Baby-led weaning versus conventional weaning
I don’t know about you guys, but we’re all caught up in Olympic fever here and competition seems to be on our minds constantly. So if baby-led weaning was to compete with conventional weaning which would win? Are there any real advantages of one over the other? Do you have to choose one method or can you in fact combine the two?
Baby-led weaning is definitely winning the race in popularity with many parents at the moment and this was boosted by the media coverage earlier this year that claimed that ‘spoon feeding makes babies fatter’. This story was based on a research study carried out at Nottingham University which looked at the impact of weaning method on food preferences and health outcomes in early childhood. However, this study has been criticised for its small size, with only 155 babies (92 baby-led, 63 spoon-fed), with most of the babies in each group being of a healthy weight. Many factors can affect a child’s food preferences and body weight, including genetic factors, exercise, social and demographic backgrounds, and as this study only asked questions about eating habits at a single point in time rather than over a period of time it only gave a snapshot of the situation. Some of the findings may also have been due to chance, so in fact this study probably proves very little. For a more detailed review of this study you might be interested in this article on the NHS website.
Although many parents would back the more conventional approach to weaning as the deserved winner, there is probably a case for combining elements of both approaches to get the best for babies. Babies should be encouraged to feed themselves when they appear ready and you should allow your baby to take control of their own food intake. When they appear to have had enough, don’t force them to eat any more. It is important that you offer a good variety of foods with different tastes and textures, including a wide variety of finger foods, and babies should be given a spoon to feed themselves with as soon as possible. We know weaning is a messy business, but we need to accept and prepare for this and not discourage independence.
Of course, as parents we like to know how much food our baby is eating and this is often easier with more traditional weaning methods, but we have to accept that with childhood obesity rates on the rise we must keep an open mind about what is the best way to wean a baby. A much larger study looking at feeding of babies from the start of weaning over several years would give us much needed and invaluable information on which to base the best weaning advice for you all in the future.
Let me know about your experiences – which weaning approach do you favour?
Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to an event at Bill’s, a lovely rustic cafe/restaurant in the middle of London’s Covent Garden. I've added a photo of me with some of teh HiPP team!
In amongst all the tempting produce and tantalising recipes ordinarily available in this friendly eating-house, HiPP Organic had displayed a wide selection of their organic baby foods, drinks and snacks together with some lovely fresh fruits and vegetables (another photo below for you to see). It looked great! Also invited were a number of journalists and bloggers working in parenting media who had come along to find out more about the HiPP range and the nutritional benefits they can offer babies and young children.
Amongst the displayed foods were some of the company’s new products that have just come onto the market. The four new Savoury Pouches each contain 1-2 child-sized portions of vegetables and are also a natural source of omega 3 (organic rapeseed oil), providing at least 25% of a baby’s daily omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid) requirement. Omega 3 fats play a vital role in brain and nerve development and it’s really important to make sure babies get enough in their diets, but with so few good natural sources this can be quite a challenge so these new products should be popular. Two of these pouches (Creamy tomato & leek pasta and Scrummy Spaghetti Bolognese) are for Stage 2 and what sets them apart from the competition is that they contain small lumps rather than just being mashed. Encouraging babies to chew from around 7 months is really important and these products should help parents at this key stage in development.
Other new products on display were the ‘My first yogurts’ in raspberry and banana flavours. The little pots are perfect for parents when they’re out and about with their little ones as they do not need to be chilled – a perfect snack for slipping into a handbag or changing bag. Providing 23% RDA for calcium in 100g (2 pots) these baby yogurts could be a valuable addition to the diet as well. They taste great too, as was discovered by a little girl accompanying her journalist mum!
This was a really enjoyable morning and I don’t think I was alone in finding it extremely valuable and informative. It was a great opportunity for me to meet and chat to some lovely people who are just as interested in child nutrition as I am. A rare occasion!
Until next time....
Follow on milks – to feed or not to feed?
I often get asked whether a baby who is happily feeding on a ‘first infant milk’ needs to change onto a follow on milk when the baby reaches 6 months, or if a baby is switching from breastmilk to formula at 6 months or older whether they should use an infant milk or a follow on milk. There usually isn’t a definite answer to these questions and it will usually involve me asking the parent several other questions before I’ll give my advice, and even then it may not be a straightforward “yes” or “no” to using a particular milk formula.
Generally, if a bottle fed baby is happy on their infant milk there is usually no reason to change them onto a follow on milk just because they’ve reached the age of 6 months. Infant milks are perfectly suitable for babies from birth up to the age of 1 year and beyond, and they will provide valuable vitamins and minerals as well as energy and protein needed by babies throughout the weaning process. However, some parents seem keen to move their babies onto the next stage of formula at this age and I wouldn’t stop them from doing so.
Follow on Milks are intended for use from 6 months onwards when a baby has moved onto a mixed diet including a range of foods. If parents choose to switch their babies onto a follow on formula at this stage they will generally not have any problems with this, and the formula along with a variety of foods will meet the nutritional requirements of babies at this age.
