Things are going well for Millie – we are at 8 months now and, aside from yogurt which is more miss than hit, Millie is loving anything I’m throwing at her (clearly not throwing).
What I thought might be really helpful to others is if I compiled a top tips page of things I’ve discovered or even to reinforce things I’ve read in the book which have helped me too.
I’ll keep coming back to this page and adding tips to it as I discover or remember them. If you have any you have discovered then please do share them in the comments and I’ll add them in – all tips welcome.
So here goes (in no particular order – bullets are purely for ease of reading)!
- Set expectations: Expect Mess! - Its gonna happen and if you are prepared for it you are a lot less likely to be concerned by it. Expect waste! – This is the thing I find hardest to deal with. The waste! But its a bit like the mess issue – expecting it makes it easier to accept. Also, in the beginning if they are eating with you and what you are eating or what someone else is eating (for me its often just Callum and Millie eating) then its less of an issue as you just share a little bit of what you have. There’s no need to make too much extra, if its pasta you are talking about 3 pasta shapes maybe, quarter of a slice of bread for toast, half or even quarter of a wheatabix, Keep it spall to begin with and you’ll waste a lot less. When they start to eat properly, then you can make more of a portion but this is going to take some time – their tummies are still very small (size of their fist). If you do make too much, just give a little bit at a time then save the rest for another meal. Got 6 carrot sticks, give 2 then add more if they need/want them – the others can always be put in the fridge for later if not wanted. If you keep the floor beneath them clean then I’ve nothing against picking up food Millie has dropped and giving it back to her (again, if we are at home).
- Old sheet/disposable plastic table cloth (or the like) – If you have a carpet where the food play is going to happen, put one of these down first. An old sheet can be thrown in the washing machine and a wipeable tablecloth or playmat can be wiped clean after meal times.
- Wear an apron – I read this in the book and find it a great idea. If we are eating at home (less acceptable in public) and Millie is either on my lap or I’m loading spoons of soft food for her, I wear an apron – much easier than having to keep changing my clothes. Especially for me with the soft food – Millie doesn’t like soft food and will bash the spoon until it is thrown across the room, at the floor or at me!
- Food on table/surface or large mat – To start with, put food straight onto the table top if possible or, if not, a large mat. If a mat, preferably a heavy one or one that sticks. Bowls and plates will be as much a fascination as the food itself (remember its ALL new to your baby) so WILL be played with, turned upside down, dropped, eaten! I’ve not avoided bowls as Millie has to get used to them to be able to move on from playing with them but I might put the food in them for a bit then when she starts to play with the bowl I tip out the food and let her play.
- Use plain bowls and plates – If you have to use a bowl or plate – lets face it, soggy wheatabix, soup etc does not work well on flat surfaces – then stick to plain ones. Your baby may not tell the difference between 2D & 3D things yet (I’ve tried to research this but haven’t found anything useful) and may try to pick up the ‘pictures’ which then leads to picking up the whole bowl plate. I’ve found Millie shows a lot less interest in the bowl or plate if I use a plain one. Also, I actually find the ceramic plates better than plastic ones as they are heavier & harder to pick up but, obviously, you’ve got the breakable risk there.
- Put new foods on your plate not theirs – Something we discovered with Callum, as they start to get older and a bit pickier and more suspicious of new foods, don’t put it on their plate, put it on yours and talk about it with the rest of the family/eaters (“mmmm, this courgette is nice”). Immediate intrigue! Next may follow “can I try it” or if not speaking a grab for your plate. If not, you could just casually ask if they want to try it or offer it. We found Callum was much more likely to try and like more foods like this. These days, now he is 4, if I want him to try something new I include him with the food prep and get him to try the food both cold and hot and compare. This is why eating as a family or eating your meals with your baby works the best when blw because they see you eating so are reassured its safe and want to copy. They learn from you!
