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Weaning Q&A with feeding specialist, Feed Eat Speak

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Last month Stacey Zimmels, founder of Feed Eat Speak, a feeding and speech therapy service for infants and children, did an Instagram takeover for us answering lots of important questions on all aspects of weaning. As a Feeding and Swallowing Specialist and Speech and Language Therapist, she was the perfect guest expert to offer up lots of amazing advice and support – this advice and support is even more important now as families find themselves staying at home and away from their usual support groups and friends who they would usually turn to for advice.

At Tidy Tot, it’s important to us to support parents through every aspect of their weaning journey so we’ve jotted down all the fantastic questions and answers from the Instagram takeover in this blog. Don’t forget to check out the Feed Eat Speak Instagram page for more great advice and also Stacey’s blog post for us on your baby’s gag reflex when weaning.

Question 1: Is it ok to give both fingers foods/solids and purees to my baby? Or is this confusing?

Yes, this is totally fine! I recently did a survey with my followers and by far most parents said that they were doing both together.

Question 2: My 9 month old baby keeps gagging on finger foods. Can I help her at all?

You can try offering softer finger foods such as roasted sweet potatoes, ripe avocado, banana and bite melt snacks such as Bamba puffs. These are foods that can be easily sucked or mashed in the mouth. These consistencies are easier to control in your baby’s mouth and make it less likely that your baby will gag. If you have any concerns about your baby’s feeding development then I’d advise speaking to a specialist to seek more advice.

Question 3: My little one seems to be constantly unwell or teething and this is affecting weaning. What can I do?

I’m sorry that your little one has been poorly. Be patient. It’s really common for weaning to be affected by illness. Tummy bugs in particular can affect eating and nausea, gagging and vomiting can occur even after they appear to be better. The best advice I can give it to be patient and go slowly. Focus on following your baby’s lead and follow responsive feeding. Don’t worry about the quantity of foods taken rather the quality of the mealtime experience. This blog on responsive feeding may be useful.

Question 4: My 11 month old has started refusing food and I think it’s the different textures he’s struggling with. What can I do to encourage him?

If your baby was previously accepting a range of different textured foods then there’s unlikely  to be anything physical going on that is now stopping him eating. I would suggest you keep offering foods with different textures, as well as foods that your child is now refusing, and persevere. Exposure and repeated tastes and trials is key to acceptance. If you have any specific concerns about your child’s ability to eat then please seek professional advice. This blog on fussing eat may offer more advice.

Question 5: My 12 month old still doesn’t swallow a lot. What can I do?

Check the volume of milk you’re giving and how close you are offering milk to mealtimes. At this age, you should be aiming for a decent sized gap between milk feeds and meals.

Some babies are slower to wean that others. I see it quite a bit with breastfed babies who are still thriving on their mother’s milk and often feeding through the night. If this is you then make sure that the foods your baby is eating contain iron and the other micronutrients they don’t get from breast milk. Also rest assured that most babies get there in the end.

Question 6: What is the best snack for babies?

NHS guidelines suggest babies under one year old do not need snacks, however, many parents choose to give them if their baby reduces milk intake and has long gaps between meals. I don’t recommend dropping feeds or replacing with snacks for breastfed babies. The best snacks are homemade and varied. My kids used to have lots of things such as boiled eggs, veggies and hummus, fruits and yoghurts, homemade sweet or savoury muffins, oak cakes and nut butters, cheese and grapes. I’ve written more about snacks here.

Question 7: My 8 month old has decided she doesn’t want solids and this is still going on at 10 months. She only eats peanut butter on toast…help!

Firstly, check her milk volumes if she’s formula fed. You may need to reduce them. I’d also offer a range of foods and three meals a day and try not to default to the preferred food. How about trying toast with other toppings such as egg, other nut butters, mashed avocado or cheese. This article I wrote for Mother & Baby magazine on encouraging new foods may be helpful.

I’d also suggest making a meal and don’t offer an alternative. This is setting you both up for good mealtime boundaries in the future.

Question 8: I started weaning my little one at 6 months but we’re now at 6.5 months and I need to get him to eat more to gain weight. What do you suggest?

Firstly it’s important that if your baby needs to gain weight this has been determined by an appropriate professional. Lots of parents think their babies do, but actually, they’re growing fine, just on the smaller side. Secondly, it’s worth saying it’s difficult to make a baby eat more so the best thing is to be offering milk as their main nutrition. There’s lots of calories in milk and when it comes to mealtimes, focus on the quality of the foods you give, not the quantity. If you are under a paediatrician or dietitian, then please follow their advice. This is generic advice and not a substitute for specific medical and nutritional support.

We’ll be hosting more weaning experts on our social media channels soon make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram to find out more.

Make sure you give Feed Eat Speak a follow on Instagram for more advice and tips. If you’re underway with weaning you can pick up your Tidy Tot bib from our online shop.

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