Weaning is an important process that we all must go through. It is another step in survival
and independence that all humans must take. In order for children to be independent, they will need to be able to eat without the assistants of the parents.
For that reason, weaning is the next step in independence after birth. Weaning is both another physical and psychological separation from the mother (or primary caregiver). The child will be further away from the parent for eating, hence the physical separation and it will be a step to independence, being the psychological separation.
Enter the weaning table and set.
The Weaning Table
The weaning table meets these two needs for this new separation. The physical aspect of the weaning is to spacially demonstrate the new distance, the separation, from the parent. The child sits on one side while the parent sits away from the child to the side or across from the child. This also serves the psychological aspect of the weaning table, showing the child that while the two are further separated, they are still together and they are able to be together in a new way.
The table can be arranged if possible near the chair where the majority of breast or bottle feedings were. This helps the child understand that it is feeding time because they are still near the familiar zone in which they usually eat. Start with one meal a day, picking a time when your child is hungry, but not overly hungry. This will help them to be internally driven to eat at the table, but not frustrated because they are so hungry.
After a few weeks, when you notice that they have become familiar with the table for eating (they get excited when they are seated at the table) it can be placed near the family table. This is also a good time to place the child's chair at the family table. The Tripp Trapp chair is great because it is sturdy and grows with the child, but anything similar is great! The weaning table also is intended to last until they can generally get in and out of the chair at the table safely.
The Weaning Set
The weaning set is a collection of items needed for eating: a bib, a napkin, a table cloth with stitched outlines for a place setting, and a carrying case. The weaning set, when used from the beginning of weaning, becomes a visual cue that the child will see and know it is time to eat. This is helpful especially for when going out and about in new places when your child is in an unfamiliar place. When it is time to eat, they will see the set and a sense of trust in the environment will be established because they are still getting their needs met in a familiar and reliable way.
The bib is designed in a way that makes it the most successful way for your child to take off independently. They can grasp the corner of the front of the bib and pull down! There are ribbons on the edges of the table cloth so it can be secured to the table while your child is still developing reliable control of their movements. The napkin allows your child to become familiar with keeping their face clean, something toddlers become very particular about!
Making it Work Together
Sit with your child at the weaning table with the weaning set. You can give them a small portion of food at a time, building up to more food eaten in one sitting. This is the best way to build up familiarity with the new arrangement. Start small, such as pureed vegetables if they are younger or their favorite snack if they are older, and build up to larger quantities of food eaten at the table.
You may see that your child will climb down and away from the table. Remember, they are highly motivated to move, they are driven by internal forces to move as much as possible. If they are not interested in sitting at the table, try again the next day. Repetition is key. Keep introducing the table and eventually, they will make the connection, "I use this table when I am hungry". Introducing the weaning table when your child is hungry is a great way to assist in the transition to using the table.
Also, look for signs that your child isn't hungry. If they are not hungry, just push back the meal 30 min to an hour and try again. This should be a joyful process, and following your child is the best way to make sure that it is. It can be frustrating when we take into account our schedules and trying to be flexible with our children's rhythms, but watch for their cues and adjust the schedule so that it works for both you the parents, and your child.
Be patient, your child is making sense of the world with very few reference points. With gentle guidance and understanding that it is a process, you and your child will get there! Some days will be great and some days not so much.
Growth is not a direct linear path, so go easy on your self :)