- Don’t hold back – Remember, the early days are the best times to try as much variety of food as possible! Try it all. Don’t hold back because ‘most babies’ don’t like that flavour (Callum & Millie have often preferred stronger flavours to mild ones and think about lemon – both kids love sucking a lemon!!!! I can’t stand it!). Some babies have even enjoyed eating actual chilli peppers – raw! Personally, I’d avoid going straight in there with a vindaloo but start with mild spice (like a mildly spiced chilli & rice) and if they don’t recoil from the spice or cry (like Callum first did) then try something spicier. I’m not talking hold a “How much spice is too spicy!” contest but if you like making curries at home then give it a go! Same with mushy food and small food – if they don’t get to play with it then it will take them longer to learn how to do it. I love watching Millie now use her pincer grip to pick up foods and have loved watching how she has learnt to do it. Same as when she picks up food in her fist and can’t get to it with her mouth, I’m itching to help her but all by herself she has learnt to put it down and pick it up differently allowing her mouth to get to the food.
- Keep trying – linked to the above, if you offer them food and they pull a face and throw it on the floor, don’t give up, keep trying. I think someone once told me you have to offer them the same food and let them reject it 13 times before you accept that they don’t like that food. Remember, they are in control of what they eat and what they need so they 1) might not need that food that day; 2) be taken by surprise by the taste and need to get used to it; 3) just be more interested in one of the other flavours on offer that day; 4) just not like a slight variation in that brand, i.e. yogurt – you get lots of different flavours and different styles, try them all. With yogurt we first tried Millie on one of those tube style yogurts and flicked it all over the kitchen, tried a bit more, flicked it over the kitchen, then again. Next time I tried the same yogurt but different flavour and she loved it (though I pre-loaded the spoon as she struggled with the tube). Tried a yogurt pot yesterday and today (different flavours) and she pulled a face and dismissed both.
- Go straight to booster – I’ve said this in an earlier blog but can recommend avoiding the highchair altogether and going straight for a booster. They really can then be included with the family mealtimes then and are much easier to transport if needed – even if just between rooms. We have a booster that works at the kitchen breakfast bar and at the dining room table. Very easy to keep clean too!
- Two spoons – If you are pre-loading spoons for them to take, while they have one, just as it looks like they are finished with it (not before) then load the next one. They should see the new spoon and think its something knew and go for it – but be quick and ready to catch because the other spoon will be discarded with a quick drop/throw. If you load too soon then they may discard what they are eating immediately. I love watching Millie eating say a carrot with another identical carrot in front of her, she sees the other carrot and drops the one she is eating for the one on the table. I place the discarded one back on the table and immediately she wants to swap again no matter how recently she just picked up the last one! If you just have the one spoon, you may find yourself wrestling with them for it even if the food on it has gone.
- Its bananas! – Keep the bananas small then once you’ve peeled back the skin to halfway, trim it. Keep half of it peeled so they have something to hold on to and then trim it so the skin doesn’t get in their way (think that one is in the book but its a good one!). Another good tip for all kids – frozen bananas! Especially if the skin has started to go a little (very) black and noses are starting to turn up. Peel them, if you wish you can slice them in half longways, place on a baking sheet or something similar then pop in the freezer. Once frozen, you can pop them in a food bag and then the kids (or you) can eat them like ice pops!
- Food overload! – Remember not to overload your baby’s plate. It can be tempting to put a wide variety of different foods on their ‘plate’ all at once so they can choose what they want to eat but they can get quite easily overwhelmed and not want any of it. Both Callum & Millie, in the early days, would just sit there or complain if there was too much in front of them but if we just put a couple of bits down and add pieces as they were eaten, dropped or discarded then they would happily explore each piece. Although, as mentioned above, if you put something new down while they have something already in their hand, it will be too interesting to resist and they will drop what they are eating to investigate even if it is exactly the same as what they have in their hands.
(The book I refer to is ‘Baby-Led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to To Love Good Food’ by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett)