I have done a few things differently with William in comparison to how I weaned Amelia. Amelia is a great eater for the most part, but there were a few things I wished I had approached differently, and things that I have learned since she was first weaning have shaped how I am weaning Wills. Things have also changed in our lives and routines that have affected how I have chosen to wean him, like being on a slightly tighter budget than we were back then, the pressure of having to feed a family of four on a daily basis, and me joining Slimming World back in August 2015.
Wills is 6 months (and a week) old, and is currently eating 3 meals per day alongside 3x 7oz Aptamil formula (dropped from 4x 7oz this week as he didn’t seem to want the fourth bottle).
Don’t waste your money on jars of baby food
When we first introduced Amelia to solid foods, it was in the form of packaged baby rice, baby porridge and jars or pouches of baby food. Mainly this was because we were both back to work full time and I felt as though I didn’t have the time to prepare fresh meals for her and they wouldn’t be easily transported or work ‘on the go’. I also didn’t have a huge amount of knowledge around what she should and shouldn’t eat, so stuck with what was safe. This time around I am much more clued up. I have to cook a meal every single day for myself, Mr C and Amelia, so William simply eats whatever we eat, blended. Partly this is possible because I am better organised these days, and partly thanks to following the principles of Slimming World I know that all of our meals are well balanced and provide a good mix of the essential food groups. Often Wills is a day behind us, because he eats earlier than we do so dinner isn’t usually ready in time for him. Whatever I cook, I blend enough for 2-3 portions and then refrigerate or freeze until I want to give them to him. Not only is this ridiculously convenient (I don’t have to worry about preparing different meals, or running out of baby food) it also saves us a packet, because I am not having to buy anything extra. I do have a few puddings in the cupboard like this Ella’s Kitchen Apple Crumble which Wills loves, and because I believe it is important to introduce puddings every now and then as a treat.
The obvious things to avoid are salt and salty stock cubes. There are salt free stock cubes available on the market like these Boots ones (Heinz used to do them but have discontinued them) but to be perfectly honest you are better off not wasting your hard earned pennies and opt instead for adding flavour with herbs and spices from your spice rack. Don’t be afraid to experiment and offer new flavours, but do remember that it may take a few tries for babies to get used to and accept new flavours. Wills loves my homemade Chicken Korma, and all I do is hold back half of the korma spice until I have removed his portion from the pan, then I add the rest of the spice – I will build him up slowly.
Note: for his first tastes I simply cooked up batches of individual veggies and blended them up, think broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, parsnips etc
Use packaging to store food you make
I literally keep any pots with lids (and some without like these amazing glass Gu dessert ramekins) and I am not afraid to ask people for pots they are going to throw away. As a result I have a cupboard full of tubs and pots in various shapes and sizes which are great for storing William’s food in the fridge or freezer, and also make it so easy to take his food out with me when I need to.
Start the day right with breakfast
Breakfast used to be a bit hit and miss for me, but since joining Slimming World and having children, I am all but useless without my morning porridge and cup of coffee! Amelia has loved Weetabix from a young age and also enjoys cornflakes and toast. She won’t touch porridge, however, and I firmly believe this is because I gave her specific pre-packaged baby breakfasts when she was weaning, instead of just giving her porridge. Baby porridges like these Heinz ones are great to have in the cupboard to use every now and then, or to mix things up a bit, but mostly Wills has standard porridge oats or oatmeal. Oatmeal during the first stage of weaning is great because it is that much finer than standard oats, but even in the beginning I tended to opt for standard oats and simply blended them up before I used them! I would simply throw dry oats in the blender, whizz until fine, and then store in an airtight container and cook them when I needed them. I say cook – initially, I mixed in baby milk and either warmed in the microwave or on the hob if I had time (now I just use hot water, mix, stand to allow it to thicken and cool, then serve).The beauty of using standard oats is that Wills has become used to the texture and flavour of the kinds of breakfasts that I will be offering him long term, as well as the fact that you can create all kinds of oaty snacks by adding different flavours and baking them!
Snacks are important
Amelia has snack times well and truly embedded into her body clock, partly because of her routine at nursery, and partly because I have always had dedicated snack times. I intend for this to be the same for Wills, but more importantly right now is introducing hand held snacks, or finger food. Not only are fingers foods a great way for babies to explore taste and texture, it also helps them to learn how to grasp and navigate to their mouth, which forms the basis of cutlery control later on. Finger foods can also be extremely useful to teething babies – a teething baby will bite down on a carrot stick, or frozen fruit puree offering them excellent relief. I tend to give Wills carrot sticks, pepper sticks, oven baked chips (if we are having them for dinner) frozen fruit puree sticks, as well as some shop bought snacks specifically for babies like these Organix biscuits, Organix corn puffs, Organix rice cakes and these Kiddylicious wafers. Other (usually cheaper) products are just as good too, like the Marmite rice cakes below which we picked up in Aldi recently and Wills is actually a bit addicted to! (N.B these say 12mth+ on the packet, but as long as he is supervised he hasn’t had a problem with them yet. They are exactly the same shape, size and consistency of the Organix ones).
