within their rights to share their concerns. Let them know that you have done your research and that you’re confident you’re doing what is currently recommended.
4. Be excited and enjoy.
If you’re a foodie like me, this stage of parenthood is extremely exciting. And it’s a lovely project to focus on after those first months with a tricksy newborn. This is a time when your baby will make hilarious faces, show their budding personality and your bond with them will grow with every meal you share together, so make the most of the positives and enjoy this precious time.
5. Reduce your workload.
I know a lot of people who burned out when weaning their first baby. There’s an expectation that you fill the freezer with nutritious purees and pureed meals made especially. Creating extra meals for your baby can be exhausting, but you can reduce the workload by making something for the baby from what the rest of the family are having. It will depend on what your normal eating habits are like, but you’ll find that most family meals can be adapted in some way to make them baby-friendly and still incredibly tasty.
6. Get used to the mess.
Try not to let the mess spoil the fun. It does feel relentless at the start, and it does get a little bit easier, but finding savvy ways to manage the mess is definitely to be recommended. We had a cream carpet when we were weaning our first child. We advanced our plans to change the flooring to something sweepable pretty damn quick. Or you can get a dog. Apparently, they really help.
7. Get ready at the start of the day.
* I am writing this during lockdown 3 when going somewhere is a magical prospect. There are many new mums who have never experienced the normality of taking a baby out for the day as I did, so I appreciate this is a reflection of a different time. But we will go back to that ‘normal’ soon enough and you’ll want to be ready.
When I had my first baby, I loved meeting up with friends, family, my NCT group, mother and baby groups, sing and sign etc. I loved having something to do every day that broke up the monotony of life on maternity leave with a baby. Once weaning started, I realised quite quickly that I needed to ensure I had appropriate food with me at all times so that I could enjoy impromptu plans. Buying baby food in cafes and corner shops can feel like an expensive and stressful task, so it’s useful to have some bits with you. I became obsessed with making up Tupperware pots at the start of each day. I always had a little cooler bag with me dedicated to options for the baby. Little pots of chopped strawberries, hummus, roasted sweet potato, cheese cubes, pasta bows, corn on the cob wheels etc all very handy to have at your disposal.
8. Short-sleeved vests for the win.
Cuffs get manky when babies eat. And big poofy sleeves on overalls get dragged through food and just add to the mess. Pudgy arms are easier to clean than sleeves and babies can feel and see a lot more when they aren’t fighting with cuffs.
So the solution: short-sleeved vests on the bottom layer. You can remove the top layers of clothing off when it’s time to eat, then bung them back on when you’re done. Genius!
9. Eat together.
Research shows that children benefit long-term both physically and psychologically from being part of a family who sits down to eat together on a frequent basis.
It makes sense to embed this routine from the very start, so try to always eat at the same time as your baby – even if it’s just one parent. They will learn a huge amount about how to eat from watching you and there are big benefits to communication skills too. Like I said before, this is a brilliant way to bond with your baby and a precious time for you.
10. Best places for more information.
There are so many places to look for more information. Like I said, start with the NHS online and go from there. Here are some of the best in the business to get you started.