When the weaning process has started, when the child can sit and enjoys sitting at the weaning table, the child and his parents develop a new relationship. The child is not fed on the laps of his parents anymore. He is not an infant in the arms. The relationship is now “one in which there are two people instead of one, who can learn to respect each other, to love each other, in a new way” (The Joyful Child – Susan Mayclin Stephenson).
In today's blog post, I want to give you as much info as possible about how to introduce solids in your baby's diet.
I prefer talking about introducing solids than weaning. As it's totally ok to keep breastfeeding or bottle feeding a baby and young toddler while letting the child discovering solid food. Solid food doesn't have to replace milk.
Weaning is more about the sensoriel exploration than about calories intake. It is more about developing skills than replacing the milk source of nourishment.
In Montessori language, we talk about a “sensitive period for weaning.”
The most important sign is the ability to sit up unsupported. When your baby can do this, he will likely pick up food from your plate and put it in his mouth.
The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding/bottle feeding for the first 6 months of life. The World Health Organisation also states that other foods should complement breastfeeding for up to two years or more.
There are some signs that parents mistaken as being ready to eat solid food:
- If your child asks for more milk. He may just be having a growth spurt, teething, feeling unwell or reacting to some kind of stress.
- Your child watches you eat. A baby is interested in everything you do. It doesn’t mean that she wants your food when she observes you eating.
- Your baby is waking at night. Sleep is irregular. Waking up more at night doesn’t mean that your baby needs solid food.
The Montessori approach is a combination of spoon feeding and finger food.
I believe that every child is different. Be open to what works best for your child and your family.
I personally believe that Baby-led weaning is the most natural approach to wean a baby.
Babies are naturally exposed to what we eat and will be curious about the food we have on the table. The Baby led weaning approach makes mealtime easier as you cook, without sugar and salt, the same meal for the whole family.
Watch also my interview with Gill Rapley here.
And find the main guidelines to Baby led wean here.
Food should be put on the table to allow the child a clear view of it.
He needs to see where it comes from and should be fed with a child-sized spoon. The spoon should contain a small amount of food and should be brought to the child’s mouth.
We should only put the food inside our child’s mouth when he opens it. The child must always feel that he is in control. Eating must be a pleasure for the child. We should never use force in feeding.
Always give a child-sized spoon or fork to your baby. He will soon imitate you and attempt to feed himself.
As soon as you introduce solid food, you can offer a child-sized glass for your child to drink from. A shot glass size is ideal. It’s a learning process. Only give a small amount of water to your child.
You will be your child’s role model. Provide opportunities for your child to observe your eating.
You can use a weaning table from the start of the process. The chair must be comfortable. I recommend a chair with armrests.
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When your child can sit properly on a chair or when he has started to walk, when your child has started to eat food, you can invest in a little table and chair.
The size of the table for a one-year-old should be 30 cm to 36 cm. For a 2-3 years old – 40cm, for a 4 years old 46cm. The Latt children’s table from Ikea is only £20. It comes with 2 chairs, is 45cm high and is perfect for a 4-year-old. If you saw the feet of the table by 10 cm, you can use it from when your child is one year old until your child is around 3. You can then buy a new one when your child is reaching 4.
The size of the seat of the chair for a one-year-old should be between 13 and 17cm. For a 2 to 3-year-old, it should be between 21cm and 26cm. For a 4-year-old it should be 31cm. The seat height of the Ikea’s Latt is 28cm. It will need to be trimmed down to suit your toddler’s height.
In my home, I find that a combination of Baby led weaning at the family table and eating food independently at the weaning table worked well. The idea with the weaning table is that your child will learn feeding skills and practical life skills that will support his independence. It is a place he will use for many years to come to serve himself a snack or a drink.
By introducing the weaning table, you should always respect and follow your child. As your child will be able to leave the table as he is not restricted like in a high chair, he might leave without finishing a meal. You should never force a child to eat so act as a role model here. Eat with your child or just make a factual observation “I see that you still have a piece of banana on the plate. Would you like to eat it?”. If your child seems to want it, encourage him to sit back down to finish the banana.
Note that some families totally skip the weaning table. With Babyled weaning, it makes more sense to have your child at the family table. It's also very common for the baby to eat on the laps of his parents. Both my children loved to eat from my plate while on my laps.
First check the book Babyled weaning from Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett.
If you are concerned about food intake, read My child won't eat from Carlos Gonzalez.
The trip trap highchair is ideal and nowadays, there are many cheaper brands that allow the same independence.
I hope those tips will help you!
Ask your questions in comment!
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Carine Robin is a a mother of 2 children. She raises them the Montessori way. Originally from Belgium where she worked as a child psychologist for several years, Carine spent 6 years in Ireland before settling in in the UK. She qualified as a Montessori teacher 10 years ago and has since worked as Montessori teacher and preschool manager. She founded Montessori-family in 2011 to provide opportunities for parents to discover Montessori. She believes that it’s truly possible to implement the Montessori ideas at home to make your house and family life welcoming to your child, her needs and her thrive for independence. She offers parents & babies classes, toddlers playgroups; Montessori home designs, one to one support, parenting classes and online courses.
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