Baby Weaning and Sensory Exposure
By Michelle Boon
Today we are pleased to introduce Michelle, a fellow mum who will be sharing with us sensory exposure during baby weaning.
Michelle is a mum to 18-month-old little Tyler and a mum-to-be to her second born in 3 months time. She have also been a paediatric occupational therapist for the last 9 years.
Meeting many little ones throughout the years in the therapy setting had a clear influence on her interactions with her firstborn and how she wanted to introduce him to the world of awesome foods, guiding and starting him on building his healthy relationship with food in his growing years.
Now remember, this article is all about the sensory experiences that we want to build for our growing infant at the initial weaning stage till they’ve learnt that solids are how we should fulfill our satiety instead of just relying on milk.
And it’s not the ticket to approving bad manners of “playing” with food at the dining table as they grow or letting.
This is all about providing fun sensory rich learning experiences for your little ones in their weaning journey.
On Tyler: Market Fresh Produce Bapron
Why is Sensory Exposure important?
Breast milk or formula milk were the only source of food our little ones had ever known for the first 4 – 6 months of their lives so providing them with sensory experiences from a young age will help enhance their learning of the world around them and build neural connections in their developing brain to:
√ Create interests in food
√ Advance chewing skills
√ Promote fine motor skills like pincer grasp & eye-hand coordination
√ Introduce a wide range of food varieties early which allows for holistic nutrients in your child’s future diet
√ Build positive associations with food & prevent fussy eaters in the long run (picky eating usually starts around 12 months to 3 years of age)
√ Provide a head start to self-feeding & independence at mealtimes
On Tyler: Market Fresh Produce Bapron
How to present food in a variety of ways to make use of all your babies’ senses?
All different varieties of capsicums or broccoli vs cauliflower.
Variety of fruits in its natural forms, not fruit juices.
Gradually introduce a variety of aromatics and spices into the foods using e.g. garlic, onions, turmeric, touch of black/white pepper.
These help introduce babies to the more natural flavors of foods and reduce the need for salt in your cooking.
Usually from mushrooms
Frozen fruit purees vs freshly blended fruit purees
Or plain no added sugar yogurt vs yogurt from the fridge
Shapes and Sizes of Foods
Crinkle cutters vs normal knives to cut foods.
Different Styles of Cooking
Roasted vs steamed.
Consistencies of Foods
Freeze dried fruits pieces allows babies to hold and control without the pieces slipping through their hands and are thick enough to feel on their gums when biting down.
To find out more about sugars or salt in foods, please refer to HPB website to find out more about the daily limit recommendations before & after 12 months old.
For reference, the recommended daily intake limit age 6 to 12 months is not more than 400mg for salt and not more than 5 teaspoons for sugar.
Here are some tips!
1/ Allow your babies to use both their hands to reach for the food being offered!
2/ Go at your baby’s pace, mealtimes will not take forever as they grow!
3/ Choose baby friendly utensils to guide & aid your child in developing skills.
4/ Comfort and stability in posture is important so that your child can focus on the food and tools presented instead of tugging.
5/ Talk to your baby about all the properties of what’s being offered, describe and narrate factually instead of “nice”, “yucky”.
6/ Role model actions & behaviors with family mealtimes.
7/ Do not constantly clean your baby’s hands or mouth during the meal itself.
8/ Do not feel pressured for your baby to finish ALL of what has been prepared or presented.
At the initial stage, they’re still only learning about food & feeding, milk is still their main source of nutrients!
3 Guidelines you can follow
1/ Choose a time of the day or week, number of times a week you can allow or deal with mess in the house without feeling overwhelmed or stress!
2/ Have a consistent mealtime routine such as sitting at a specific dining area or chair to start You can also end off with a water basin for hands washing which can be quite fun for babies.
3/ Try a new food at least 10 times even if your baby rejects it.
Babies learn about the world through touch & exploration which makes them the happiest.
Use of food is the most developmentally appropriate at the initial weaning stage for sensory experiences as we cannot possibly be offering our lil ones frequent play at the sand pits or with paints without risking them stuffing everything non-edible or potentially harmful into their mouths!
√ Provide opportunities as much as possible
√ Be responsive to your baby by following his/her cues
Lastly, I cannot emphasize enough.
EXPOSURE, EXPOSURE, EXPOSURE!
Sincerely hope that these information will be useful in kickstarting your babies’ weaning journey!
*All views expressed in this article are my personal opinions and / or useful tips as a mother who initiated and adapted her firstborn’s weaning journey experience complemented with existing knowledge as a practicing healthcare professional in a related field. Views are of no affiliation with any organizations or institutes.
*This article does not deep dive into the various pros & cons or know-how essentials of baby-led weaning vs traditional puree weaning approaches nor provide guidelines on when best to start weaning for your infant. Please research more as necessary for your decision making as a caregiver.
*Please also ensure to discuss further with your dietitian and/or any other healthcare provider if you have any allergen, food safety or feeding abilities concern for your growing infant.
1/ Nordanglia Education (n.d.). Health and Wellbeing – Fruit & Vegetables: The Rainbow Challenge [Image]. https://www.nordangliaeducation.com/our-schools/budapest/article/2019/2/14/health-and-wellbeing-fruit-and-vegetables-the-rainbow-challenge
2/ Feeding Littles. (2020, May 31). Crinkle Cutter [Infographic]. https://m.facebook.com/feedinglittles/photos/pb.1667971850089895.-2207520000../2603771433176594/?type=3&eid=ARA9i92vg5GJ2atHVFk0Gjy1QwiHxBbe8LExQqmXi1xnBmcSCj-YpzqbhBIz6lQiubPOJxy9-I9P5Gig
3/ Feeding Littles. (n.d.). Serving Squash to Babies Guide [Infographic]. https://www.feedinglittles.com/uploads/4/8/5/9/48592227/serving-squash-to-babies-guide_orig.png