A parent’s guide to weaning and toilet training, part 1

Updated: Sep 9




This guide was created with the support of the National Day Nurseries Association to offer guidance on some of the common development stages that your child may go through, including weaning, food refusal/fussy eaters and toilet training.


This part will focus on weaning.


Part 2 (click here to read) addresses food refusal and toilet training.


Weaning


Introducing your little one to solid food is also referred to as weaning. It is important that you follow the advice of your health visitor and the NHS during this stage of your child's development.


The current guidelines recommend that you start the weaning process when your baby is around six months old.


The NHS website shares three signs which indicate your child may be ready for solid foods.


They'll be able to:


· Stay in a sitting position/hold their head steady,

· Co-ordinate their eyes, hands, and mouth so they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth by themselves,

· Swallow food (rather than spit it out).


The website also shares common signs that can be mistaken for a baby being ready for solid foods.


These are:

· Chewing fists,

· Waking in the night when they’ve previously slept through,

· Wanting extra milk feeds.


These are normal behaviours but not necessarily a sign of being ready to start solid food.

Weaning and attending nursery


If your little one attends nursery (whether that’s with us or anyone else), they should have a key person who works closely with you and shares daily information about your child’s milk/food intake.


You should inform the nursery when you start weaning your child so that you can work together to ensure your child’s needs are being met.


Nursery staff may also be able to offer you advice (you can speak to one of our practitioners or the nursery manager) if you are unsure as to when to start. They may have seen signs themselves when caring for your child.


You may also want to discuss the times that you would like your child to have solid foods and which types of food you would like them to have.


They should then provide you with a daily record and talk you through how this has gone at the end of each day.


It’s important to have continued discussions about your child’s likes and dislikes but remember, babies sometimes need to try the same food several times before they decide if they enjoy it!



Here at The Butterfly Patch, we will provide the food for your baby, whereas others may require you to take the food in.


You can also ask to visit the nursery around mealtimes to see the eating arrangements. Babies should be sat at the same level as the practitioner when being fed and in small groups.


Mealtimes should be happy, social times where early skills such as self-feeding are encouraged, both at home and in the nursery.


Babies and young children may take their time eating, as they’re exploring new textures, tastes and smells - this takes time (and often results in a mess!).


This allows them to explore this is how they decide what food and flavours they prefer.


Types of food


The NHS guidelines provide lots of information about the types of food you should try when starting to feed your baby solids.


This is broken down into the different age groups. Here are some examples:


From 6 months:


· Mashed or soft-cooked fruit and vegetables like parsnip, potato, sweet potato, carrot, apple or pear, all cooled before eating, or soft fruit like peach, melon, soft banana or avocado as finger foods or mashed.


· Baby rice or baby cereal mixed with your baby’s usual milk.


· Keep feeding them breast milk or infant formula as well. Don’t give them whole cows’ milk as a drink until they are a year old.


From 12 months:


· Your baby will now be eating three meals a day, chopped if needed, plus breast milk or whole cows’ milk and healthier snacks like fruit, vegetable sticks, toast, and rice cakes.


· They can now also drink whole cows’ milk. Choose full-fat dairy products because children under two need the extra fat and vitamins found in them.


From two years old if they are a good eater and growing well, they can have semi-skimmed milk. From five years old 1% fat and skimmed milk is OK.


· You can give your baby:

- Three to four servings per day of starchy food such as potatoes, bread, and rice,

- Three to four servings per day of fruit and vegetables,

- Two servings per day of meat, fish, eggs and pulses (such as beans and lentils).


Be sure to speak with your nursery manager if you’re unsure about the food menu/food policies at the nursery or have any questions or concerns.



Finally, here are some top tips for weaning:


· Don't leave your baby alone with food.


· Take time and go with your child’s pace, do not force-feed your baby. If you are worried, they are not eating enough speak to your health visitor.


· Try to ensure that your baby associates food and mealtimes with pleasure rather than stress – make it a happy experience.


· Be prepared, let babies explore. They will make a mess so cover floors!


· Involve your baby in family mealtimes so they can see others eating and be part of the routine.


· Make sure your child is sat up properly when feeding.


· Provide a healthy diet. This way they are more likely to keep eating healthy foods as they get older.


· Provide a good mix of colours, textures, and flavours when your child is learning about food.


Remember that babies and young children are also affected by how food looks just as we are, so provide foods that have different colours and textures to make it more inviting.


For example, mash potato and cheese sauce have the same colour and texture but adding pureed carrot may make it more interesting.


· Learn what to do in a situation when your baby is choking or gagging. A health visitor, nurse or a doctor will be able to show you, or you could complete a Paediatric First Aid course (speak to your nursery manager or health visitor for more information/recommendations).


· If you are using food for sensory/messy play, then use the same weaning/choking guidelines and supervise all activities carefully.


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Do you have any weaning tips, struggles or questions? Let us know in the comments below!


Part 2, which covers food refusal/fussy eaters and toilet training, is out now, click here to read it!


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