Find a routine that works for everyone
To begin with, a mealtime routine is not really important. offering first foods is more about giving babies a chance to explore something new and exciting than it is about giving them sustenance, which is why it is so important to keep up with their milk feeds just as you were before. It is almost impossible to imagine what it must be like the very first time you experience an explosion of flavour in the form of food, so it is important to make sure you offer foods at a time when both you and baby are relaxed and in the mood for fun! As you go on, and baby is wanting more food, you can start introducing mealtimes. I started Wills with breakfast, every morning a little while after his first bottle, and then introduced dinner (mainly because he was sleeping from about 11:30-2:30 and too hungry for milk when he woke up that offering him food then just pissed him off!). I give him dinner between 4:30 and 5pm, and he has his last lot of milk around 6:30 before he goes down for the night. He was having four milk feeds with this, in the morning, at 10:30, 2:30 and before bed. Recently, as his nap times have changed, I have been able to introduce the third meal at lunchtime and as a result he seems to want less milk, so he now has a bottle when he wakes around 6am, breakfast a short while after, lunch between 11am and 11:30am, milk between 12pm and 12:30pm and then nap time until about 2:00-2:30, followed by dinner between 4:30pm and 5pm, and his third and final bottle around 6:30pm (this routine is still fairly new, so it can be hit and miss – today he fell asleep for about 45 minutes at 10:30, so I gave him lunch when he woke and then his bottle at 12pm, let him play for a while and put him back down for another short nap at 2pm). This routine works great for us as a family, and is also pretty close to the routine they have at the nursery he will be attending from the end of March. Both weekdays and weekends we all eat breakfast and lunch together because we all eat at the same time, and weekdays I give Wills and Amelia dinner, put Wills to bed and then me and Mr C have ours when he gets home from work. Weekends we all eat together at Wills’ dinner time.
Embrace the mess!
Wills has a highchair (Amelia’s one!) but I tend to strap him into a booster seat at the dining table because he seems to enjoy having a little bit more freedom to move around that way. He likes to have 2 spoons on the go, one for me to feed him with and one for him to chew on, and he will often swap spoons several times throughout a meal. This means that he ends up holding spoons with food on them, and attempting to put the food in his mouth usually ends up in the food going anywhere and everywhere but his mouth! But it is great that he is learning to use a spoon, exploring how it fits in his mouth, how to control it, and learning what it is for. I also let him have finger foods during a meal, and invariably he will drop some, smear it all over his face, and find places to stash it (like down his top), but giving him finger foods helps him to learn how to feed himself. Yes, this all means a little more post-meal clean-up than we would all like, but it is all part and parcel of helping babies to learn how to feed self-sufficiently, and enjoy the experience.
Make food and mealtimes fun
Eating a meal should be a happy, enjoyable, and positive experience for anyone, especially babies. It is so important that babies associate food and mealtimes with positive emotions, otherwise you run the risk of ending up with fussy kids who hate mealtimes. Food should be an exciting experience of taste, texture, and colour to engage all of the senses, and mealtimes are something that babies and children should look forward to, not dread because they know that mum/dad/nan/granddad/childminder etc are going to tell them off for one reason or another, or stop them in some other way from enjoying their meal. The unfortunate reality for babies is that part of enjoying the food and mealtime experience, and engaging all of their senses is getting food everywhere! Babies like to touch and squish and splodge food all over the place, and this is all part of the fun learning process. not letting babies create a mess at mealtimes inhibits their fun, as does using negative language and tones of voice like “no” and “don’t touch”. Instead I always make sure to let Wills explore and touch his food, bowl, cutlery, finger foods, the table… basically anything within reach! And I make sure to give him tons of smiles and encouragement, and don’t interrupt him when he’s too engaged in eating his spoon/rice cake/laughing at his sister to notice that I have another loaded spoon ready – he will come back for more in his own time. Rushing him often results in a grumpy baby who gets fed up with the whole process and stops eating.
Don’t get disheartened and have extras handy
As long as babies are still taking all of their milk feeds, it really doesn’t matter if they have one spoon of food or 2 bowlfuls in the beginning. As I said before, food is not their main source of sustenance, and they will eat when they are ready. That being said, I always make sure to have a second portion at the ready for those times when Wills decides that Mum’s Shepherd’s Pie is just too good to stop at one bowl!
I’d love to hear your weaning experiences, feel free to leave a comment in the box below!