The time when a baby starts weaning and onto their solid food journey is also the time when most mothers have to return to work. Women in India get a 6-month maternity leave and men get 15 days of paternity leave.
As parents (especially moms) transition back into work routines, they are forced to find caregiving alternatives for their babies – like a family member, a daycare, or a nanny. For couples who don’t have any familial support in the form of grandparents, this can be an isolating feeling.
In fact, navigating your baby’s new experiences with solid food along with putting them in someone’s care at the same time can be overwhelming for both mother and baby. And you’re certainly not alone in this. However, there are ways to manage this. Today we will look at how parents can train or instruct nannies on feeding their babies, so that mealtimes can be positive and stress-free for parent, baby, and nanny!
Look for Personalized Care in Daycare
It’s a known fact that babies at 6 months can benefit from undivided care and attention (ideally from a single caregiver) – someone who’s at home when the parents are at work. For example, it could be a nanny or a grandparent. There are many parents who don’t have such an option and have to put their baby in a daycare, and that’s okay. See if you can find a daycare that offers one-to-one personalized care for each baby. This will help your baby to adapt to the new setting with more ease.
The Presence of Parents Is Key
When your baby begins their journey with solid food, it’s highly recommended that one of the parents is present at home during meal times. This is just for the initial few weeks when they start weaning, as your presence will have a positive impact on your baby. They will feel safe and comforted as they explore an unfamiliar territory of solid food.
If you’re able to be at home, try to participate in the feeding activity. This way, you can become more confident in managing their mealtimes and understanding their habits and behaviors. You can then convey relevant information and tips about your baby’s mealtime to the caregiver (nanny or family member).
If you’re not able to prepare or feed the baby at mealtime, that’s okay. Let the alternative caregiver handle this task, while you can be present within your baby's line of sight. Your presence can be highly comforting and will influence your baby’s relationship with food and eating.
Instructions for Nannies or Caregivers
Here are some simple instructions that you can give your nanny when it comes to feeding your little one
1) Prepare their food: Depending on your chosen weaning approach, prepare your baby's food thoughtfully. For baby-led weaning, offer foods in stick-shaped pieces. For spoon-led weaning, opt for chunkier food items, such as porridges or khichdi.
Before serving, check the food's temperature to ensure it's neither too hot nor too cold for your baby.
2) Set the stage: Begin by placing a messy mat or plastic sheet around the feeding area. This simple step will help contain any spills and keep your surroundings tidy.
3) Seat the baby correctly: Ensure the baby is comfortably seated and upright before starting the meal. Adhere to the 90-90-90 rule, which means they should sit upright, whether on your lap, a high chair, or a booster seat. Remember two things:
- Keep their hands and arms free; avoid holding them down, as this can hinder their exploration.
- Avoid a reclining or lying-down position for your baby during mealtime.
4) Feed the baby: Once the baby is seated:
- You can either place the food directly in front of them, by placing it on their feeding tray. If the baby is on your lap, present the food on your palm after thoroughly washing your hands.
- Avoid directly putting the food in their mouth before they’re aware or alert. Allow your baby to reach out, touch, and interact with the food. Give them time to become familiar and comfortable.
- If the food is best served with a spoon, like yogurt, preload a baby-safe spoon and place it in front of your baby. Wait for them to reach for the spoon, and gently guide it toward their mouth.
- Avoid feeding the baby when they are distracted; instead, wait for their full attention. This is a learning and exploring opportunity for them!
- Be patient and encouraging while feeding the baby.
5) Respond to the baby’s cues: Continue with the above Step 4 until the baby shows interest in the meal. Signs of disinterest, such as looking away, playing with food, turning their mouth away, or sealing their lips, indicate that the baby may be full for the moment.
After recognizing these cues, it's time to conclude the meal. Carefully remove the baby from their feeding space, whether it's a chair or seat, and gently clean them up.
6) Be patient and joyful: Patience and a joyful demeanor are key throughout this process. Give the baby ample time to interact with their food, respond to their hunger and fullness cues, and don't rush them to eat more.
Babies possess excellent self-regulation when it comes to appetite. Remember that they have small stomachs and still rely on breast or formula milk, so it's normal if they consume less solid food than expected.
8 Tips to Ensure a Positive Mealtime Experience
- Don’t force feed: If the baby isn't showing interest in eating, do not force them. Try feeding them at a different time later in the day when they may be more receptive.
- Moderate portions: Resist the temptation to overload the spoon with food. Seeing large portions can overwhelm the baby.
Stay patient and calm: Try to not get irritated at the baby if they don't finish their meal as quickly as you'd like.
- Diversify food types: Don't limit the baby’s diet to just one texture or type of food. Introduce a variety of flavors and textures, as mentioned earlier, to encourage balanced eating habits.
- Don’t put pressure: If the baby initially refuses certain foods, don't give up on them. Refusal doesn't necessarily indicate dislike. Repeated exposures can help them become more accepting of these foods.
- Check their mood: Avoid feeding your baby when they are cranky, sleepy, tired, or unhappy. Mealtimes under such conditions may not go well and can lead to frustration. It's perfectly fine to end the meal and try again later when they’re in a better mood.
- Avoid distractions: Don't use games, toys, or screens to trick your baby into eating. It's important that they are aware of the food being offered and not coerced into eating without awareness.
- Gently clean them up: Avoid using the spoon to scrape food particles stuck to the sides of their mouth. Doing so can create a negative association with food. Wait until the meal is over, then use a soft damp cloth or your fingers to gently wipe their mouth.
We strongly recommend that, as a parent, you are present during the initial weeks when your baby starts exploring solid foods. This is a special bonding time that is incomparable to any other, not even with the most well-intentioned nanny or grandparent, nor can it be replaced by any advice provided here.
You possess an innate understanding of your baby's needs and desires, and your baby responds best to your care and presence. While it might feel like a juggling act in the beginning, rest assured that things will gradually fall into place. Be kind to yourself, seek support when necessary, and don't hesitate to communicate your needs at work, explaining that this is a temporary phase.
After a few weeks of introducing your baby to solid foods in a nurturing and patient environment, they will become comfortable and will look forward to mealtime with their caregivers. Your loving and attentive approach during these initial weeks will set the foundation for a positive feeding experience for your little one!