Iron-Rich Foods

iron-rich-foods

I have good news. People are hearing that babies should have iron-rich foods as first foods. I’ve been talking this up for almost 10 years now and I’m super happy that the message is starting to be commonplace.

Yes, we recommend offering your baby iron-rich foods twice a day. From the very start. Then introduce a wide range of other healthy foods.

Why? Because iron is needed for growth and development. Iron is also needed during this critical time for brain development. This critical period extends from infancy through to about 5 years old.

That bad news is that people have misunderstandings of what foods are good sources of iron. So, they think that they are feeding their babies iron-rich foods. But they aren’t.

Avocado, broccoli, sweet potato, and quinoa are all foods that people commonly think are good source of iron. Incorrect. Myth.


Foods that are Good Sources of Iron:

  • Meat*
  • Poultry (e.g. chicken, turkey)
  • Seafood
  • Beans and lentils. Particularly the lentils.
  • Nuts and seeds. Particularly the seeds.
  • Iron-fortified baby cereal.
  • Tofu
  • Eggs

*While liver is a very high source of iron, it also contains extremely high amounts of vitamin A. So much vitamin A that it’s not recommended that you offer liver as a first food, and only offer it on rare occasions to toddlers and preschoolers.

Not All Iron is Equal

Iron comes in two different forms in food – heme and non-heme. Heme iron is better absorbed by our bodies and is found in meat, poultry and seafood. Non-heme iron isn’t as well absorbed by our bodies. So, when looking at lists of foods with iron that just list the number of milligrams, you need to recognize that you’re comparing apples and oranges.

There’s a great hack for increasing the body’s absorption of non-heme iron. It’s to eat a food with vitamin C at the same time. May fruits and some veggies are good sources of vitamin C. So serve your lentils in a tomato sauce and stir some strawberries into that baby cereal.

Here’s a more extensive list of iron-rich foods (from a trusted source): https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/iron-foods

Low Iron Foods

You’ll notice that a number of foods that are commonly thought of as containing iron aren’t on my list above. Certainly there are a number of other foods that have a little bit iron. Some vegetables and fruit do contain a small amount. But I wouldn’t consider them good sources of iron. You’re likely surprised that spinach isn’t on the “high-iron” list. That’s because while spinach does contain a decent amount of iron, most of that iron is bound to another molecule, called oxalate, that prevents us humans from absorbing it. While most of the anti-nutrient content on the internet is making a mountain out of a mole hill, the oxalates in leafy greens are noteworthy enough to not count these foods as a source of iron.

Dairy foods aren’t a source of iron. In addition, they can prevent the absorption of iron from other foods. This is why we recommend delaying the introduction of cow’s milk until 9 – 12 months of age. And, once you have introduced cow’s milk, limiting it to 2 – 3 cups per day.

Grains aren’t a source of iron. Yes, even quinoa. That’s why iron is added to infant cereal and breakfast cereals (that’s what the word “fortified” means in “iron-fortified infant cereal).

Check out my Youtube channel for videos on how to prepare baby food versions of iron rich foods (puree and finger foods- Baby Led Weaning).

Photo credit: James Sutton

When Can I Give My Baby Eggs?

When_Can_I_Give_My_Baby_Eggs

I'm often asked by parents "When can I give my baby eggs?". The old advice of waiting to introduce egg whites until babies are 1 year old has changed. But there are some important age considerations when preparing eggs for your baby. Here are all the do’s and don’ts when it comes to feeding eggs to your baby.

Eggs are an excellent first food. Yes, right from about 6 months onwards. The current advise for introducing solid foods is to offer iron-rich foods first. Then build up a repertoire of other foods, such as vegetables and fruit. Eggs are an iron-rich food. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein. So good is the protein in eggs that they are the standard that’s used to measure the quality of protein found in food.

You may be thinking “Wait, but aren’t eggs a high risk allergy food?” Yes, it’s true that eggs are a common food allergen. The latest research is suggesting that this is exactly why you should introduce them earlier rather than later. There is some evidence that waiting until 12 months or later to introduce higher allergen foods may increase the risk for an allergic reaction. Or, stated the other way around, introducing common food allergens as soon as you start introducing foods (at about 6 months) may help prevent food allergy. There isn’t sufficient evidence yet that introducing higher allergenic foods before about 6 months offers any protection. The good news is that this is an active area of research so perhaps in the next few years we’ll know more about how to prevent food allergies.

There are a few more details about eggs that you need to know to introduce them. These are steps to take to ensure food safety – to prevent food poisoning. Babies are more susceptible to food poisoning so it’s recommended to follow these guidelines.


When To Give Baby Eggs

Age

Guideline


Safe Examples

About 6-12 months

Serve only eggs with both hard yolks and whites

Hardboiled eggs, eggs in cooked foods (e.g. baking), eggs scrambled well-done, firm omelets, fried eggs over-hard, hard poached eggs.

1 – 5 years

Runny yolks are okay. Avoid raw eggs and eggs with runny whites.

All the examples from 6 – 12 months. And, over-easy fried eggs, sunny-side up fried eggs (with whites fully cooked), soft-boiled eggs (also known as eggs and soldiers, dippy eggs), eggs poached medium.

5 years and older

Eggs with runny yolks and runny whites as well as raw eggs, prepared safely, are okay.

Soft scrambled eggs, eggs poached soft, French-style omelets, sauces made with raw eggs e.g. home-made Caesar salad dressing, home-made mayonnaise.


