Food under 1 is just for fun. Or is it?!

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Under 1 is just for fun

The statement ‘under 1 is just for fun’ refers to babies under 1 year who don’t have an interest in food or are not eating very much. It implies that as long as they are having fun and still consuming adequate milk that there should be no concern nutritionally or otherwise. It is popping up with increasing frequency and I’m often asked about it, so it’s time to put the record straight!

So, is under one just for fun? NO. Food should always be fun (social, interactive, enjoyable and a delight for the senses) but it is not JUST about fun. Please do read on if you want to understand why this statement is a myth of outstanding proportions.

Before we start with some of the reasons that your baby needs to start eating solid foods from approximately six months, let’s take the phrase literally; what happens at 1? Is there a sudden switch so that nutritionally they go from not needing solids to needing them? Do they wake up on their first birthday with totally different nutritional needs? Definitely not, it just doesn’t work like that and here are some of the reasons why…

Food under 1 provides your baby with essential nutrients

A full-term baby is usually born with a good store of nutrients passed on from the mother, but we know that by around 6 months of age the stores of nutrients such as iron are pretty much depleted (for some babies this happens sooner than 6 months).  We also know that the nutrients present in breastmilk and formula are not enough to fully meet the needs of a 6 month old baby so it is therefore crucial that these nutrients are gained from the diet.

Food refusal may be a sign of an underlying issue:

If your baby is not eating, is not at all interested in food, is spitting food out or crying because they don’t want it, it is important that the reasons why that is happening is explored and not just swept under the table with a nonsensical phrase. It is more than likely nothing to be concerned about if your baby takes a while to adjust to eating (it’s a lot for them to learn after all!) but weaning is a time when parents can pick up on feeding issues such as sensory aversions or physiological issues such as food allergies, so trust your intuition (and not the advice of a stranger called Michelle on Facebook who knows nothing about your baby! 😉) If you feel that something is not right seek the advice of a trained professional such as a dietitian or your GP who can refer you on to specialist feeding teams if necessary.

Food under one helps to decrease food neophobia.

What is food neophobia I hear you say?! Food neophobia translates as ‘fear of new foods’ and is one of the reasons many children reach approximately 15-18 months and suddenly become fussy and refusing foods they are not familiar with. This behaviour is widely believed to have developed in humans during our hunter gatherer days as a survival mechanism to keep toddlers safe at a time when they became more inquisitive and mobile and would wander further from the protection of their parents. Avoiding anything new such as unfamiliar berries would have prevented children from poisoning themselves. Now of course it’s just a giant pain for parents when their child will not eat anything unfamiliar but the drive to keep themselves safe can be very strong in many toddlers.

The main way to decrease the impact that food neophobia will have on your toddler’s eating habits if they do go through this phase is to ensure that a wide range of foods are given from the start of weaning. If your child is still not eating at twelve months this opportunity may be greatly diminished.

Food under 1 is for accepting new textures

There is also some evidence for a ‘critical window’ between the start of weaning and approximately 10 months for your baby to explore and accept new textures. Many babies who are still on purees beyond this time find it very difficult to accept textured and lumpy foods as they simply aren’t used to them and this can continue on well into childhood and beyond. If your baby is not eating at all until after their first birthday it is possible that they won’t take to a variety of textures as well as they will not have been exposed to them.

Food under 1 is NOT the responsibility of the baby:

There’s a worrying attitude with BLW  that a baby will magically get all of the nutrients that they need, simply by choosing the foods from their tray. However, this can only happen if parents are putting the right kinds of foods out for their baby and unfortunately, we know that this is often not the case. There are also a percentage of babies that are not physiologically ready or able to reach out and pick up food for themselves at six, seven, maybe even eight months so for these babies the responsibility should go back to the parents to be providing food for them in a way that ensures they are able to eat – ie spoon feeding!

Food under 1 will decrease the risk of developing food allergies

The most recent research into food allergies tells us that exposure to high risk allergy foods such as egg and peanuts before the age of 12 months decreases a baby’s risk of being allergic to that food. So simply put it is important that your baby is eating so that they can be exposed to foods and decrease their risk of food allergies.

And last but not least…

Food under 1 may be ample even when you think it isn’t!

Let’s be clear here, there’s a big difference between a child that is perceived to not be eating very much and a child that is not at all interested in food. It is an unfortunate fact that many families are concerned about their baby not eating enough when in actual fact the baby is eating plenty and meeting all of their nutritional needs.

