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YOU’VE emptied the fridge, turned the cupboards inside out and raided the freezer – but your little one is still refusing to eat anything solid… unless it’s a cracker.
It’s a scene that most parents who are weaning babies will recognise – and unsurprisingly, it can make you want to pull your hair out.
Charlotte recommends starting the weaning process around six months oldCredit: Getty
Enter Charlotte Stirling-Reed: child nutritionist and author of How to Wean Your Baby, which is hitting shelves tomorrow.
Speaking to Fabulous, Charlotte – who is mum to Raffy, four, and Ada, nine months – revealed the most common mistakes that parents make when weaning their little ones… including a genius veg tip.
Don’t stop and start weaning
Let’s not beat around the bush here, weaning is HARD – and it can be tempted to give up and have a fresh start a few weeks later.
Charlotte’s new weaning book is out tomorrowCredit: Charlotte Stirling-Reed
But Charlotte says this is one the worst things you can do.
“If your baby is showing signs that they’re ready for solid foods, it’s not a good idea to stop and then start again,” she said. “It’s better to carry on.
“I know lots of parents get nervous or feel like it’s not going well and so they go, I’m just going to leave it for a couple of weeks. But actually, you could end up missing your window of opportunity.
“When you’re starting solid foods, it’s just about tiny tastes and trying little bits of food. It’s about taking it slowly and taking the pressure off.
Charlotte’s book hits shelves tomorrowCredit: Charlotte Stirling-Reed
- How to Wean Your Baby by Charlotte Stirling-Reed, £14.99 from Waterstones – buy now
“Sometimes at the beginning, babies don’t swallow anything which is very normal.”
Separating meal times
It’s understandable that you’d want to divide mealtimes between kids and adults in your home – but Charlotte says babies look to others to learn how to eat.
She said: “Babies need to learn to bite and chew and swallow. And the way they do that is by often watching their parents.
“So actually eating with your kids can be such an important part of that weaning journey and them learning.
When is the ‘right’ time to start weaning?
Charlotte says: “There’s not one exact age but we usually start weaning babies around six months.
“There three signs your baby is ready are:
- They can sit up and keep their head and neck steady
- They can pick food up by themselves and bring it towards their mouth
- They should be able to swallow foods rather than pushing it back out with their tongue
“Try not to delay it beyond six and a half months and if your baby isn’t ready, try and get some advice from a health care professional.”
“One of the first questions I always ask parents is, ‘are you eating with them?’ Because if you’re not, they’re not going to necessarily know what to do with that food.
“Often parents see themselves separately and that can make the weaning journey even more anxiety-ridden.”
Having the TV on in the background
If you’ve got a fussy eater at home, it makes total sense why you’d want to distract them during meals with TV- but Charlotte claims this is only going to make it worse.
Charlotte says TVs are a bad idea during meal timesCredit: Shutterstock
She continued: “For me, it’s really important to teach little ones about food so we want them to grow up liking and enjoying food and meal times. So if we’re using the TV as a distraction, that’s actually a distraction away from food.
“So you’re not encouraging them to look at what they’re eating or even taste what they’re eating. And that can have a knock-on effect of children not really being that interested in food.
“It’s not an ideal habit to encourage because you want children to appreciate and want to eat and be part of that mealtime.”
Don’t offer alternatives
When you’ve been trying to get your child to eat something, ANYTHING, you put in front of them, it can be tempting to slip into bartering mode.
Charlotte said: “Don’t offer alternatives. If they refuse all the food on the table, it’s not about asking them what they want. That will often end up encouraging that behaviour more and more.
“It’s about ‘this is what’s on offer and if you don’t want it, that’s absolutely fine – you don’t have to eat it.’”
The trick to getting your kids to love veg is to introduce a wide varietyCredit: Getty
Instead, Charlotte recommends including some of their go-to ‘safe foods’ in every meal and pushing the boundaries with more variety.
She added: “I get multiple messages a day in my inbox from parents saying their babies were eating well and have suddenly stopped. And that is normal.
“But it’s about carrying on with what you did before – so lots of role-modelling, eating with your little one and offering a really wide variety of food and knowing that it’s probably just going to be a phase.”
Don’t always give the same veg
If you want your kids to grow up enjoying veg, then Charlotte says it’s all about giving them variety from as young as possible.
She said: “We know from research that the more variety you offer to young children, the more likely they are to accept it. So it’s not about giving them all the variety at once.
Charlotte’s lazy mum dinners:
An omelette is always a winner and whenever my son comes home from nursery, it’s my go-to meal. You can whack cheese and veggies in it to add nutritional value. You can put some boiled potatoes in too so it’s a really easy and well-balanced meal. It takes minutes to make!
I love anything spread on toast, crackers and english muffins. Things like peanut butter, marmite, a bit of scrambled eggs or cheese, with some veggies. That can be a really nice and well balanced meal.
The other thing I love making is those pouches of rice – as long as they haven’t got any added salt. Chuck in a couple of handfuls of frozen veg, a handful of lentils or beans or cooked chicken if you eat meat and fry that up with a little bit of oil. Those can take literally minutes to make.
“But over time making sure that they’re always seeing a variety, plenty of different options that they aren’t forced to eat and you’re also eating in front of them.
“That’s going to be the best way to encourage them, especially if you take that pressure off and allow them to become familiar with veg.”
Putting too much pressure on themselves
It’s all too easy to compare ourselves to mummy bloggers online – and one of the biggest mistakes parents can make is putting too much pressure on themselves, according to Charlotte.
She said: “I see quite a lot of parents getting really anxious, putting so much pressure on themselves and that ends up putting pressure on baby to eat up which can have the opposite effect to what you want.
“Babies do tend to pick up on meal time stress and meal time anxiety so the more you can make those meal times fun and enjoyable and calm, even though it’s easier said than done, the more likely they are to take to that weaning journey and want to be present at meal times.”
Foods to avoid giving your weaning baby:
- sugary snacks: sugar can cause tooth decay. You don’t need to add sugar to your baby’s food either.
- raw jelly cubes: can get stuck in the throat.
- whole nuts and peanuts: should not be given to children under 5 years old.
- honey: avoid honey until your baby is 12 months old – it contains bacteria that can lead to infant botulism, a serious illness that can make your baby very unwell.
- salty foods: like bacon, sausages, chips with extra salt, crackers, crisps, ready meals, takeaways, gravy and meals made with stock cubes. Babies shouldn’t eat salty foods as it isn’t good for their kidneys, there’s no need to add salt to their food either.
- soft cheeses — can contain a bacteria called listeria, these include:
- mould-ripened soft cheese, such as brie or camembert
- ripened goats’ milk cheese, such as chévre
- soft blue-veined cheese, such as roquefort
- unpasteurised cheeses: due to the risk of listeria. Check the labels to make sure you’re buying cheese made from pasteurised milk.
- raw shellfish: this can increase the risk of food poisoning. Children should only eat shellfish that has been thoroughly cooked.
- shark, swordfish or marlin: high levels of mercury in these fish can affect your baby’s growing nervous system.
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