What’s the Right Age to Start Solid Foods?

age-to-start-solid-foods

Parents have been sending me a lot of questions lately asking what is the right age to start introducing their baby to solid foods. They’ve heard 6 months before. Now they’re hearing 4 months from other health professionals. And, some places online say 4 – 6 months. They’re right to be confused with all this conflicting information. If you’re wondering what age to start your baby on sold foods, here’s the scoop…

The recommendations haven’t changed. The World Health Organization recommends 6 months¹. In Canada the recommendations from Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada say 6 months². The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “around 6 months”³.

I suspect that reports from a new, and important, study on preventing peanut allergy are behind the advice that these health professionals are giving parents. Now I’m not in the doctor’s office when the parents are being given this advice, so this is a best guess. But the study is being talked about a lot in the health provider community, which is why I’m suspecting it’s behind the advice that parents are receiving. Unfortunately the researchers chose to use a phrase that I’m suspecting is creating some of this confusion.

The research study found a significant decrease in peanut allergy with their intervention⁴. What was their intervention? To introduce, and regularly feed, peanuts to children starting as babies versus waiting until they were 5 years old. Giving peanuts to the babies reduced the incidence of peanut allergy. But here’s where I suspect the misunderstanding comes in. The children in the “early” introduction of peanuts group were between 4 – 11 months old. Because this is “early” versus introducing peanuts at 5 years old. The article doesn’t compare introducing peanuts at 4 months versus 6 months. However, I suspect that busy health professionals could have glanced at articles describing the study and mistakenly concluded that the “early” group meant introducing peanuts at 4 months versus 6 months of age. Especially, since the researchers didn’t report the older children’s age as 5 years, but as 60 months.

The reality is that the scientific and health communities still don’t know anything definitive about the perfect age to introduce solid foods to minimize food allergy.

What we do know is that babies start to run low on the iron that they’ve stored in their bodies at approximately 6 months of age. And so it’s at this time that we need to start introducing iron from a new source, i.e. solid foods. Iron is important for brain development in babies and young children.

And, babies show the signs of being ready to start solid foods between 4 – 6 months. Just like every other developmental stage, babies arrive here at slightly different ages. The signs of readiness for eating solid foods are:

  • The disappearance of the extrusion reflex.
  • The ability to sit up (with support) and hold their own head up (without support).
  • Can visually track your movement.
  • Becoming fascinated with watching people eating.

As we learn more about what causes food allergies and how to prevent them, the recommendations may change. There are some fantastic studies underway that I can’t wait to get the results from. Until we know more, I still recommend starting solid foods at about 6 months. If your little one is between 4 – 6 months, you’re seeing all the signs of readiness, and you’re keen to start – go ahead. If you enjoy the simplicity of breast or bottle feeding or you’re not yet seeing the signs of readiness in your child, hold off until 6 months of age. My advice for the last 7 years has been “start solids at about 6 months”. I’m not changing my advice yet.

References:

  1. http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/complementary_feeding/en/
  2. http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/healthy-living-vie-saine/infant-care-soins-bebe/nutrition-alimentation-eng.php?_ga=1.150740528.74375254.1447739252
  3. https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx
  4. http://www.leapstudy.co.uk

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1 Simple Tip to Help Your Baby Gagging Less During Feeding

baby gagging

Pretty much all babies gag sometimes when then they first start eating solid foods. But, some babies gag more than others. Baby gagging can be very frightening for moms and dads and I get a lot of questions about it when I lead my Introducing Solid Foods workshops. I know that you are busy and exhausted so you like my blog posts short and to-the-point. If you’re really nervous about introducing your baby to solid foods, and/or are looking for a more fulsome description of gagging versus choking, I recommend coming out to one of my in-person workshops or getting in touch with me to find out more!

The focus of this post is on how to help babies who gag a lot to become less gaggy so that they can be more successful at eating solid foods.

For this tip, I’m assuming that you’re starting solids in that ‘just right’ window of about 6 months old. And, that your health professional has ruled out any medical cause for your baby’s gagging.

It’s often said that some babies have a “sensitive gag reflex”. But for most babies this isn’t the case. It’s not that their reflex is too sensitive, it’s that it’s in the wrong place.

You see, babies and adults have different mouth physiology. In adults, the majority of our tastebuds are on the tip of our tongues and our gag reflex is way in the back of our mouths. A fun way to test this is to place food in different parts of your tongue and notice how differently it will taste.

In babies, the majority of their tastebuds are at the very back of the mouth and their gag reflex is at the front of their mouth. This makes sense because for the first months of life babies are nipple-fed (either breastfed or bottle). To feed, babies place nipples to the very back of their mouths. So Mother Nature has the tastebuds at the back, where baby will taste their breastmilk/formula. The gag reflex is at the front of the mouth where it’s out of the way for nipple-feeding and where it protects babies from putting items in the front of their mouths that they could choke on.

Starting at about 4 – 6 months, the gag reflex and tastebuds migrate in opposite directions to swap places into the grown-up positions.

Most gaggy babies don’t have overly sensitive gag reflexes. Instead, their gag reflexes are still too far forwards.

What stimulates the gag reflex to move backwards? Having things in your baby’ mouth. Particularly things that your baby can stick towards the back.

