In part 1 of this Q&A, Cathy covered how to recognise when your child is ready to start solid foods, a baby's nutritional requirements at the start of the weaning process and some common problems parents encounter. If you haven't read this yet, I would recommend taking a look by following this link.
Is there any additional supplementation you have to give your baby?
All babies whether breast or bottle fed should be given the Vit D3 supplementation. This is something that should be continued during the dark winter months throughout life. In the UK and Ireland we do not get enough vitamin D3 from Sunlight and a lack of Vitamin D3 has been shown to increase the risk of certain diseases –Type 1 and 2 Diabetes, heart disease etc. There has also been an increase in rickets in recent years and Vitamin D3 supplementation helps prevent this.
Outside this, unless your child is following a very restricted diet then additional supplementation is not generally required. If you are in doubt please contact me @weaning.ie on Facebook or see www.INDI.ie.
What is your opinion on baby-led vs traditional weaning?
Rather than choose a style of weaning I encourage parents to treat their baby as an individual and progress at a rate that suits your baby. Choking is a genuine hazard that can have devastating consequences. I focus on the nutritional needs of your baby. I believe in making the weaning process as simple, straightforward and sustainable as possible and often there are elements of both styles that suit most parents. I don’t believe in being too rigid. I aim to empower parents to know what will work best for their baby.
Anything else important to note?
We eat fruit as a source of water soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C. Most parents don’t realise that processing destroys the water soluble vitamins so that all the remains is sugar. I suggest to parents that they avoid processed fruit pouches/ fruit flavoured snacks as really all that is left is sugar and fresh fruit in the right consistency should always be the no.1 choice.
Babies go through different phases of increased and decreased appetite. This is all part of appetite regulation. If your baby refuses a meal, don’t panic. Hunger is not an illness. If in doubt always consult your GP.
Often babies are drinking too much milk. From 1 year (unless you are breastfeeding), you should limit milk intake to 1 pint of full fat cow’s milk per day. Any parent considering a milk alternative should talk to a Paediatric Dietitian as Rice/ Soya/ Almond/ Coconut milk are generally not recommended as main drink.
Wholegrains should be limited in the under 2’s as they contain Phytates which can hinder the absorption of calcium.
What are some of the best foods to begin with?
Traditionally in Ireland we started with puree fruits, in Europe people tend to start with vegetables. I encourage all parents to start with root vegetables and to add in suitable protein, fat, carbohydrate and iron rich foods soon after.When can we expect the baby to eat what we’re eating?From the beginning. Parents should first look at their own diet – are you eating the way you want your baby to eat? In my classes I encourage parents to make a list of all the foods/meals that they eat and use this to plan what foods to feed their baby.
I don’t encourage using recipes but discuss adapting your meals to suit your baby. That way baby is eating the tastes and flavours that you are eating from early on in weaning, but perhaps in a different texture. Research tells us that the tastes and flavours that the baby is eating at 9 months is indicative to what they will be eating when they are 5 years.
What do we do now to avoid having a fussy eater?
By being consistent and not offering a sweet alternative when your child refuses a food. Food refusal is a normal part of development, parents should expect it at some point and try not to panic. Also when your child refuses a food, maybe they just aren’t hungry and that is part of appetite regulation. Try not to let them fill up on snacks. Don’t let meals last longer than 30 mins.
What are common pitfalls?
Constipation, Iron deficiency anaemia, underweight/over weight babies. Giving too many fruit flavoured meals. Processed fruits are just sugar – the processing destroys the water soluble vitamins so all that is left is the sugar. Fruit in recipes/pouches are there for sweetness because all babies like sweet things.
I encourage parents to try to give fruit as fresh in a suitable texture that way the water soluble vitamins are intact. Maple syrup, Agave syrup etc are all just sugar and training your child to want sweet foods.
If we don’t have much time for all this...any advice on short cuts?
A complicated/ time consuming recipe does not a more nutritious meal make. What you feed your baby can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I say start simple and build from there. Eat what you want your baby to eat, feed your baby what you eat.
What do you think of the idea of bribing children to eat?
Who doesn’t like reward, recognition and praise? I believe in encouraging and rewarding the behaviour/eating habits you like to see in your child and ignoring the negative.Parenting is about reinforcing the positive. You will make progress more quickly from an appropriate reward system than nagging and begging your child to eat something. We know that it can take 15-20 times of tasting a food for a child to like it so using something like a reward chart helps track how many times your child has tasted something also.
Have you come across the notion?
A reward system works very well for most aspects of parenting from brushing teeth, potty training to eating well. The most difficult part is being consistent and following through as a parent.
What form(s) might a bribe might take?
The ‘reward’ has to be appropriate and age appropriate for the child. The goal needs to be specific i.e. ‘Try Broccoli’, ‘Try apple’ etc.
For example 2-3 year olds generally need instant reward/ on the same day such as stickers, visiting someone, or going somewhere for example – ‘You were so good eating your porridge this morning – let’s go to the playground’.
A 4-5 year old can work up towards a weekly reward such as arts and crafts materials, going swimming, the playground etc. or when you buy them something (preferably that they already needed, clothes etc.) you could say ‘I got you these because you are so good at eating your broccoli’. Older children may work towards screen time or a money based reward to save up for something that they like.
Sometimes it helps to mention the healthy food choices/good behaviour they have made when you are not at the table, for example – tucking them in at night ‘You were great at eating that apple/dinner/vegetables today’ or tell a relative how good they are at eating/trying new food. Encourage the positive, ignore the negative.
What are the pitfalls of bribing?
The main problem with bribing is if you are rewarding food with food. For example ‘eat your broccoli and I’II give you chocolate’ might work in the short term but really it is only making the vegetable a chore and will not make your life easier in the long run.
Junk food based rewards should be avoided. Food should not be used as a punishment either, I have heard of children getting vegetables in their advent calendar if they have been misbehaving. Bribery is useful for achieving a specific goal (such as eating a specific vegetable) but don’t overdo it - take a break from it too.
What’s the best way of getting kids to love the things that are good for them?
Apart from leading by example starting your baby on the right flavours from weaning is vital. Often parents don’t realise the amount of sweet flavoured foods their babies are eating. This is something that I address in my weaning.ie class.
The ‘sweet’ taste buds are at the very tip of the tongue and during weaning it is easy to get your baby to eat sweet tasting foods such as pureed apple, pear etc. In Ireland we tend to start with pureed fruits, in Europe vegetables are the first foods of choice. Often baby food products are sweet flavoured and lots of recipes aimed at babies are sweet. Parents need to be mindful of this. For your child to eat the meals that you eat – you need to train them to eat the meals that you eat.
I advise parents to make a list of the foods that they were eating before they had their baby. Now which of these are suitable for baby? These are the foods that you need to train your baby to eat.
Cathy is a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, and a registered member of CORU. Her website www.weaning.ie is a fantastic resource, and for those of you in Ireland, Cathy also offers a range of nutritional courses and cooking classes.