Between 12 and 18 months, your baby will start to show an interest in looking after themselves and wanting to feed themselves with a spoon or fork. You will already have been feeding them with a spoon since weaning, and they will have observed adults feeding themselves with cutlery, so it is a logical step for them to try feeding themselves with a spoon. Another clue that the time is right is if your baby is feeding themselves with their hands.
At first, this is going to be messy! You can buy large easy clean mats to place on the floor under high chairs and this might be a sensible idea if they are eating in a carpeted area.
Feeding yourself with a spoon introduces all sorts of challenges; picking food off the plate with the utensil, keeping the plate still while scooping, rather than chasing it around their tray, learning where their mouth is and how long the spoon is! All of this requires learning. It will come relatively quickly, but offer encouragement and more than a little help. This is an important milestone for your baby and is an early step towards a life of independence.
Weaning, for most parents, is approached with trepidation and a sense of fear! Oh no, it's time for solids: mess, tantrums, choking, lots of cooking for the food to be thrown across the room, lots of washing and not much food being eaten! But, it doesn't have to be like this at all! With these quick tips in place, you will both enjoy the weaning time without tears and have some fun on the way.
Prepare: even though they can't speak to you, begin the run up to weaning, by telling your child they're going to be eating purées and being a grown-up and things are all going to be great! They little ones may have seen others eat solids, so tell them they're going to be like their big sister or cousin and how exciting it's going to be. This may help you prepare for it too!
Have the right equipment: get some shallow weaning spoons, little dishes, lots of wipes and bibs and a decent high chair with a little table etc. Perhaps some high chair toys if you think you may need them.
Be safe: never leave your child alone with food or the spoon just in case they choke.
Don't rush: weaning takes time, so don't rush them, or yourself.
Portion control: start with tiny amounts of baby rice and milk. Just make up small amounts so you don't waste. When you move on to purée vegetables etc, again use just a little bit of your supply each time so you don't spoil it and waste it if it is dropped etc.
Encourage, don't force feed: if you are worried that your baby is not eating enough speak to your GP or health visitor. Don't force feed.
Eating with friends: try to make meal times a social event. Eat with your child or invite others over to eat with you so they see others eating too. Watching other children eat can be a great advantage and really help little ones learn to eat.
New flavours: if they don't like apple today, try it tomorrow and the next day and the next day! Sometimes it takes a few tries to get them to try and eat a new flavour.
If they gag: stay calm and rub their back to try to get the food out. Keep things very smooth and milky to start with. If they continue to have a problem speak to a health professional.
Still feed them milk: weaning babies still need about 500ml of milk each day so keep them on milk too while weaning.
Ideally wait until 6 months: government guidelines say wait until baby is six month before weaning. Breast milk until then is ideal, or formula milk. If you have a history of allergies, waiting is especially important. Speak to your doctor to get their advice if you are concerned.
Don't give up: keep trying in small amounts until things become easy and progress is made, but don't expect things to be easy from day one! They may cry, they may spit it out, they may make strange faces, they may refuse all together, but be calm and persistent and you'll win them over!
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