An introduction to Sensory Weaning
In time for Weaning Week 2019, weaning brand Tidy Tot and award-winning children’s nutritionist and weaning expert, Sarah Almond Bushell, have worked together to develop a new approach to weaning which involves engaging all baby’s senses to develop happy and confident little eaters – Sensory Weaning. I have the pleasure of doing a job I love! I’m a registered dietitian and work with mums (and the occasional dad) with my digital courses, supporting them through their baby’s weaning journey. My experience with fussy eaters led me to train as an SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory) feeding therapist. Starting solids is such as important milestone and nutrition is crucial as there are certain nutrients that babies need by 6 months that breast milk and formula alone can’t provide, therefore the food you choose to give your baby is really important. But it’s so much more than nutrition. Eating is a skill that babies aren’t born with and they have to learn how to eat during the 6- 12 month stage. A lot of the learning involves using their senses. The more sensory experiences your baby has, the more his brain develops. Giving your little one lots of different experiences with food means that he is stimulating his brain development, leading to new skills and behaviours. This is why I have worked with Tidy Tot to define this new term of Sensory Weaning and developed a useful guide for parents on how they can stimulate their baby’s senses throughout their weaning journey. I see a lot of toddlers in my clinic who have sensory issues with food and their parents have come to see me because they are at their wits end with their fussy eating and food refusal. In many cases, the problems start because of the limited sensory exposure their babies had to food when they were weaning. This has become more apparent since baby food pouches came about. Feeding directly from a pouch means that:
- Babies are not getting exposed to different textures. If you buy the same baby food pouch 12 months apart the texture will be exactly the same. When you cook food for your baby at home, the texture between one batch and the next will vary depending on how long you cooked it for and how many seconds you blended it for. A 10 second whizz will produce a different texture to a 20 second whizz.
- Babies are not getting exposed to how food looks, thus they’re not getting the opportunity to use their visual sense.
- Aroma and smell is masked in a pouch as the only opening is the lid, thus babies don’t get to use their sense of smell.
- Even how food tastes is different when eaten from a pouch as flavour perception is a combination of the sense of taste and smell together.
- Touch is avoided. There is no opportunity for little hands to be dipped into bowls of food when the pouch is being delivered directly into the baby’s mouth.
- Feeding in pushchairs while out and about means that babies may not have a stable base, affecting their vestibular and proprioceptive senses.
- Offer a wide variety of different textures for your little one to explore.
- Let them get involved with the food, exploring with their hands.
- Invest in a decent high chair that supports your baby’s waist, knees and feet. They should all be at a 90 degree angle and little legs shouldn’t be left dangling.
- Put away the wipes, at clean up time bring over a bowl of warm soapy water or sit them on the side of the kitchen sink and let your baby play in the water.
- Talk about the food, the colour, the noise it makes, tell them what they’re experiencing such as “the pasta is hot” or “your yoghurt is cold”, when they indicate they want a drink say “you’re thirsty”, if they indicate they want more say “still hungry” and when they finish tell them they’re full.