A key nutritional advantage of follow on milks over infant milks is that they contain significantly more iron than infant milks (HiPP Organic Follow on milk contains twice as much iron as the first infant milk - 1mg vs 0.5mg iron per 100ml) and it is this characteristic of follow on milks that might lead me to actively encourage some parents to swap their babies from an infant to a follow on milk at 6 months onwards. Babies are born with a store of iron that generally lasts about 6 months (longer if baby is formula fed from an early age) and once this is depleted then external sources of iron (i.e. foods in the diet that are a good source of iron, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, pulses) are needed. In the absence of enough iron in the diet a baby is likely to become iron deficient which can make them tired and irritable and more susceptible to infections. A baby who doesn’t eat many iron-containing foods can really benefit from this extra iron in a formula.
For babies that have been exclusively breastfed up to 6 months there is a chance their iron stores may be very low. Weaning foods containing iron must be actively encouraged at this stage. If a mum wants to introduce formula feeding at this stage I would say an infant milk, which is closer to the composition of mature breastmilk, would be fine if sufficient iron sources are present in the weaning diet. However, choosing a follow on milk might on the other hand offer greater assurance that her baby’s iron requirements are going to be met and she might want to consider this instead.
So, if you’re in the situation of not knowing which formula to choose for your baby, I hope this helps. However, if you have any other specific queries you can always contact myself or one of the other health professionals on our team for advice at the following link.......
All the best...
Should you move your toddler onto a Growing up milk?
As your baby approaches his/her first birthday, you might start thinking about whether you should be keeping them on the same milk feeds or not. Although they need less of it, milk is still an important part of a toddler’s diet and provides them with valuable protein, energy, vitamins and minerals such as calcium. From the age of 1 year, they should be getting about ½-¾ pint (about 300-400 ml) milk each day. You shouldn’t let them drink much more than this as it reduces the appetite for other valuable foods.
Toddlers are often switched from formula milk feeds to whole cows’ milk at the age of one. But is this the best thing to do or are there any benefits in sticking with formula milk instead and if so which one should you use? Cows’ milk can give your toddler lots of the nutrients that he or she needs, but certain nutrients such as iron and vitamin D are found in much higher amounts in formula milks and this can been a nutritional advantage.
Toddlers are particularly susceptible to iron deficiency. It is estimated that 1 in 8 toddlers in the UK may be anaemic, with the problem being even greater than this in some groups. Babies are born with enough iron stores to last until about 6 months of age and after this they rely on food sources, but some toddlers may not eat enough of these iron-containing foods to meet their needs. Fussy eating during toddlerhood can certainly make the situation worse.
If your toddler is a fussy eater or their intake of iron-containing foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals is limited, then they could very well benefit from the continued use of a formula milk such as a Growing up Milk from the 12th month. These Growing up Milks usually contain 40 times more iron than whole cows’ milk. But this doesn’t mean that you can stop encouraging them to eat these other foods; variety is key to a healthier diet for your growing child.
For vitamin D is another nutrient that toddlers may be lacking. It is only found in a limited number of foods e.g. oily fish, eggs, fortified margarines and cereals, and although it can also be made by the action of sunlight on skin this synthesis may be reduced if the skin has limited exposure to sunlight (as a result of clothing worn, living conditions or use of sunscreens). Growing up Milks are fortified with vitamin D and can help safeguard toddlers against a deficiency of this vital vitamin which is important for the normal growth and development of bones and teeth and for nerve and muscle function.
For more advice on milk and other drinks at this age, you might want to have a look at the HiPP Baby Club website.
Bye for now.
A look around your supermarket will reveal an increasing number of foods on sale that contain probiotics, or ‘friendly bacteria’, such as live yogurts and fermented milk drinks. These ‘friendly bacteria’, when added to foods, are considered to have ‘a beneficial effect on the health and well being of the host’. They are different to ‘prebiotics’ which are found naturally in some foods, e.g. bananas, chicory, artichokes, and added to others which are not the bacteria themselves but non-digestible food components which stimulate the growth and/or activity of friendly bacteria in the gut.
The health claims that can be made for foods containing ‘friendly bacteria’ is severely limited by the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations and so far none of the claims submitted to the European Food Standards Agency for inclusion in the ‘permitted health claims’ list have been approved, so it is likely to become increasingly difficult for consumers to get information and understand how these ‘friendly bacteria’ could benefit their health.
However, one food you won’t find on the supermarket shelves that does contain ‘friendly bacteria’ but is known to benefit health is human breastmilk. Once thought to be sterile, research in recent years has confirmed that breastmilk actually contains a wide range of bacteria, including lactic acid bacteria with probiotic potential, although the exact composition of this bacterial component of breastmilk varies between individual women.
By providing a continuous supply of bacteria to a baby through lactation, breastmilk plays a significant role in the initiation and development of the gut flora of an infant which doesn’t become fully developed until around the age of 2 years. Researchers believe it is the presence of ‘friendly bacteria’ in breastmilk that could help to explain why breastfed babies suffer from fewer and less severe infections and lower incidence of allergies than non-breastfed babies.
Until next time....