Our skewed perception of portion size starts very early on. Pouches and jars of baby food (many of them still state from 4 months) often contain around 130g, which for many babies is considerably more than one meal and for some may be up to 4 meals. However, this is not clear from the packaging, so families become concerned that their baby is not eating much when they cannot finish the packet and often resort to tricks (the aeroplane into the mouth anyone?!) to get their child to eat way more than they want or need to.

The most recent infant and toddler forum survey, which highlights the eating habits of children in the UK, showed that 79% of parents (of 1-4 year olds so not directly linked to this age group but it is likely that this issue starts before 1) are offering larger than necessary portion sizes to their children. However, and here’s the most important part: 73% are worried that their children are not eating enough, despite the fact that theyre being overfed! Soooo many of these babies may well be eating plenty, it’s their parents/carers that believe they aren’t.

So there you have it! Food under 1 is about a lot more than just fun, but please do continue to make it fun because that’s important too 😊

Do you have comments? Or questions? Please just shout and please please do share this far and wide so that we can get the message across to mums!!

Ps. if you want to book onto a weaning or a fussy eating course or have something you want to speak to a registered dietitian about then please do get in contact via the website or my social media pages.

 

 

Calcium: how much milk is enough & dairy free diets

Calcium

Calcium is an important part of an infant and child’s diet in order for them to grow healthy bones and teeth. Our bones grow in size and increase in density until around 19 years of age so it’s critically important that all through childhood we are feeding our bones to be as strong as possible. But how much milk is enough and what should you do if your child can’t or won’t eat dairy?

It is important to note that although it’s important that children get enough calcium, many are drinking more milk than is necessary which can lead to rapid weight gain and in many children will stop them eating as much solid food as they should. There are links between excessive milk intake and iron deficiency anaemia so finding the balance is also important!

What are our calcium requirements during childhood?

As you can see from the tables below the requirements vary throughout childhood and although you don’t need to be measuring exactly it’s helpful to have an idea of what you’re aiming for. At 11 years old requirements increase dramatically, especially for boys so it’s important we keep an eye on calcium intakes to meet the needs of growing adolescents.

Boys:

Age (years)Requirement (mg)
Up to 1525
1-3350
4-6450
7-10550
11-181000

Girls:

Age (years)Requirement (mg)
Up to 1525
1-3350
4-6450
7-10550
11-18800

In the UK our main sources of calcium are dairy products and the below table gives an indication of calcium levels in the dairy foods we most commonly consume.

As a quick example a 1-3 year old child can meet their daily requirements with:

1.       300mls milk

2.       200ml of milk + 15g of cheese (1/2 a matchbox).

3.       100ml of milk + 15g of cheese + a yoghurt

Milk as a drink is not suitable until 1 year of age; until this point your child should be drinking breastmilk or formula and from 6 months water. It is fine to be used in food such as cereal from 6 months and should be full fat until 2 years of age, when if your child is growing adequately and eating a good balanced diet you can switch to semi skimmed.

TypeVolume (mg/ml)Calcium (mg)
Milk (all)100120
Yoghurt125 (standard pot)200
Cheese15 (1/2 matchbox)110
Fromage frais*50 (small pot)60
Custard125125

*please note that some fromage frais is fortified with calcium so calcium levels will be higher in these products.

What if your child doesn’t eat dairy?

It’s entirely possible meet your child’s calcium needs without giving them dairy but it does take more thinking and planning (and ideally you should speak to a registered dietitian). What they can have does depend whether you’re avoiding dairy due to an allergy or whether it is personal preference.

If your child has cows milk protein allergy (CMPA), soya products may not be suitable as a percentage of children with CMPA are also allergic to soy.

If you are omitting dairy for personal reasons then soy is fine to be giving to your child once they are over six months.

Below are some of the calcium containing non dairy foods that you can offer to your child (this list is by no means exhaustive so please do get in contact if you need additional information!)

The plant based milks and yoghurts will not contain any fortification if they are organic so please do check the packaging before you buy. This blog is only focussing on calcium, so please do be aware that many milk alternatives are much lower in protein, fat overall energy and other vitamins and minerals to a dairy milk.