So, your baby sticking their hands (and feet) in their mouth is really them working to move their gag reflex backwards. So is mouthing Sophie the Giraffe and other chewable toys that babies can stick deeper into their mouths. Toys like teething rings that stay at the very front of their mouths won’t help because it’s the presence of things ever deeper into your baby’s mouth that stimulates the backwards movement of their gag reflex.

So what’s the 1 tip to help baby gagging?

Let them play with toys they can safely stick in their mouths.

Now to be clear, I’m not recommending that you allow your baby to chew on things that they can choke on. I said “safely stick in their mouths”. What I’m recommending is to allow your baby to play with chewable toys and other objects that can safely go further back in their mouths. You want to look for long things that your baby can’t get a bite off of. Examples include:

  • Their own hands (and your fingers).
  • Sophie the Giraffe.
  • Toy key rings.
  • The spoon that you feed your baby with.
  • Whole, big, raw carrots or parsnips (big enough in diameter that your baby can’t bite off a chunk).
  • Ice cubes in a mesh feeding bag (I only recommend plain water ice cubes, not frozen foods).

Given the opportunity, babies will do lots of chewing on these objects. Know that they’re not just playing. They’re playing with a purpose. Playing is their job at this age. Your baby is playing with the purpose of developing the skills to eat.

When to Ignore Messy Eating. When to Nip it in the Bud.

Messy Eating Child

I’m often asked about kids' messy eating. Parents often wonder what’s normal and at what age kids will learn to use utensils. Recently I received this question from a Mom:

My question is regarding messy eating.  My daughter (just turned 4) often eats with her hands and then has food obviously all over her hands but also on her face from ear to ear.  She also plays with her food a bit (ie:  bites a few holes in her bread and then pauses to see what shape she has made).  How much emphasis should I put on eating neatly with a fork and spoon and how do I do this or should I just be happy that she’s eating?

It's normal for preschoolers (3 - 5 year olds) to eat with a combination of their hands and utensils. Most are still working on the dexterity involved in using utensils. They're curious about the world, so yes, they'll likely explore their food too (like the example you give with the bread).

As long as her behaviour is coming from a place of eating and interest in her food, don't sweat this mess. Because we want her to continue feeling confident with eating. We don't want to make her feel self-conscious about the way that she eats.

Teach through role modelling. Have an adult join her at as many meals and snacks as possible. Her internal drive to grow up will motivate her to copy your use of utensils and other actions at the table (e.g. wiping your mouth with your napkin when you finish eating).

In the meantime, go ahead and start teaching other manners like saying please and thank you, taking turns to speak during a conversation, asking to have someone pass you the peas, and asking to be excused when finished eating.

On the other hand, pay close attention to see if her behaviour is motivated by naughtiness. That is, if she's acting out and purposely taking actions to get negative attention. You'll recognize this right away. If so, then do nip the behaviour in the bud and explain that we don't play with our food.

How do I Help My Baby Feed Himself/ Herself?

Help My Baby Feed Himself

I’m often approached by parents of babies between 9 months and 12 months old who are concerned that their children aren’t learning to self-feed as quickly as other babies. Here’s an example of what one parent asked me: “My son is 9 months and has been eating finger foods since about 7 months however he will not feed himself. Is there something I can do to help this? Or will it just come to him? How do I help my baby feed himself” Without doing a full assessment of a child, I can’t say for certain what’s causing a child to learn self-feeding slower than their peers. But I can share the common causes that I see and their solutions.

Common Causes for Baby Not Self-Feeding:

  1. Medical conditions or developmental concerns. Because you didn't mention it, I'm assuming that your son doesn't have any medical conditions or developmental concerns that would affect his dexterity/ motor control.
  2. Missing role models. Kids learn from watching others - particularly older kids and adults. If no one else is eating there isn't anyone to act as a role model for how to do it. Also, eating is a social activity for us human beings. Kids of all ages eat better when adults join them at the table.
  3. Temperament (also known as personality). Some little ones are what I call "outsourcers". They're happy to sit back and let others do things for them instead of doing the hard work of figuring it out themselves. Because learning to self-feed does take work at this stage.
  4. Over-helpful caregivers. Sometimes parents (and other caregivers) have such strong desires to help their little ones that they jump in and "help" instead of sitting back and allowing their little one figure things out for themselves. This can sometimes also be fuelled by impatience and/or anxiety about your little one getting enough to eat. The result is a learned helplessness.

Solutions to Help Baby Feed Himself:

If the cause is #1 then working with an Occupational Therapist can be a great help.

The solution to #2 is to sit and eat with your child. Ideally, eat the same foods too. This way you're sending a message loud and clear that you want him to eat what’s in front of him. And, you’re creating the social environment that’s most conducive to eating and learning.

The solution to #3 and #4 is the same. Resist the urge to jump in and "help". You're actually being more helpful by holding off and allowing him to learn the skills himself.

Take Home for How to Help My Baby Feed Himself:

Note that the most common cause that I see are # 3 and 4. In other words, a combination of a child’s natural temperament and parents who are either overly anxious or keen to help.

It’s a classic case of fantastic intentions inadvertently taking things in the wrong direction.

Thankfully, it’s super easy to fix! Babies this age are compelled to master the skills that they see others doing. Just like learning any new skill, kids learn to feed themselves with finger foods at different rates. They want to learn how to self-feed, we just need to create the environment that supports them in mastering it. When you do, they’ll learn this new skill in their own timing that’s perfect just for them.

