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Baby Weaning: 1 in 5 Babies Deficient In Iron

1 Sep

Did you know that 1 in 5 babies aged 10-12 months has a daily intake of iron that is below the recommended levels?

So, what to do about this?  Luckily, iron is easy to get into your weaning baby’s diet, as long as you are aware of its importance and can identify good dietary sources of it.

When your baby is born, he has a store of iron that will last for around 6 months.  It then becomes important that iron is provided in the diet, since deficiency can cause tiredness, increased infections, anaemia, irritability, loss of appetite, and even physical or mental development impairment.  Sadly, iron deficiency remains the most common nutritional deficiency found in young children.

To help ensure your baby is receiving enough iron, make sure their diet includes:

Red meat

Chicken and turkey

Oily fish – salmon, mackerel, tuna

Pulses – lentils, beans

Wholemeal bread

Egg yolk (well cooked)

Green vegetables, especially spinach and broccoli

Dried fruit, especially apricots

Follow-on formula milks are also rich in iron


Is Home Cooked Baby Food Really The Healthiest Option?

28 Jul

Copyright, Katie Williams

Becoming a parent can sometimes feel like entering a battlefield.  There are disagreements with your family, friends, other mums and perhaps even spouse about controversial issues – disposable or cloth nappies, breast or bottle feeding, sleeping bags or blankets, to co-sleep or not…

By the time your baby is ready for weaning, you’ll often have gained more of an idea of the type of parent you are, but the decision to use jar baby food or home cook purees and then solids can still get disapproving glances or eye rolls from people who believe the alternative is the better option.

For some time, there has generally been the belief that, naturally, home cooked produce is best for your little one.  That way you can control the ingredients that go into the food, and usually save money over buying supermarket jars.  And so baby food jars have often been seen as a necessary evil, often for working mothers who can’t  find the time to cook, blitz and freeze batches of food.

However, the Government’s Pesticide Residues Committee has shown that residues are rising in common weaning foods such as apples, pears and bananas. “Cooking at home might control ingredients but it can increase exposure to pesticides,” says Anna Rosier, managing director of the baby food company Organix, which supports independent research into food quality and child health through the Organix Foundation. “Unlike the raw foods you buy in shops, there are strict limits on the levels of pesticides allowed in manufactured baby foods, so they contain low levels of residues.”

Up-to-date figures indicate that 46 per cent of foods tested last year had pesticides present, compared with 25 per cent in 2003. To put this in perspective, the committee points out that the scope of the testing programme has increased. “We can now look for more pesticides at much lower levels,” says Dr Ian Brown, the committee chairman. And the committee did conclude that “the vast majority of food available to UK consumers . . . is not likely to pose a risk to health”.

Nevertheless, Nick Mole, a policy officer at Pesticide Action Network, says: “Parents are right to be worried about children’s exposure to pesticides. They are a vulnerable group, their bodies are still developing.”

In particular, children below the age of 7 have lower levels of paraoxonase, an enzyme that protects against the toxic effects of pesticides through neutralising and elimination.

While this may sound like a good reason to throw away the blender and hit the supermarket, overall home-made baby food is still the best option.  The key, however, is to be aware of which foods have high residues – here’s a handy list to print and refer to – and to buy organic wherever possible, even if only for your baby’s food.

If you feel that using jars of baby food is the best, or perhaps, only option for your family it is worth remembering that the heat processing of these foods does strip food of some nutrients, so try to at least offer organic fruits and vegetables in addition to these meals.

Do you have a favourite baby food recipe, or comments about this post generally?  Share your thoughts below:

How To Help Your Baby’s Constipation

13 May

As a parent, there’s nothing worse than seeing your little one in pain.  Your heart breaks for them and you just want to do whatever you can to take their suffering away, which is often not easy since your baby doesn’t have the ability to tell you what’s wrong.

My daughter Aspen – above – is 14 months old as I write this and has been suffering from constipation.  In a post that she will not thank me for writing in around 12 years’ time, I want to offer some help to other parents experiencing similar with their babies.

Firstly, a definition of constipation:

“a condition of the bowels in which the feces are dry and hardened and evacuation is difficult and infrequent”

Constipation amongst babies isn’t unusual, and is usually linked to solid foods or cow’s milk being introduced to their diet.  Breastfed babies rarely suffer from constipation as breast milk is almost 100% digested and used by your baby’s body.  Breastfed babies often have infrequent bowel movements but this alone does not constitute constipation.

If your baby is suffering from constipation, here are some things that will help:

  • Positions – as an immediate help when your baby is passing a painful bowel movement, try moving their position.  Your baby may get into the most comfortable position, such as being on all fours, or standing up.  Removing clothes and their nappy often makes the bowel movement easier to pass, and providing plenty of encouragement and affection will also help.  Your baby may want to literally cling to you, so offer your finger to hold.  Other practical things to do when your baby is experiencing constipation include simple tummy massages, and warm baths.  Baby yoga offers many positions that may help with constipation.
  • Cow’s milk – when switching from formula (or breast) milk to cow’s milk, make the change gradually.  Offer one bottle of cow’s milk a day to begin with and slowly increase this and reduce the formula or breast milk given.  This transition can take weeks to complete this way but it will be the easiest change on your baby’s delicate digestive system.
  • Fibre – a diet high in fibre will help reduce your baby’s constipation, so ensure they are having plenty of bran, wholewheat pasta, avocados, prunes, peaches, plums, pears, dried apricots, baked beans, jacket potatoes, peas, spinach and broccoli in their diet.  Generally, all fruits and vegetables are sources of fibre but those mentioned are the best sources.
  • Dairy – excessive amounts of dairy can cause or worsen constipation, so make sure your baby is eating a balanced diet and not relying solely on milk, cheese and yoghurt.  A balanced diet is pretty obvious advice, but it’s surprising how often fussy babies are given endless yoghurts as it is often one of the things they will always eat.
  • Foods to avoid – the most common foods that contribute to constipation in babies are rice cereals, bananas, and apple sauce.