FoodVolume (mg/ml)Calcium (mg)
Fortified
plant based milks* (soya/almond/coconut etc)
100120
Fortified soya yoghurt125150
Fortified hot oat cereal (such as ready brek or supermarket own)15200
Other fortified cereal30130-150
Broccoli 85 (2 spears)35
Tinned sardines with bones 60 (1/2 can)260
Tahini1070

*Children under 4.5 should not be given rice milk due to high arsenic content.  **information taken from BDA calcium factsheet

Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium so it’s important to make sure that your child is not low in this vitamin. It is recommended that everyone in the UK takes a vitamin D supplement as our lack of exposure to the sun’s rays means lots of people are deficient. For babies under 1 year (who are NOT having 500mls or more of formula) a supplement containing 8.5mcg  and everyone over 1 year of age 10mcg is required.

I hope you’ve found the information about calcium useful! If you are concerned about your child’s calcium intake; either you’re worried that they’re drinking too much milk, or you don’t think they’re getting enough calcium then please do get in contact to see how I could help you 😊.

The 4 reasons you need to go on a TeenyWeanies weaning course and not just wing it.

I’m a winging it type of parent for a lot of things, really I am, but I’m also someone that looooves to learn and there are times when I believe that arming myself with information is the best option. Giving birth, breastfeeding, attempting to understand and gently discipline my threenager and of course, weaning. As a dietitian I naively believed that weaning would be easy because I know about nutrition. Oh how wrong I was… as I approached the weaning stage with my daughter I was frantically messaging a friend and paediatric dietitian ‘HEEEEELLLLP I don’t understand’. Fast forward… hours and hours and hours over weeks and now years learning all there is to know about feeding children. It’s taken a LOT of courses, books and scientific journals to get my head around the whole process and to really understand the science (and that learning is always ongoing), so if it’s hard for me, a person trained to understand nutritional science then I know how hard it is for you.

So here are the reasons that I genuinely think everyone embarking on the weaning journey should get the opportunity to speak with me…

1.       Many people feel pressured to wean in a particular way - whether that’s pressure to spoon feed by a grandparent that can’t get their hear around baby led weaning (BLW) or pressure to BLW by other mums they meet. My weaning course is 100% unbiased, evidence based information so you will leave feeling completely confident in whatever choice you make, because there IS NO right or wrong way. If you are happy, your baby will be happy and your weaning journey will be far more successful than if you’re fighting to do something to please others. Once you understand both types of weaning and their pros and cons you can not only make an informed choice, you can completely ignore any pressure from others and even tell them why you’re doing what you’re doing (if you feel so inclined!!).

2.       Baby led weaning is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason, there’s lots of positives to it (which you’ll learn all about!). However, it is about so much more than simply allowing your children to self feed. It’s also about understanding their ability to regulate their own intake, knowing what a diet should look like, how to get particular foods into them and much more! There’s also a growing amount of evidence showing up some worrying trends – particularly that many parents are not arming themselves with the information needed to SAFELY wean their children using finger foods. A worrying number of babies are being given foods that pose a choking risk so if you do want to do baby led weaning it’s important that you do so with the knowledge of which foods to safely give.

3.       It’s not JUST about baby led weaning vs spoon feeding/traditional weaning (though this of course is a consideration and is discussed on the course). We are not born knowing how to eat and knowing about food, it’s something that needs to be learnt. Which means we have to teach our children. We know from the research that the type of diet children have and the eating habits that they develop at a young age tend to be continued into adulthood. If you can learn what a healthy diet should look like and understand the foundations of eating well then it’s not only the weaning process you’ll be acing but you’ll be improving the health of your child for the rest of their life because a great diet is so important for long term health.

4.       Approximately 40% of children will go through a fussy eating phase – some for several years. Anyone that has a child with fussy eating tendencies will tell you that it can become all consuming, turn mealtimes into battles and generally make your time around the dinner table unpleasant. When you understand that the weaning process can have an effect on fussy eating in the future you know it's an investment to spend a few hours of your time to make your life easier going forward!! Of course I can’t guarantee that your child is going to eat every food that is put in front of them… but by following a few basic principles you will be greatly increasing your child’s chances of eating a wide range of foods with the rest of the family.

So of course, you can wing it and if you do that’s fine and I wish you all the luck in your weaning journey. But you could also learn all about the very best way to feed your children, how to encourage them to eat the biggest variety of healthy foods which will set them up for the healthiest future possible and how to decrease the chances of fussy eating which I think you will agree you really can’t put a price on.

 

 

A quick, easy and delicious breakfast for all the family and great for weaning!

A quick, easy and delicious breakfast for all the family and great for weaning!

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. 

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