When Can I Give My Baby Soy Milk and other Plant-Based Milks?

little child drinking soy milk

{Expert Guest Post for Love Child Organics: www.lovechildorganics.com} In last month's post I promised that today I’d talk about when to give baby soy milk and other plant-based milk alternatives.

In the last number of years there’s been an explosion of plant-based milks – soy, almond, oat, hemp, coconut, rice, quinoa, and more.  Many of us adults use them in our smoothies, on our cereal, and in our coffee. So it’s no wonder that parents are wondering when they can introduce them to their babies.

Recently in Canada, the Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and the Breastfeeding Committee of Canada* provided some guidance around plant-based milks for babies and young children. They recommend waiting until 2 years for using soymilk as a replacement for breastmilk or formula and don’t recommend other plant-based milks (they didn’t give an age for introduction).

I haven’t seen any guidance from US organizations on introducing plant-based milks.

Personally, I find it difficult to give clear advice that I’m certain of. Here’s why:

  1. I believe that there are many healthy eating patterns – we don’t all need to be vegan, or vegetarian, or eat meat to be healthy. Many cultures around the world traditionally don’t include cows’ milk. And, many cultures do traditionally include cow’s milk. So I don’t see how we needs to or need not to introduce cows milk to babies’.
  2. We may use cow’s milk or any of these plant-based milks in similar ways (they’re wet and white). However, they are actually quite different foods. They each contain very different nutrients, such as fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. They aren’t equivalent substitutions for each other. So, it’s difficult to give one recommendation that covers so many different beverages.
  3. This is the first generation of kids where these milks have been widely available (soymilk has been widely available for the longest) so we just don’t have the evidence to see the long-term impact on kids’ health and growth.

That being said, if you’re not planning to introduce your baby to cows milk, here’s what I recommend:

  • Continue breastmilk or formula as the primary milk source until your baby is 2 years and older.
  • Introduce a wide variety of foods, so that your baby is getting the nutrition that they need from the foods that they’re eating – such as fat, protein, iron, other minerals, and vitamins.
  • Think of plant-based milks as a “big kid” food. In other words, serve them in an open/ lidless cup, not in a bottle. Offer them only very occasionally under 2 years of age. If your child is eating a good amount of a wide variety of solid foods, after 2 years of age (or be extra careful and wait until your child is 3 years old), slowly increase the frequency that you offer plant-based milks. Stay well under the limit of 3-4 cups per day (which is the recommended limit for cows’ milk).
  • At all ages, choose unsweetened, vitamin and mineral fortified plant-based milks. The “original”, vanilla and other flavoured varieties can have a lot of sugar.

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php

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When Can I Stop Boiling Water for My Baby?

Stop Boiling Water for My Baby

“Can you tell me when I can stop boiling water for my baby (formula)? And when I can stop sterilizing her bottles? Seems silly since she puts everything else in her mouth.” Thank you to the parent who asked me this question.  Parents also often ask me a related question: whether they need to boil water when they’re teaching their babies how to drink from a lidless cup or sippy cup. So I’ll answer all these water-related questions together here.

Sterilizing Baby Bottles

It’s safest to always sterilize bottles before using them. As long as you’re using bottles (for any liquid), do continue to sterilize them. Breastmilk and formula are both rich foods for babies, and unfortunately for germs too. Bottles, nipples, lids, etc have so many nooks and crannies that they’re difficult to scrub clean. Sterilizing is the best way to make sure that you’re keeping your baby safe. Use a sterilizer or boil all parts in a pot of boiling water. Household dishwashers aren’t able to truly sterilize bottles. For more directions check out: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile69a.stm

Boiling Water for Baby Formula

If you’re feeding your baby powdered or liquid concentrate formula, always use water that has been boiled. There is no age to stop using the boiled water. There are thorough step-by-step instructions available at this great resource: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile69b.stm

Boiling Water for Baby (Drinking)

Any time after you’ve started introducing solid foods, you can start providing your baby the opportunity to learn how to use an open/ lidless cup and a sippy cup (yes, even as young as 6 months). As long as you have safe drinking water, you can use water from your cold tap. There’s no need to pre-boil this water. What do I mean by “safe drinking water”? I mean that you live in a city or town with a municipal water system and you’re using the water that’s intended for drinking (sometimes the term “potable” is used). Or, you’re on a well system that you’ve had tested recently and know is safe. If you haven’t had your well tested in a long time, this is a great reason to get testing done.

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AHH the Pressure! Is my baby ready for solids or should I wait?

is my baby ready for solids

{Guest Expert blog post for Modern Mama } Many moms contact me wondering if their baby is ready for solid foods. Usually this comes from two places:

  1. Worry that their baby isn’t getting the nutrition that they need from breast milk/ formula.
  2. Pressure from family or friends to introduce baby food.

Here’s the latest scientific-evidence based information on how to know when your baby is ready for solid foods. Use it as ammunition against your under-slept, worrying mind and any well-intentioned advice from others.

Is my baby ready for solids?

Babies are ready for solid foods at about 6 months of age. At this age, babies start running out of the iron that they stored in their bodies while they were in your womb. Breast milk is naturally low in iron so you need to provide your baby with iron from another source – solid foods. Iron is used in overall growth and development. It’s especially important for little one’s brain development – for babies to reach full their cognitive potential. While iron isn’t as much of a concern for babies fed formula, they’re still developmentally ready for you to start feeding them first foods.