If following these tips does not help your baby’s constipation, or you feel the symptoms are severe, please consult your doctor for further advice.

8 Top Tips For Weaning Your Baby

5 May

When I first started weaning Aspen, left, I was incredibly excited.  I knew many mums who were nervous about making the switch from milk – whether breast or formula – to solids, but while I had my fair share of things I was apprehensive of, weaning wasn’t one of them.

I decided right away that I would be fairly strict with Aspen’s diet, which is perhaps no surprise given my background.  I also knew immediately that all her meals would be home made, and I have stuck to this with just the occasional exception.

If you’re feeling at all nervous about weaning your baby, all I can say is to dive in and make it fun.  It’s a wonderful new experience to share with your baby, as you introduce them to the wide range of flavours out there.

There are, of course, things you can do to make the experience more fun and enjoyable for you both, and here are some of my top tips – these are written both as professional advice for encouraging a healthy, balanced diet at an early age, but also as a mum with practical experience!

  1. Buy a hand blender – they’re inexpensive and easy to use, and if you just try cooking, pureeing and freezing your own baby food you’ll probably be amazed by how enjoyable, easy and rewarding it is.  The only equipment you’ll need is the hand blender, and ice cube trays to dish the puree into and freeze.  I then put each batch of ice cubes into a freezer bag and wrote the contents and date they were made on the bag.  Your frozen food will last in the freezer for up to 6 weeks.
  2. Introduce vegetables before fruit – fruit has a natural sweetness that baby’s can easily grow to love, and this can cause problems as some babies will then reject vegetables and anything else less sweet.  I weaned Aspen for several weeks on single vegetables, and then vegetable mixes, before introducing pureed fruit as dessert.
  3. Try each new flavour 30 times – yes, 30 separate times!  I hear so many parents talk about the foods their babies dislike when they have only offered it to the baby once.  Trust me, your baby is going to pull a face and shudder at many new tastes – that’s natural, and it’s also due to the texture.  Aspen pulled a face at every food I introduced, but I coaxed her to eat a few spoons, and then gave it to her again and again to get her used to it.  She’s now 14 months old and eats anything.
  4. Talk to your baby – as you are feeding your baby, talk to them about what they are eating.  You don’t need to scientifically break down the food, just say “this is carrot, isn’t it yummy. Baby’s doing very well eating this carrot.”  Babies grow to understand by being spoken to and involved in everything.  Whether you are going to use baby sign language extensively or not, the sign for eat is an easy way to communicate with your baby on another level, and it’s likely your baby will perform the sign earlier than they will say the word ‘eat’.
  5. Eat with your baby – again, involving your baby in mealtimes encourages social skills and good table manners, and the earlier you get into the habit the better.  Even if you just grab a bowl of cereal or a sandwich, by sitting with your baby and doing the same activity as them, you will bond and encourage their development.  Again, talk about what you’re doing; ‘Baby and Mummy are eating, isn’t this nice.”
  6. Avoid children’s food – it’s a sad fact that most of the foods aimed and marketed at children contain high levels of fat, sugar and salt.  Everything from potato waffles to chicken dippers to children’s yoghurts are less than healthy choices… and are unnecessary in a child’s diet.  There are plenty of healthy alternatives that you can either buy or produce at home – good quality chicken cut into strips and coated in breadcrumbs, organic natural yoghurt mixed with fruit, wholemeal bread with cheese, tomato and more as home-made pizzas.  As your child gets older they will enjoy making these meals with you, so get in the habit now of choosing or making healthy options for your little one.
  7. Be brave – particularly while your baby is eating pureed food, introduce them to as wide a range of foods as possible.  By the time Aspen was 6 months old (she was weaned early at 16 weeks), she had eaten more varieties of fruits and vegetables than I had!  I kept a list of all of the ones she had tried, and would choose new ones each week.  There are some delicious recipes for babies out there.  In fact, Aspen ate so well I remember my partner coming into the kitchen to see me taking a fish out of the oven that had been cooked in orange with pasta and vegetables  – it looked so good he wanted that instead of his own dinner!
  8. Get out there – babies love to see other children eating particularly, so find out if you have any weaning cafe groups at children’s centres near you and join in.  If not, an outing to a soft play centre or children’s farm park can double as a social lunch for your baby.

The key is to relax and enjoy your baby’s weaning experience, while doing all you can to provide them with as much goodness and as wide a range of flavours as possible.  As well as these tips, I’d strongly encourage you to give your baby home-made, organic food and to make the eating experience social.

I’ll be doing more weaning posts in the near future, but if you have any questions in the meantime, contact me.