Discussion | Embracing the Mess

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Embracing the Mess and Why it’s Important to Allow Children to Explore their Food During Weaning

We originally wrote this post for National weaning week and it was published here but we wanted to share it on pocketnannies as well.
Weaning, whether you choose to do baby led or purée should be a messy process and whilst that sadly means you have an extra mess to tidy up at the end of mealtimes, it is actually a huge learning process for your baby.
Weaning should be a full on sensory experience, which means not just smell and taste are satisfied. If your baby is doing well with puréed food that’s fab, but why not try placing a few boiled, steamed or roasted vegetables onto their highchair and see if they might like to suck or chew on these in between mouthfuls of purée.
Children who are allowed to explore their food through exploration (touching it, squishing it and putting it to their own mouths to taste) become more familiar with the food in question and are less likely to become unsure of it as they become toddlers, who are naturally wary of new foods. (Apparently this is a survival technique handed down from our ancestors to avoid us eating poisonous foods back in the day. Helpful then but not so much now!)
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We must remember that weaning is a marathon not a sprint. Your baby may touch, squish and generally make a huge mess aka throw it all on the floor- cause isn’t that the funnest game!- and not put the food in their mouth but that’s ok, further down the line you might find if you keep offering it they may decide to try it and decide they do in fact like it.
Things to help you survive the mealtime mess:
  • plastic mat to place under the highchair (an old plastic tablecloth works well)
  • flannels (saves you having to take out shares in wipes and also helps the environment a little too. Just wash your flannel under the hot tap after each meal and pop in the wash pile at the end of the day)
  • Decent bibs, ideally ones with arms or better yet if it’s warm enough take off their tops for meals.
  • hand held hoover/dust pan and brush or failing that a dog works just as well!
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A huge array of learning takes place during mealtimes with a baby and not just the adult learning that a tiny human can make the biggest of messes! Babies learn hand eye coordination when they practice bringing the food to their mouths, they strengthen their fine motor skills by managing to pick the food up with their fingers. For example perfecting their pincer grip whilst learning to pick up peas/ sweetcorn with their fingers. They learn about different textures and temperatures (cold fruits and vegetables can be soothing on sore gums). Babies also learn social skills, which is why we would recommend eating with your baby if possible, even if it’s just a floret or 2 of broccoli to encourage him/her to do the same.Weaning can and should be a fun and enjoyable experience for both baby and carer and it can also be a wonderful bonding experience. Lots of eye contact happens at the table and lots of new vocabulary will be heard by baby.
Enjoy the process and maybe even the mess your baby creates whilst they are getting the best introduction to food.
Happy weaning!
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