I was so pleased to receive a number of positive comments on my post, newborn tips for visually impaired mums. It’s great to hear some of you found my tips useful. So as my girls get older and I try different things, I thought I would create similar articles for visually impaired mums of older babies and toddlers. I’m not an expert on child rearing or blindness, but I am learning more about both everyday. The main thing to take away from these posts is that when you can’t see, there’s usually still a way to get things done, even if that means finding your own workaround. Bear in mind the way that works for you might not be the quickest and it may take a bit of trial and error to get there, but don’t give up at the first hurdle and you’ll most likely come up with a way to do the things a mum needs to do.
Today, let’s talk about weaning. When baby is around 6 months old, most mums are thinking about weaning. This can be a minefield for any mum, but the accuracy required to feed a baby when you can’t see their mouth, the endless things you imagine could go wrong and the potential for food to be flung across the room makes weaning a blind mum’s nightmare.
With my first child, I made a lot of purées and spoon fed her for quite a while before introducing finger foods. I think the main reason was that I couldn’t quite believe a toothless baby could bite off and eat pieces of food without choking. I now know that of course they can! But on my way to learning that, things got very messy and even feeling for her mouth with one hand and aiming the spoon in the other, I still missed as she wriggled around. We ended up with purée on her face, on my face and pretty much everywhere in between. Besides being tricky to clean up, it was also hard to know how much she had eaten. What had left the bowl wasn’t necessarily an indicator of what was in her stomach! On the plus side, she mastered to art of using a spoon very early on and once this happened, it got much easier.
When baby number 2 was ready to wean, she got a mixture of spoon feeding and baby led weaning. Partly because I had gotten over my fear of babies choking, and partly because baby led weaning means less preparation time – my eldest announced she wasn’t going to wear nappies anymore on day 2 of weaning her sister. I suddenly got a lot busier! I found baby led weaning a bit easier as it eliminated the spoon conundrum and it was easier to know how much food baby had eaten. Food in her bib, on the table and on floor was all in bits so I could tell roughly how much wastage there was, which isn’t really possible with puddles of purée. I kept spoon feeding her too and found the combination of both methods worked well for us.
Let me share some weaning tips that worked for me as a visually impaired mum. Every child and parent is different and whatever your approach, I hope some of these tips might be useful to you in some way.
1.Eat together. Let baby see how you eat your meal, use a fork and enjoy your food. If you can’t manage feeding them and eating your own dinner at the same time, sit them in their high chair while you eat, give them something to nibble on and talk to them about what you’re eating. Show them what you’re supposed to do and they are more likely to catch on quicker. Although they’re too young to fully appreciate it, it’s never too early to experience sitting down as a family and enjoying dinner together, practicing social skills and good table manners.
2. Spoon feeding, Try holding the mush-filled spoon in one hand while you locate baby’s mouth with the other. Wait until they feel settled before you go in with the spoon, otherwise baby will end up with baby food dripping down their face. Look out for spoons with a tactile handle. Some have a grip on the top and some are flat on top of the handle and have a rounded or pointed under side. These kinds of spoons make it easier for us to know if the spoon is the right way up. I like the Munchkin Soft Tip Spoons as it’s easy to tell if the spoon is facing upwards without having to feel the part that goes in the baby’s mouth. The logo is raised and on the side of the handle that faces up which your thumb naturally touches when you hold the spoon correctly, and there’s a pointy bit on the under side which I think is a spoon rest, but I would quickly feel for it with my index finger before loading up the spoon to confirm I wasn’t trying to fed my baby with an upside down spoon! A suction bowl is also a good idea to avoid spills and also handy for when baby learns to feed themselves. My favourite were the Nuby Stackable Suction Bowls as they come with lids so they’re great for food on the go. I have also used the larger lid as a plate too. Mine are still going strong after two years, so the quality is good too. When it came to making the purées I tried a few food processors and found my least favourite were stick blenders. There was a high risk of food going all over the kitchen and myself, and I never got the right consistency! My favourite turned out to be this Kenwood Mini Chopper. Don’t be fooled by its seemingly tiny size and modest price tag – this was exactly what I needed to make baby food safely and easily. It only has one button and one blade so it’s super easy to use and the lid ensures I didn’t get covered in baby food. Win, win.
3. Baby led weaning, Try only placing a couple of pieces of food on the tray or plate at a time. Stay with your baby as they eat and give them couple more pieces as they finish what they already have. This should mean less mess and less waste as they can’t throw it all on the floor at once! A non slip mat is handy for not only avoiding too much food hitting the floor, but also makes clean up easier as you just fold it up and take it to the bin. I only ever tried one of these but it was great and lasted both children. It was the Easymat portable suction plate which is like a plate and mat all in one piece.
