When to start weaning?
I see soooooo many women who are being pressured by family to start weaning early. Here are some quick facts for you to use to bat the unwanted pressure away if you need it!
When to start:
Guidance is that babies should be weaned at around 6 months of age. Until this age, milk (formula/breast) is all that a baby needs. Weaning too early (before your baby is physiologically ready) can increase the risk of picking up infections,may increase the risk of them developing food allergies and there may also be links between early weaning and adulthood obesity. So unless there is a medical reason to commence weaning early you are best to wait until around 6 months.
Signs that your baby is ready:
1. They can sit up (with some support if needed) and hold their head steady
2. They can purposefully reach out, pick up food and put it straight into their mouths
3. They have lost their tongue thrust reflex (pushing food out of their mouth with their tongue - this is a mechanism to stop them choking before they are ready for solid food)
The following are NOT signs that your baby is ready for weaning:
1. Waking in the night despite previously sleeping through
2. Watching other people eat food
3. Chewing on fists
4. Being a large baby
It's never too early to start thinking about healthy eating habits. Watch the video for my top tips from the weaning stage through childhood.
Have you ever thought about making your own bread? Either by hand or in a bread maker? No? OK, I know I’m at risk of coming across as completely unrealistic and totally out of touch with reality so please bear with me.
First of all I’m aware that bread makers can be pricey and aren’t within reach of everyone’s budgets. Secondly, I can hear you thinking ‘Erm, I’m a parent, I sometimes don’t have time to be washing my hair let alone baking bloody bread, especially when I can pick it up so easily!’
So in my defence:
Price: I bet you there’s a LOT of people, some within your reach via social media or friends and family that have one sitting in their cupboard collecting dust that they’d be willing to give/sell and there’s always bargains to be had on Ebay, gumtree, Facebook selling sites etc so it’s worth having a look to see what you can get one for.
Time: with a bread maker I’d say that it takes me less than 3 minutes to put a loaf on either to bake right then or on a timer so it’s ready when we wake up in the morning. Making your own without a bread maker can be timely, but a soda bread can be knocked up pretty quickly as there’s no kneading involved. My husband, a complete bread baking novice, managed to knock this bad boy up in about 10 minutes (plus baking time) and it was SO delicious.
I wanted to write about bread as I've seen/heard people saying bread isn’t 'proper food' and stating they either don't give it to children or that they feel bad giving it. It’s true that bread isn’t necessarily the most nutritious of foods and it shouldn’t be your ‘go to’ carbohydrate at every meal but there’s certainly nothing wrong with eating it as part of a varied and balanced diet.
Avoiding bread because you/your little one don't enjoy it, or it's just not part of your diet is fine, as there’s a wealth of alternative carbohydrates you can give. However, purposely avoiding gluten completely is not only unnecessary (unless you are a coeliac or have gluten intolerance) but there’s evidence to show that by avoiding giving it to children from 6 months you’re actually increasing their risk of coeliac disease which is completely counter-productive!
That being said, like so many food items, lots of shop bought breads are very highly processed without a great deal of nutritional value and have salt and sugar added to them in varying quantities. For example a shop bought loaf can have anything from 0.2-0.8g or more of salt per slice – that’s 20 - more than 80% of the maximum an under one should be having in an entire day in one slice of bread. So if you’re giving cheese/ham/beans or something else high in salt with the bread you could easily be hitting the daily allowance in once meal.
What can you do?
If you’ve got into the habit of using bread on a daily basis try to think of other things you could be using instead: cous cous, potato, sweet potato, pasta, crackers/oat cakes, rice or grains such as bulghar wheat. (Do bear in mind that some food items such as rye and quinoa may have too much fibre for very small tummies when they first start the weaning process).
Have a look at the label on the bread you’re using and when you next go shopping see if you can find one that contains as little sugar and salt per slice as possible.
Providing your baby is growing well and has a good appetite choose a wholemeal bread that contains more fibre, B vitamins and folate than the white varieties. (For babies who do not eat well, the extra fibre can make them too full and prevent them eating enough calories throughout the day.)
Choose healthy accompaniments – if you find it difficult to use other options instead of bread, try to make sure you’re giving good quality proteins and some fruit or vegetables with it… sandwiches think egg & tomato, hummus & roasted veg/grated carrot, tuna & yoghurt or maybe a nice thick soup or scrambled egg and mashed avocado on toast. There are loads of options when you put your thinking cap on.
Finally, reasons to make your own:
· It tastes great!
· You can control the amount of salt/sugar you add. Avoiding it completely for your children ifyou want
· You can increase the amount of protein/nutrients by using eggs as part of the fluid instead of just water
· Some breads use buttermilk/yoghurt/porridge oats which further increase the nutritional value
· You can use healthier fats like olive/rapeseed oil instead of butter
· It’s cheaper (to make good quality bread – though probably not than the cheapest loaves available)
· The house smells AMAZING in the morning
· You can use a bread maker to make pizza bases, brioche, cakes, jams and other things too
· You can add all sorts of flavours into your own – herbs, spices, olives etc
So, if you've been thinking about doing this then definitely do... if you've never even considered it then I hope I've made you think a little about trying it yourself! If you do give it a go please send pictures and reports on your trials!