Like any developmental stage, babies become ready for first foods at slightly different ages. You will see the following signs in your baby anywhere between 4 and 6 months of age. Your baby is ready for you to start feeding them solid foods when you see the following:

  • Extrusion reflex disappears. The extrusion reflex is when anything put in your baby’s mouth automatically causes them to stick out their tongue, thus forcing it back out again.
  • He can focus his eyes on food placed in front of him.
  • She can sit upright with minimal support.
  • He can hold his head up without support. This is important for safe swallowing.
  • She is very interested in watching people eat and the food on your plate. She may even be grabbing for people’s food, plates, cups etc.

Notice that the presence of teeth isn’t on the list above. You don’t need to wait until little ones have teeth before feeding them baby food.

If your baby was born prematurely or has developmental or health concerns, speak with your health professional about when your baby will be ready to start solid foods.

There is no benefit to starting solids earlier than about 6 months. In fact, there is some emerging scientific evidence that introducing solid foods before babies are 4 months old may increase the risk for food allergies.

There are several persistent myths about when to start feeding your baby solid foods that I want to bust:

  1. Big babies don’t need solid foods earlier. At this age, babies are experts at breast and bottle feeding. And, breast milk and formula are rich sources of nutrients. Feeding your big baby solid foods earlier isn’t necessary or beneficial.
  2. Small babies don’t need solid foods earlier. As I described above, at this age, babies are experts at nursing nutrient-rich breastmilk and formula. Feeding your small baby solid foods earlier isn’t necessary or beneficial.
  3. Feeding babies solid foods doesn’t make babies sleep through the night.While I understand grasping at anything that may get your baby (and you) to sleep through the night, this is a myth. The age that some babies start sleeping through the night happens to be the same age that you start feeding your baby solid foods. While they happen at the same time, it’s not that the one causes the other. Sorry.

In summary, your baby will be ready for first foods at about 6 months of age. There aren’t any nutritional benefits to starting earlier. Nor, will it help you get a decent night’s sleep.

Check out this post for information on choosing puree or Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

When Should I Introduce Dairy to my Baby?

little child drinking milk

{Guest Expert Blog post at Love Child Organics} Many parents ask me about when they can introduce dairy to their baby. The recent recommendation from Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and the Breastfeeding Committee of Canada is*:

If parents and caregivers are introducing cow milk…delay until 9 – 12 months of age…limiting cow milk intake to no more than 750mL (3 cups) per day.”

A similar (but not exactly the same) statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics says **:

“Once your baby is past one year old, you may give him whole cow’s milk, provided he has a balanced diet of solid foods (cereals, vegetables, fruits, and meats). But limit his intake of milk to one quart (32 ounces or 946 ml) per day.”

These statements leave many parents asking me questions. Let me address the most common ones that I receive.

But first let me explain the reason behind the recommendations because I think that it will help you understand what to feed your baby. It’s not that there is something in dairy that’s unsafe for babies. The recommendation is related to iron. Iron is important for babies’ growth and in particular their brain development. There are 3 ways that dairy foods can be a concern with respect to iron:

  1. Dairy foods aren’t a source of iron.
  2. Many babies love drinking cow’s milk and eating other dairy foods. Thus, the dairy foods can crowd out iron-rich foods.
  3. Dairy foods can interfere with babies’ absorption of iron.

So the recommendation was created to provide advice on how to include cow’s milk in a way that doesn’t interfere with babies’ need for iron.

Here are my responses to the questions that I’m frequently asked:

Question: Does this mean that I need to wait until 9 – 12 months to give my baby cheese and yogurt? What about foods that contain cow’s milk?

Answer: No. Any time from about 6 months onwards, feel free to introduce small amounts of yogurt and (pasteurized) cheese amongst the wide variety of foods that you’re introducing to your baby.  Just don’t make yogurt or cheese a food that you’re giving large amounts of, day after day. Make them a ‘sometimes’ food, not a ‘frequent’ food. The same goes for other foods that use cow’s milk as an ingredient, such as sauces and dips.

Q: 9 – 12 months is a big age range, should I wait until 9 months or 12 months?

A: The reason behind the age range is that you want your baby to be regularly eating a good amount of solid foods multiple times a day before you introduce cows’ milk. Like learning any new skill, some babies master eating solids quicker and some take longer to actually get any significant amount of food in them (as opposed to on their face and clothes, in their hair, and on the floor). If your baby is eating lots of solid foods (particularly iron-rich foods), feel free to start introducing small amounts of cows’ milk after 9 months. If your baby is slower to get the hang of eating solids (particularly iron-rich foods), wait until 12 months.

Q: Why do the statements give a limit per day?

A: It’s above 3-4 cups per day that we start to see the negative effects of cows’ milk on eating iron-rich foods and iron’s absorption. This can result in iron deficiency.

Check back to this blog next month when I’ll cover when to introduce cow’s milk alternatives such as soymilk, almond milk, etc.

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php

** http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Why-Formula-Instead-of-Cows-Milk.aspx

Why Not Both Purees and Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?

puree baby led weaning

{Guest post at Love Child Organics} I receive questions from many parents asking me whether they should use purees or finger foods (a method called Baby Led Weaning or BLW) as they start to introduce their babies to solid foods. I believe that there isn’t only one right way to start babies on solid foods. Why not use both purees and finger foods?

When introducing solid foods you’re achieving several goals:

  1. Meeting your baby’s nutrition needs.
  2. Providing the opportunity to learn eating skills.
  3. Minimizing the risk of choking.

All three of these can be achieved through offering your baby purees, finger foods, or a combination of both.