4. Sit behind your baby. In the early days, I always found brushing my babies’ teeth easier when they sat on my knee facing away. I would gently locate their mouth with my left hand and go in with the toothbrush with my right hand. You can feel your baby’s movements as you have more body contact and know if they are moving left or right and can adjust your own movements accordingly. I felt the baby was steadier and that I had a bit more control. Using the same logic, you can sit on a mess-proof mat or sheet with baby in front of you on your lap and feel their movements as they eat so you have a better idea of what they are doing. If spoon feeding, you can reach the spoon around to the front of baby’s face, feel the corner of their mouth so you can tell if their mouth is open or closed. Once they get to know the process of eating and realise how great food is, hopefully they’ll fidget less and you can progress to a high chair.
5. Make baby food in advance. Cook more than you need and batch freeze in portion sizes. This saves prep time at each meal and means less washing up. Ice cube trays are good for newly weaning babies – I like ones with lids that are made of silicone so food is covered in the freezer and it’s easy to pop out the frozen cubes when you need them. The ones I used are no longer available, but these Silicone Ice Cube Trays are very similar. There are versions of these called Silicone Food Trays with bigger compartments, which make perfect meal sized portions for slightly older babies. I actually also use these for making individual jellies and cheesecakes.
6. Food Pouches. If using food pouches when out and about it’s useful to teach your baby to suck the food directly from the pouch’s nozzle. If you are heating the pouch, carefully check the temperature first!. Then place the nozzle in baby’s mouth and gently squeeze a little at a time. In my experience, it’s much easier than trying to squeeze the purée onto a spoon and trying to aim the spoon into baby’s mouth. You can buy spoon tips for food pouches which means you don’t need a separate spoon, but I found these really tricky as I could never tell how much food was on it and trying to aim a tiny spoon tip on the end of a big food pouch into a baby’s mouth was extremely difficult for me!
7. Keeping clothes clean. A friend told me when she weaned her son, she stripped him down to his nappy and put him in his high chair outside. Afterwards, she would hose down the mess outside and hose down the baby in the shower! Well, she lived in Singapore where it’s sunny pretty much all year. Back in Blighty, this isn’t really an option most of the time. So I tried various styles of bibs to see which worked best. In very early warning days I found this long sleeved bib used in conjunction with a silicone crumb catcher bib was really effective in keeping baby’s clothes clean and catching some of the mess. The long sleeved one was good because the elasticated cuffs stopped food going up baby’s arms and the Velcro was fairly strong and much less fiddly than some tie fastening ones when you can’t see very well. It might sound overkill, but it worked well for me and after the initial carnage of weaning a child, I found the bib with crumb catcher on its own was sufficient and the long sleeved bib was redeployed to arts and crafts duties. I also found I only needed two of each bib unlike like cloth bibs that go in the washing machine. A quick rinse under the tap, and these are ready to use again. On the subject of keeping clothes clean, wearing an apron yourself when feeding baby isn’t a bad idea!
8. Cover the floor, before your baby does! To help reduce clean up effort, place a disposable tablecloth, a plastic sheet or even a shower curtain under the high chair. They’re pretty big so catch much of the mess and you can just pick it up after a meal and pour the dropped food into the bin. If you’re doing baby led weaning you can easily tell how much food is on the sheet and it gives you an idea of how much baby actually ate.
9. Trust your baby. I found that if they were hungry, both of my babies would lean towards the spoon with their mouth wide open like a baby bird. If, part-way through a meal, they kept turning away and ended up with more food in their ear than in their mouth or they started throwing food on the floor or across the kitchen, it was often a sign that they were full. Once we reached this stage, I knew it was time to call it a day for this particular meal and there was often very little point forcing it as baby wouldn’t eat any more, and the mess would only get worse!
10. Keep calm. Try not to worry too much. Yes, it’s stressful, we all wonder if our baby is eating enough, whether we’re giving them the right foods and if they will choke (even though we’ve followed all the safety advice from the NHS, the health visitor and that woman at playgroup, and the grapes are definitely all cut lengthways – we’ve double checked!). Then there’s the mess in the kitchen after every meal! Try not to worry too much, you don’t want baby to associate meal times with stress. Your baby will learn to eat – maybe sooner, maybe later, but they will. You are a caring, sensible mother and you are doing a great job nurturing your baby, helping them develop a good relationship with food and teaching them to eat safely and healthily. The kitchen is a mess, but there’s no getting away from it – even mums who can see perfectly well experience this. It might take us longer to find all the bits of food and clean it up, but it can be cleaned. Remember every child is different and will experience weaning differently. But soon, like so many other stages of bringing up a baby, weaning will all be a distant memory.
So there were my tips for weaning a baby when you have little or no vision. I hope you enjoyed this post and please do share if you think it can help someone you know. I’d love to hear any tips you have for weaning, so please share in the comments below.
As always thank you for reading!
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