The word ‘weaning’ can put the fear into any new parent.
What am I supposed to do? When do I start? How do I know if I’m doing it right?
If you have the answers to any of the above, please let me know. Weaning isn’t a one-size-fits-all journey I’m afraid, and one of the first hurdles you may well encounter is getting your homemade baby food consistency right.
Why Do I Need the Right Homemade Baby Food Consistency?
Despite doing extensive research, I found that on day one of introducing food, I had absolutely no idea where to begin. In fact, we’ve now been eating solids for two months and I’m still unsure if I’m doing it ‘right’.
Thankfully, I’ve come to realise there doesn’t seem to be a ‘right’ way to wean. What works for my baby may not be the best thing for yours.
However, there is one area that is key to providing a healthy start – making sure your homemade baby food consistency is suited to the weaning stage of your baby.
I struggled with this at first.
A Lumpy Start
My poor daughter’s first ever meal was some tasty, fresh broccoli. However, although I had mashed my little heart out, I had no idea that it was still too thick and lumpy for her. Babies have only ever sucked for their food up until this moment – and so it makes sense that their first tastes will be acquired through that sucking reflex. If, like me, you provide a slightly lumpy dish to enjoy, the chances are you’ll be rewarded with confusion, gagging and misery. Not the best start for anyone!
So what should you be providing for those first healthy tastes? Think of a runny, yoghurt-like consistency that’s easy to swallow. This allows your baby to work up to tasting and understanding how to take in food. Gradually, as they become pros at puree, you’ll notice that they swirl it around their mouths a bit more – which is the baby version of chewing.
Now you can add in a few lumps and chunks to make it interesting!
How Can I Get It Right Every Time?
Creating consistent homemade baby food recipes can be both quick and easy – meaning you have more time to focus on making sure your little one is loving their new tastebuds!
The top five tips that have helped me get it ‘right’ so far are:
1. Boil/steam your food to within an inch of its life
OK, slightly dramatic, but your fruit and veg needs to be so soft that it can become virtually liquidised; standard cooking just doesn’t cut it.
2. Use a food processor and mix in boiled water or milk if needed
I use a baby food processor (yup, sucked in by the gimmicks) but any will do. It creates a much runnier texture than simply mashing with a fork, and the water or milk can help thin it further if required.
3. Batch freeze different flavours
One of the best tips I was given was to cook and puree all of my fruit and veg separately, freeze cubes of each flavour in ice cube trays and then mix them together for different meal combinations daily. So one day I might choose parsnip and sweet potato, the next day, sweet potato and cauliflower.
4. Check for signs that your baby is ready to progress and then gradually test new consistencies
Once baby is ‘chewing’ the food, you can start introducing smaller lumps and work up from there. Melty finger foods can also be great fun under supervision. We’ve tried toast, pancakes, scrambled egg and sticks of banana so far – all of which have gone down a treat!
5. Make eating a fun and safe environment and DON’T panic if baby gags
Learning to eat should be exciting. Laugh, smile and be happy (even if you’re hyperventilating inside) so that baby associates food with fun. If the inevitable happens and baby starts to gag, try your very best not to panic as this could worry them and make the situation worse.
Trust their sensitive gag reflex (I know, easier said than done) and only intervene if they’re genuinely choking.
My daughter likes to try and swallow huge bits of food, which results in plenty of gagging and spluttering. Now I’ve mastered the calm ‘come on then, cough it up’ with a little pat, she spits it out with a smile.
It Takes Time
Parents, I know weaning is daunting, but with a little preparation and a lot of gentle encouragement, it can be enjoyable for everyone.
Take it one step at a time, and simply start by making sure your homemade baby food consistency is right before taking the plunge.