Further, I’ve been practicing long enough to have met babies with all different temperaments (personalities). Some are little independent souls who never accept being fed by a parent. Parents of these little ones need to have a ton of patience as their child learns how to pick up food and actually get it in her mouth. On the other hand there are babies whom I call “happy little outsourcers”. They figure out that their parents are much more efficient at getting food in their mouths and so they’re happy to sit back and let you spoon every bite into them. Most babies fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

I’ve also seen that babies catch onto the skills of eating finger foods at a variety of ages – typically somewhere between 6 and 10 months.  This isn’t surprising since there’s always a range of ages when babies reach any developmental milestone. Some babies roll over before others, some crawl before others, and some pick up finger foods before others.

In my opinion, what’s most important is to:

  • Provide a wide variety of healthy foods,
  • Include iron-rich foods (twice a day is a good frequency),
  • Follow your baby’s lead,
  • Match your technique to your baby,
  • Provide your baby with the opportunity to learn eating skills, and
  • Use techniques that you’re comfortable with.

The result: you’re teaching your baby to have a positive experience with food.

Click here to get more tips on nutrition for babies.

Should I Feed my Baby Organic Food?

baby w fruits & veg One of the most common questions that I’m asked is: Should I feed my baby organic food?” I know what my answer is (scroll down to check it out). But it’s such a popular question that when two University of British Columbia dietetic students were looking for a writing assignment for class, I asked them to answer your question. Here’s what students Karalee Derkson and Connie Lau found in their research into the question of organic food for babies, and their conclusions.  

What is Organic Food?

There can be confusion with the term “organic food”. From the point of view of a scientist, all foods are organic – that is all foods are all living things (versus inorganic things like rocks). However, when most people use the word “organic” they mean foods that are grown or produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones (Dietitians of Canada). Instead, farmers use crop rotation, waste recycling, and natural pesticides to grow their crops (Dietitians of Canada).

Because all foods are technically living things, the term “organic” can be used for all of them. To distinguish foods grown using the methods listed above, groups have developed certification programs, such as the USDA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the EU. This is why you often see “certified organic” on labels – these foods have gone through and passed the certification process. Of course, to go through the certification process, it takes time, paperwork, and money.

Not every farmer who uses organic growing methods will choose to undertake certification – especially if they’re a smaller farm. There are also farms that use many organic methods but who don’t quite fit all the certification criteria.

Factors to Consider when Choosing Organic Food vs Conventional Food

Nutrient Content:

  • There may be higher levels of phytochemicals (compounds that benefit health) in organic produce because they are a natural pesticide (Dietitians of Canada).
  • In the studies that have been conducted to date, organic food does not contain more or better nutrients than conventional food (Forman; Dietitians of Canada; Dangour et al.)

Health Implications:

  • Currently, there is no significant evidence that consuming organic food leads to health benefits or that conventional food has negative health effects (Health Canada; Dangour et al.).
  • Infants and children consume more food than adults on a weight for weight basis during development, therefore their pesticide exposure may be higher (Health Canada; National Research Council).

Environmental Impact:

  • Organic farms use less energy and produce less waste (Forman).
  • In organic farms, no synthetic pesticides are used. Therefore, there is little risk of chemically damaging the surrounding ecosystems (Forman).

Pesticide Regulation:

  • In Canada, pesticides are illegal if they have the ability to cause cancer or birth defects (Health Canada).
  • In Canada, The maximum acceptable amount of pesticides is set far below the levels that could pose health risks, even for infants (Health Canada).

Price:

  • Organic food costs 10-40% more than conventional food (Forman).

Do All Conventional Foods have the Same Amount of Pesticides? The short answer is no. The amount of pesticides in a conventional food is based on how pesticides are used (both how much, were they’re applied, and when they’re applied during the plant’s growth) and the nature of how the plant grows/ what part of the plant we eat.

To empower people who wish to avoid pesticides without always purchasing organic, an American organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published the “Dirty Dozen” and  “Clean 15”. They look at the levels of pesticides in samples of foods in the USA and then rank them in lists. While many of the foods in the US come from the same places as those found in Canada, it’s worth mentioning that there can be differences. And, these differences may lead to differences in pesticide levels.

The EWG's Clean Fifteen™ for 2014:

  1. Avocados
  2. (Sweet) corn – i.e. the type of corn that we humans eat
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen (sweet) peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papaya
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet Potatoes

The EWG's Dirty Dozen™ for 2014:

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Bell peppers
  8. Nectarines - imported from outside US (and assumingly Canada?)
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap peas - imported from outside US (and assumingly Canada?)
  12. Potatoes

Leafy greens such as kale and collard greens as well as hot peppers were highlighted for containing significant pesticides, but didn’t quite fall in the top.

For more information on the EWG click here

Our Opinions

Dietetic Student Connie Lau: To take the extra step of precaution I would choose organic produce as a priority, especially during the crucial developmental years of a child. Although there are tight regulations on pesticide levels of food, evidence of long-term effects is inconclusive.

Dietetic Student Karalee Derkson: Due to the high cost of organic foods, and the lack of significant health benefits, I do not buy organic produce. I feel confident that the regulations on pesticide levels of food will keep exposure well below dangerous amounts. I would be comfortable feeding my child conventional produce.

Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD: I’m a strong believer in organic foods.

While research studies haven’t been designed to measure it, I don’t know how we can look at our health out of the context of the health of the environment. It’s clear that organic foods are better for the environment.