Yoghurt is a great go to food for a weaning baby and for children in general (providing you have not been advised to follow a dairy free/lactose free diet) especially as it is recommended that dairy foods are consumed 2-3 times per day. This should include milk (not as a main drink until 12 months), yoghurt & cheese.
Yoghurt is a good source of calcium, protein and lots of essential vitamins and minerals and most children love them. However, they are not all created equal; some are better than others for your little weaners (and bigger children) and this is mainly because many brands contain more sugar than we should be offering to babies and young children.
When looking at the sugar content of yoghurt it is important to know that there are two types present:
1. Lactose: a naturally occurring sugar which we are not concerned with.
2. Free/added sugars: this is the sugar we should be aiming to keep to a minimum in the diet (WHO class these as: Free sugars are all sugars added to foods or drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.)
Please look out for a post dedicated to sugar coming soon!!
What should you do?
· Always go for a full fat variety – babies and toddlers should always be offered full fat dairy as their energy needs are high.
· Try to stick to natural, Greek or plain fromage frais and if you wish you can add stewed or chopped fruit depending on the stage of weaning that you’re at. Yoghurt is a great addition to savoury dishes too - grate cucumber in for tzatsiki that babies can dip veggies/falafal/meatballs into or add a dollop with a mild curry too! Yum!
· Look out for nutrition labels. When looking at sugar in yoghurts look for the carbohydrates ‘of which sugars’ information:
High sugar – more than 22.5g of sugar per 100g
Low sugar – less than 5g of sugar per 100g
· Remember when reading ingredients lists that ingredients appear in order of weight – so the ingredient first in the list is the most abundant.
· Sugar added to yoghurts may also appear as fruit concentrate, sweeteners, anything ending in ‘ose’ and many many more.
Here’s a look at some of the products on our supermarket shelves and how they differ.
First of all SOOO many people assume these are better because they’re organic (I will be posting about this soon!) and this is not necessarily the case. These are marketed as a weaning product as they have no added refined sugar; however, the second ingredient is concentrated grape juice, which is basically sugar syrup!
Sugar content: 9.2g per 100g – medium sugar product.
Per pot: 4.1g sugar – 1 teaspoon
The ingredients list shows sugar as the second ingredient (5.7% of total ingredients).
Sugar content: 9.9g per 100g – medium sugar.
Per pot: 4.7g sugar – 1 teaspoon
Greek Yoghurt (you can use any brand)
No added sugars – contains naturally occurring sugars only (lactose).
Sugar content: 3.8g per 100g – low sugar.
Per serving (45g as comparison of the above): 1.7g sugar – less than ½ teaspoon – these are naturally occurring sugars only and not added sugars.
Added sugars: 0g
Natural yoghurt (you can use any brand)
No added sugars – contains naturally occurring sugars only (lactose).
Sugar content: 3.6g per 100g – low sugar.
Per serving (45g as comparison of the above): 1.6g sugar – less than ½ teaspoon
Added sugars: 0g
So in summary... although a teaspoon of sugar doesn't seem like a lot, but babies and toddlers really don't need any added sugars in their diet (there are not currently any guidelines for this age group) and 4-6 year olds should have a maximum of 5 teaspoons per day. Having two yoghurts a day would give almost half of this age groups sugar for the entire day. By using a natural, greek or plain fromage frais you can give your little one a healthy, nutritious snack or dessert without adding to the sugar load that adds empty calories and contributes to tooth decay.
Peanut butter & banana overnight oats
Overnight oats have always been a winner in this household with adults and kids alike enjoying both the ease of making and the delicious taste in the mornings (the lazy part of me likes the fact that if I'm rushing around like a lunatic getting out of the house to work/nursery they can be wolfed down too - though obviously we should always be aiming to eat mindfully!). They're also really handy for an after nursery snack when we get in.
There's loads of different recipes you can use, but this is a particular favourite of ours at the moment. The below will make a good sized adult portion
60g porridge oats
1 banana mashed - a ripe banana will give more flavour
1 large teaspoon of peanut butter - I use an oil based one without added salt/sugar
Dusting of cinammon (optional)
Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix (very well - peanut butter does not like being mixed!). Alternatively, put the banana, milk & peanut butter into a blender and whizz until smooth then mix with the oats.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Eat & enjoy :)
Use equal volumes of porridge oats & milk
For an extra injection of nutrition and flavour add toppings such as chopped fruit/dates/greek yoghurt/chia seeds - experiment basically!
The nutrition bit...
Dairy free? No problem, swap the milk for whichever dairy free you are using (always use one fortified with calcium. Note - organic dairy free milks will not be fortified with any vitamins). If you're unsure of which milks are suitable please get in touch!
Oats are a good source of protein, fibre and many vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron, selenium and zinc. They are also low in sugar and fat.
Cinammon proven to assist with controlling blood sugars, contains polyphenols (antioxidants that help to protect the body from free radicals) and may assist with decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Bananas are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and fibre. Like most fruits and vegetables they are also a good source of antioxidants.
