The transition from milk to solids is a big change for your baby. Not only is he swapping the comfort of the breast or bottle for textured solids, he is also entering a new world of high chairs, bibs, spoons and mess.
Some babies will take more easily to the process, gobbling up new tastes, but there are no prizes for the baby who eats the most at a certain age (or his mum).
Many mums of older children who are now excellent eaters will tell you how tricky weaning was for them. Some tots will be more fussy than others: that’s life. But also remember that your baby is learning to chew, swallow and deal with different tastes, which are big new skills to develop.
Making mealtimes fun
Trying new foods should be fun. Bright plates and spoons, aeroplane noises and smiley faces will help to create a positive atmosphere, encouraging your little one to try new tastes. If you keep it light-hearted and jolly, you’ll also feel less stressed about what food he is or isn’t accepting.
In the early days, plan meals at times when he isn’t too tired or distracted. If your baby is particularly slow at eating, look at what could be diverting his attention; perhaps he’s too busy watching older siblings, the TV or even the birds in the garden.
Tempting tastes and textures
Sweet fruit and vegetable tastes such as apple or sweet potato are the most tempting and palatable for new eaters. Once these are established, you can then introduce a wider range of tastes such as other vegetables, meat and fish.
Try mixing some sweet puree with savoury, and then gradually increase the proportion of savoury over the next few days. Many sweet flavours also go very well with meat – such as beef and orange or chicken with sweet potato.
Many babies are sensitive to different textures. Some prefer very smooth purees; others prefer something more solid. Experiment with different settings on your blender and try more texture over time. If your tot doesn’t like purees, try some soft finger foods such as cucumber sticks or toast.
Try, try and try again
Just because your little one doesn’t immediately take to a new taste, it doesn’t mean he won’t ultimately enjoy it. Don’t despair: it can take between 10 and 20 attempts before he finally accepts the food.
Keep trying new things, or leave it a while and then come back to that food at a later date. Or try mixing new tastes with one of his favourite foods to get him used to the unfamiliar flavour.
Don’t expect your little one to wolf down huge amounts of food. A large portion can put you both under pressure, so start with ice cube sized portions to give him little tastes, then gradually increase the number of cubes you defrost for each meal. You can always offer more if he really enjoys something.
While you may be worrying about whether your tot is eating enough, you need to remember that milk still plays a vital part in your baby’s diet, providing essential nutrients and vitamins.
Eating at this stage is all about getting used to the new experience, rather than cramming in the calories.If you eat at the same time as your tot, this can often reduce your own stress levels as you’ll be slightly less preoccupied with getting in the next mouthful.
Should you ever go back?
Weaning should be a slow and measured process, so don’t be tempted to go back to milk alone. Just keep trying different flavours and textures, and eventually, you’ll get to know which foods he likes – even if at first, it’s nothing but yoghurt.
Remember, there will always be times when he eats next to nothing, particularly if he’s teething, poorly or overtired. This doesn’t mean that you should stop offering solids; just persevere calmly and make sure he’s still getting regular milk feeds between meals.
Do speak to your health visitor if you are ever concerned about his weight and growth, but also content yourself with the knowledge that he will get there eventually.