Yes, growing methods that are healthier for the environment are more expensive. Wanting cheap foods, available all year long goes against Mother Nature. That being said, personally I don’t have the budget to buy 100% organic. I do make choices with my money to be able to spend more on food. For example, I choose to live in a smaller home, drive a fuel-efficient car, and not have cable TV all so that I can have more money in my budget for food. Buy paying for (local) organic foods, I know that I’m using the power of my money to create a market for organic farmers. The more of us consumers who do so, the more incentive there will be for farmers (locally and around the world) to choose organic methods.

In addition to the growing practices, I also consider the distance that a food has travelled. I’ve been shopping at Farmers’ Markets and roadside stands since I was a child (far before it became trendy). What I love about this is not only do I reduce the fossil fuels used to transport the food, but I’ve learned a lot about farming methods. I use this knowledge to decide what conventional foods I’m willing to buy. For example, I don’t buy certified organic eggs from the grocery store. I buy my eggs from an older couple’s home. I can see the (small number of) chickens running around the yard. This couple hasn’t undertaken the organic certification process. Heck, they’re so old-school that they use the honour system for payment - I put my money in an unlocked box on their front porch! But I do buy other long-distance organic staples from the grocery store, such as tofu, polenta, and pasta noodles.

Here’s the order in which I choose foods:

  1. Local organic
  2. Local conventional and long-distance organic
  3. Long-distance conventional

Bottom Line(s) This article has been longer then my usual messages. But I wanted to dig into the issue a bit since it’s an important one. As you consider it all, please keep in mind these three points:

  • I encourage you to talk to your local Farmers. And, maybe even grow some foods yourself. Become more aware of where your food comes from. With knowledge comes power.
  • Regardless of the balance that you choose for your family, the research is clear that eating LOTS of vegetables and fruit is healthy. As Micheal Pollan so eloquently said: “Eat foods. Mostly plants.”
  • It’s important to introduce your baby to a wide variety of foods in the first years of life.

Click here to get more tips on nutrition for babies directly to your inbox.

Sources Alan D Dangour, Sakhi K Dodhia, Arabella Hayter, Elizabeth Allen, Karen Lock, and Ricardo Uauy. "Systematic Review of Nutritional Differences Between Organic and Conventional Foods." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2009).

Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Organic Products. 13 January 2014. Government of Canada. May 2014 <http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/organic-products/eng/1300139461200/1300140373901 >.

Dietitians of Canada. Are organic foods better for my health? 16 July 2013. May 2014 <http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Miscellaneous/Are-organic-foods-better-for-my-health.aspx>.

Environmental Working Group. Environmental Working Group. April 2014. May 2014 <http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/>.

Forman, J., Silverstein, J. "Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages." American Academy of Pediatrics (2012): 1412.

Health Canada. Consumer Product Safety: Pesticides and Food. February 2014. May 2014 <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_fact-fiche/pesticide-food-alim/index-eng.php>.

Environmental and Workplace Health: Pesticides and Health. July 2008. May 2014 <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/contaminants/pesticides-eng.php#a67>.

National Research Council. Pesticides in the Diet of Infants and Children. Washington, DC.: The National Academies Press, 1993.

Constipation in Babies when Introducing Foods

In this video I answer a parent's questions about constipation in babies when introducing your baby to solid foods.

During weaning it's normal for infants' poop to change. I share what's normal, and what's considered constipation.

And, I share 4 food-realted ways that can help get things moving again.

Puree vs Baby Led Weaning (BLW): Can't We All Just Get Along?

baby led weaning{Guest post for Modern Mama} In a previous post I shared the pros and cons of the pureed and Baby Led Weaning (BLW) methods for introducing your baby to solid foods. I had a number of people call and email me with questions from that post. So I wanted to clarify and add to the points I shared in it.

In a nutshell, I believe that you shouldn’t feel the need to choose either puree or Bab Led Weaning (BLW). Combine the best from both methods and follow your baby’s lead.

Let me explain.

Having taught parents how to introduce solid foods to their babies since 2008, I welcome a number of the contributions that BLW is providing to the baby feeding conversation. However, I’m also seeing some negative effects too.

Positive Contributions of Baby Led Weaning

Feed Your Baby Family Foods

Children from about four to twelve months are fascinated by what the people around them are eating. In Baby Led Weaning you don’t make separate foods for your baby. Instead you provide your baby with the foods that you’re feeding the rest of your family. This is a great strategy! A favorite quote of mine from Child-Feeding Expert Ellyn Satter is:

The goal of feeding your baby is to have him join you at the table…not for you to join him at the high chair.

  • Uses his curiosity about what everyone’s eating to your advantage. Many babies will reject pureed foods and reach out to grab what’s on other people’s plates.
  • Teaches him that by sharing the same foods, he belongs as a member of your family. Sharing food is powerful for human beings. Every culture marks significant occasions by gathering to share food.
  • Is less work than making your baby one meal and the rest of your family something completely different. Teaching your baby that she gets something completely different than other family members can lead to picky eating because you’ve set the precedent that she gets something different. Kids who have always eaten the same meal as the rest of the family don’t know that having something different is an option.
  • Can be a wake-up call to how healthy (or not) your eating habits are. If you’re eating foods that you’re not willing to feed your baby, should you really be eating them?

