I’m going to sweep straight in here with a confession.
My youngest daughter’s first food was nutella.
There, I said it. Shoot me down, say what you like, I’m ready for you.
Despite having a shocking memory, (I can’t remember either of my children walking for the first time, much to their disgust), I do remember this day quite clearly. We were shopping in town and had gone into Debenhams cafe for a pit stop. My eldest daughter Bee, who was seven at the time, had one of those pick and mix boxes, where you’re meant to pick some carrot batons and a bag of raisins but obviously everyone chooses the Pom Bears and mini packets of chocolate coated animal biscuits.
Bee had shunned the half cheese sandwich in favour of a bread roll and sachet of nutella.
‘Do you think Belle would like nutella?’ I asked Bee, getting a tiny bit on the end of my finger and waving it near Belle’s nose.
Belle’s mouth opened wide and she pounced on my finger like a kitten with a piece of tuna.
‘Yes,’ said Bee. ‘I think she does.’
And that was that. Belle’s first food, aged four months.
She’s 15 years old now, and although she has a rather obsessional love of chocolate chip brioche rolls, she’s otherwise well adjusted, eats carrots and has all her own teeth.
I tell you this story not because I’m suggesting that you rush out to the supermarket at 16 weeks for a jar of chocolate spread, but to reassure you that despite the pressure you may feel under to be blending organic carrots and freezing them in ice cube trays every hour of the day and night, you really don’t need to beat yourself up over weaning.
It’s not like reading or something like that. A kid isn’t going to one day just pick up Pride and Prejudice and start reading. They will however snatch food from your plate if they fancy eating it. No child grows into an adult without learning how to eat. So chill out.
(interesting side note – Belle was 13 when I realised I’d never taught her to tie her shoelaces, so if they can pick that up on their own then they should be able to manage a sandwich.)
So, while you plough your way, guilt ridden, through the Mumsnet forum threads, wondering how so many other mums seem to have time to steam chicken, here’s a little antidote – 6 things you really don’t need to worry about when it comes to weaning.
Don’t worry if they sometimes have treats
‘I decided to wean my daughter when she crawled over to the biscuit tin and helped herself to a chocolate bicky after a baby yoga class,’ mum Alisa told me on Twitter, ‘having not even crawled up to that point!’
Obviously I’m not suggesting Haribo for breakfast every morning or anything, but like most things in life it’s everything in moderation right? Just like I might have the odd gin or three of an evening, does it really matter if your baby has the occasional spoonful of chocolate ice cream?
Don’t worry if they go through fads
They’ll grow out of it.
‘My eldest went through a phase where baked beans were the only thing we could guarantee he’d eat,’ dad Toby told me on Twitter. ‘He was happy with the low sugar, low salt versions and he was fine, the wind however…’
Belle had a period of only wanting to eat fried mushrooms, but she soon grew out of that one. For the last 14 years she has been going through a phase of NOT eating mushrooms so you know, swings and roundabouts.
Don’t worry if they have days when they don’t seem hungry at all
Don’t you have some days where you want to stuff your face with Jaffa cakes and other days where you just don’t have much appetite? Babies are only people remember – just because they don’t want to eat exactly the same amount at the same time every single day, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them.
Don’t worry if they sometimes have food from pouches
And by ‘sometimes’ I mean ‘all of the time’.
Pre-prepared baby food has come a long way over the last ten or so years. Even when my eldest daughter was a baby it was a different story – I dread to think about the number of ‘chocolate puddings’ she had from cans at four months old – but nowadays the good quality pouches are basically the same as if you’ve made it yourself.
Only without the tears or the ice cube trays.
Don’t worry about what other babies the same age are doing
‘Oh dear, is he not dipping his carrot batons into the hummus unaided yet?’ says Sophia from baby yoga.
Give it a rest Sophia.
As with any baby milestone, they’ll all come to it eventually, it’s not a race.
‘With my third we tried to wean at 6 months and again at 8 months but she just wasn’t interested,’ explains mum Lyndsey. ‘Her first food ended up being steak and ale pie!’
Despite her early experiences with chocolate spread, Belle pretty much refused anything but breastmilk until she was around 11 months old, at which point she moved onto pizza and full on sandwiches.
Don’t worry if they don’t finish every meal
It’s actually a good thing.
By trusting your baby to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full, you’re teaching them to understand and respond to their own appetite, which is a much healthier way of eating. Think about your own eating habits as an adult – wouldn’t it be much better if you’d learnt how to stop eating chocolate digestives when you were full?
Now put down that ice cube tray and cut yourself some slack.