So, I know I put this out as a facebook post a short while ago, but it generated a lot of interest and I wanted to ensure I had it saved somewhere that it was easily accessible for you to read at anytime.
The Department of Health recommends that all children aged six months to five years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.
It's also recommended that babies who are being breastfed are given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth. Once your baby reaches 6 months you can swap from pure vitamin D to a multi vitamin to cover all their needs.
Babies who are having more than 500ml of infant formula a day should not be given any vitamin supplements because formula is fortified so no other supplementation is required.
With regards to brands they are all very tightly regulated and very similar so any baby vitamins containing A, C & D from your chemist will suffice. Ask in store if you are unsure.
For parents: the NHS recommends that everyone in the U.K. should take a vitamin D supplement throughout the winter (all year if you are very dark skinned or cover your skin up year round). So many of us are deficient in this vitamin because it is produced from sunlight and we simply don't get enough of those lovely rays! So mums and dads you should be taking it too if you aren't already.
If you have any questions... please get in contact and as ever, I'm happy to help :-)
Are you struggling with feeding a fussy/picky eater? Does your child refuse to try new foods?
Trying to get small folk to eat the meals that we cook for them can be frustrating, tiring and downright annoying at times! So please rest assured, you are... Definitely. Not. Alone.
First of all, it's important to remember that some food refusal is a very normal part of growing up. As babies become toddlers and grow into young children food becomes an area where they can start to exercise a little control and some will attempt to do so as often as they can.
For many children, toddlers in particular, food refusal is related to 'neophobia' a fear of trying new foods (which may be an evolutionary response left over from times gone by when it would have been sensible to avoid new foods that could have been poisonous) coupled with an element of exercising their independence over their parents. So to help ease the journey here's a few things to think about if you're having issues feeding your little (ahem!) treasures...
Exposure is key. It can take a number of times of seeing a food on their plate before your child will actually try it. The older they get the more times they might need to see the food on their plate before they decide to take the plunge. Babies may only need 2-3 times but for an 8 year old it could take up to 20! Leave the food on the plate but don't make a point of talking about it, just allow them to eat it if they want to.
Offer new foods with trusted foods. Give new foods one at a time and give them with foods you know your child enjoys. This will help to build trust in the new item whilst ensuring your child will still eat most of the meal even if they don't eat the new food.
Don't force your child to eat anything. Research shows that force feeding will leave negative feelings towards that particular food and this will make them less likely to it in the future, even into adulthood!
Eat as a family. I feel like I go on about this a LOT on the weaning course but children really do learn by example and if they sit with the rest of the family and see you eating, they're much more likely to eat well themselves.
Minimise distractions such as televisions/music; children are easily distracted and can get overwhelmed by lots going on so allow your child to concentrate on eating their meal.
Focus on positive attention. I think that many of us are aware that any attention, positive or negative, can reinforce behaviours in children. The evidence is no different when it comes to mealtimes; if your child doesn't eat their meal just take it away and try your very hardest not to get cross! (Difficult I know, but we are trying to avoid giving any attention for the negative behaviour!). On the other hand give lots of praise if they eat well/try new things/use cutlery well etc. Turn the mealtime into an area of positive attention to encourage them to eat well.
Don't offer an alternative. Ok so this is also hard as our natural instinct is often to worry that our little ones have had enough. Offering an alternative can lead to bad habits (and a LOT of extra work for you!) if your children learn that you'll give something different if they refuse a meal. Take their meal away and if they say they are hungry later on simply heat the same meal back up - they'll learn just as quickly that it's one choice only.
Don't use food as a bribe ie. "if you eat the broccoli you can have ice cream". This will just reinforce to them that broccoli is the 'bad guy' and ice cream is the 'good guy' which is exactly what we are trying NOT to teach them. However, giving a pudding after a meal is a good opportunity to get nutrients (calories, protein, vitamins, minerals) into your child so giving one is fine even if they haven't eaten their meal. Something like fruit and natural yoghurt is a good healthy option.
Try to relax. Children are very intuitive and pick up on our moods and actions. If you are stressed at mealtimes and hovering over their every mouthful or constantly cleaning their face/the table it is likely that they will notice and it may well put them off eating even more. I wouldn't want to eat my meal with someone staring in my face and then have a wet cloth wiped across my mouth every 2 minutes and I imagine your child will be no different.
Finally, try to remember that children are individuals too and they have their own likes and dislikes whether you agree with them or not. If they genuinely hate carrots just give them something else, there are plenty of options if it's only a handful of things they don't eat. I won't eat egg mayonnaise or goats cheese no matter how many times someone tells me how delicious they are and that's fine by me, I can get through life and still eat a varied diet!
Good luck and don't forget these things; firstly this phase will hopefully pass soon and secondly if you do give your child the occasional beige dinner, DO NOT FEEL BAD you will be in very good company with almost every single other parent in this country - myself included (tonight!)
**If the above tips don't work for you and you feel that your child is experiencing more extreme fussy eating and has ongoing aversions to many foods (new and familiar) then it is always worth seeking professional advice to ensure your child is eating adequate amounts to thrive**