This advice will make it easy for you to transition your baby onto solids even during the busy festive period.
It can be challenging to figure out how to maintain a healthy diet for yourself over the busy festive period – never mind for your baby too! But if you’re worried that the holidays will throw you off your weaning game, you’ve come to the right place. These tips will ensure a seamless transition while still allowing you to be merry with the best of them!
1. Stick to a routine but be flexible.
For too many parents, the festive period can be a stressful time as you figure out how to juggle milk feeds, solids, sleep and all the rest of it! In the Parent Sense app, occupational therapist Meg Faure recommends following a “flexible routine”. Essentially, what this means is that while there are basic age-appropriate schedules that will likely work for your little one, it’s important to follow your unique child’s cues when it comes to sleep, feeding and play. You can find out more about these cues (which are one of the six steps of COLLAB weaning) here, but as your child gets older, they will also make it clear when they are hungry or full through gestures or even words. You don’t have to be confined to your home for your baby’s mealtimes – just be sure to have appropriate snacks and meals at hand to offer your child when you’re out and about and they indicate they’re hungry, so that you don’t resort to unhealthy snacks or treats to keep them satisfied.
Click here to download the Parent Sense app to set up a flexible schedule for your baby ahead of the festive season.
2. Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time.
Following on from the above, prepare healthy, age-appropriate snacks ahead of time. Keep fruits such as bananas, berries and avocados at hand – they are easy to transport and make a nutritious, ready-to-eat snack. Other options include:
- Plain yoghurt (you can add wheat germ or flaxseed oil or ground nuts and seeds for added nutrition)
- Cheese, such as cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese or ricotta
- Steamed vegetables like carrots, broccoli, peppers or cauliflower
- Sugar-free wholegrain cereal
- Wholegrain crackers or bread
- Hard-boiled eggs
In Weaning Sense, Meg and paediatric dietitian Kath Megaw recommend stocking your pantry with basics such as wholegrain flour, grains such as millet and oats, peanut and other nut butters, spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, dried fruit, canned tomatoes and tomato purée. This will allow you to make and freeze foods such as fritters, muffins and pancakes. Then you can simply leave to thaw in the fridge (if you’re home) or in a cooler bag (if you’re out) and have nutritious meals and snacks whenever you need them.
Be sure to also let any family or friends know if you prefer to feed your baby only the meals and snacks you’ve prepared, or you may find grandma offering the chips, sweets or desserts that are always so readily available this time of year!
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3. Ensure your family has at least one mealtime together per day.
One of the goals of weaning is, ultimately, to integrate your baby into the family’s existing routines and cultural norms around eating. So, as busy as life may get during this time, make a concerted effort to have at least one meal together as a family every day. This doesn’t have to be a formal meal around the dining table (although, by all means, include your baby around the festive table if that’s the way you celebrate!). A weekly picnic is a great way to introduce baby to different flavours and textures – and a lovely activity during the South African summer. If you’re heading to a festive party without baby, plan a relaxing brunch for the whole family earlier that day. Or prep some baby-friendly food for the braai if that’s more your vibe.
4. Choose wisely when buying packaged snacks and meals.
Despite your best planning, there will likely be days when it’s just too challenging to have homemade food prepped and ready to go. And that’s okay. Just be sure you make wise choices when purchasing ready meals and snacks. Here are some guidelines from Weaning Sense:
- Choose fresh baby food. Many retailers now offer great fresh options, which will have fewer additives than their pantry counterparts. Jarred baby foods also go through an intensive preserving process, which reduces the amount of nutritives in them. Just be sure to use any fresh food within the best-before date.
- Try some adventurous options. Taste your baby’s food yourself – go on, we dare you! If you find it bland and uninteresting, we guarantee your baby will too.
- Become familiar with labels. Avoid baby foods with additives such as MSG, sodium benzoates, cyclamates, azo dyes, tartrazine, sulphur dioxide, added sugar, salt and modified starch on the label. You want the items listed on the label to be as easy to understand as possible. If you’re questioning what something is, chances are you should rather avoid feeding it to your baby. Also note that the ingredients are listed in order of prevalence on the label – so the item that the product contains the most of will be listed first, and vice versa. Therefore, if a product claims to be “sweet potato”, for example, you want that to be the first ingredient listed on the label.
5. Keep your bag packed and ready to go.
If a last-minute opportunity for fun comes up, you want to be ready to grab it – and you can be, even with a baby in tow! A packed bag can save you precious time in getting yourself and your tot ready for anything the festive season brings your way. When it comes to eating on the go, you want to be sure to keep the following in your bag or car:
Reusable or disposable bibs
- Bin bags
- A plate and bowl
- Baby-friendly cutlery
- A cup for water and one for other drinks
- A cooler bag (with ice packs stored in the freezer)
- A packaged snack or two
- A blanket for impromptu picnics
- A portable feeding chair (if you have one)
6. Choose wisely from restaurant menus.
There are three problems with restaurant menus: one, the food often contains more salt than you would use at home; two, they might provide a menu specific for little ones; and three, you aren’t able to monitor everything that is going into a dish. This is where flexibility comes in. You won’t always be able to control everything that goes into your child’s mouth (especially as they become more mobile!), so as long as the norm isn’t to eat out or order takeaways, dining out at a restaurant can be a great way to introduce your baby to different flavours to what you would usually eat at home. Just be sure that the food you serve your baby isn’t a choking hazard and that they are properly seated as they help themselves to your plate.
And that’s another key point: while kid-friendly menus can be a convenient option, it can teach children that they should only eat kid-friendly food, such as chicken nuggets, chips or burgers. If you keep in mind that the goal is for your child to eat the same meals as the rest of the family, remember that it’s never too early to start that process. Make healthy meal choices yourself and then allow your baby to taste from your plate so that they learn from a young age that different textures and flavours are part of the joy of food!