Move Along to Finger Foods

Sometimes I see parents who love the idea (and control) of feeding their baby purees so much that they get stuck, keeping their baby in this phase too long. Babies are ready to try finger foods anywhere between six and nine months. Yes, it’s messy. And it can be painful to watch a child clumsily work for 10 minutes to get a single piece of food in his mouth. But, this is an important learning opportunity. Eating is a skill that must be learned through practice. It’s great that you’re an expert at using a spoon to get food into your baby’s mouth. But he needs to have the opportunity to learn how to do it himself. And finger foods are the first step. Because when we’re feeding our babies, we’re actually doing two things: 1) meeting their nutrition needs and 2) teaching eating skills. I’ve seen prolonged spoon-feeding of purees result in babies who are:

  • Undernourished because they’re reject being “babied” and reject the spoon.
  • Picky eaters because they didn’t get to experience the huge variety of tastes and textures that food comes in while they are still in the food-curious stage. A stage where kids are suspicious of new foods often starts somewhere between 12 to 24 months (although I’ve seen it start at nine months in a number of children). Some people call this stage “food neophobia”. I call it “food-wariness”.

Follow Your Baby’s Lead

Baby Led Weaning places a lot of emphasis on following your baby’s lead regarding how much food to eat.  Babies are born knowing when they’re hungry and when they’re satisfied. It’s normal for them to sometimes eat a lot and other times to eat very little. When babies are allowed to control how much food they eat, they have a normal growth pattern. When spoon-feeding your baby it’s very easy to force them to take extra bites by playing games (e.g. “here comes the airplane”), or sneaking in spoonful’s when your baby is distracted. Resisting this urge is important to allow your baby to grow normally and not be overfed (which may lead to obesity).

Negative Impacts

You Need to Choose

The negative impacts that I’m seeing when speaking with parents and reading Mom blogs and chat boards is the idea that you need to choose a method. You’re either on the puree team or you’re on the Baby Led Weaning team. We already have enough “mommy wars”, judgment, second-guessing ourselves, and guilt regarding breastfeeding and formula feeding. The last thing that we need is this baggage continuing into introducing solid foods.

Puree Traps

There’s nothing inherently wrong with pureed foods. In fact, today I’ve eaten oatmeal, yogurt, and butternut squash soup – all of which are purees! Purees are a texture that adults eat too. The warnings that many in the Baby Led Weaning camp attribute to purees actually has nothing to do with purees themselves. They’re just easier traps to fall into when spoon-feeding. But they’re also easily avoidable. For example, you can offer your baby pureed versions of family foods and follow their lead when spoon-feeding.

One Size Fits All

I’ve seen many different babies with different temperaments (personalities). Some love being spoon-fed and take more slowly to finger foods. Others never take anything off a spoon, and rely solely on finger foods. I believe that following your baby’s lead and providing a wide variety of tastes and textures is the way to go – including both purees and finger foods.

In summary, why pressure parents into feeling that they need to choose? All the positive contributions that BLW have provided can be realized with the inclusion of both puree and finger foods. Let’s celebrate that there are a multitude of “right” ways to parent!

An Update on New Feeding Recommendations

Happy child. Guest post for Love Child Organics: http://www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/

Usually I answer a question from you – a member of the Love Child community. However, something noteworthy happened last month that I thought was worth writing about.

 

Quietly on a Friday last month, a joint statement from Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada was released called Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations from Six to 24 Months: Principles and recommendations for the nutrition of older infants (six to 12 months) and young children (12 to 24 months)

 

I was happy to see it finally be released because previously there were recommendations for 0 – 6 months and for 2 years and up, but nothing existed for Canadian parents for little ones between the ages of 6 months to 2 years. And, this is a time when so much changes and parents have so many questions! In addition, I was happy to see it be released because I had provided feedback on a draft version quite some time ago.

 

The group who developed this document reviewed the scientific evidence to develop guidelines for feeding our little ones. I wanted to share it with you in hopes that it will help cut through the mixed (and often conflicting messages) out there and help bust some persistent myths.

 

The overarching statement is:

“Breastfeeding - exclusively for the first six months, and continued for up to two years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding - is important for the nutrition, immunologic protection, growth, and development of infants and toddlers.”

 

There are 7 main points (and my comments on each):

  1. Breastfeeding is an important source of nutrition for older infants and young children as complementary foods are introduced.
    • I was happy to see this statement because blog that I wrote previously for my own website received a lot of attention when I busted the myth that breastfeeding once you’ve introduced solid foods only provides water.
  2. Supplemental vitamin D is recommended for infants and young children who are breastfed or receiving breastmilk.
    • Yes, it’s recommended that you continue with vitamin D drops even after you’ve introduced solid foods.
  3. Complementary feeding, along with continued breastfeeding, provides the nutrients and energy to meet the needs of the older infant.
    • An important point that they make is that purees are a great texture. But do introduce lumpy textures before nine months. And, keep progressing through a wide variety of textures by 1 year.
  4. Responsive feeding promotes the development of healthy eating skills.
    • By “responsive feeding” they mean involving your baby as an active participant in eating. This means no sneaking in bites when they aren’t looking and no “here comes the airplane”. Feed your baby as much as they are interested in eating – which will sometimes be a lot and will sometimes be one bite.
    • They also mean the importance of providing your baby with the opportunity to learn eating skills. This includes learning how to self-feed with finger foods and learning how to drink from an open (lidless) cup.
  5. Iron-rich complementary foods help to prevent iron deficiency.
    • Offer iron-rich foods several times each day including meats, meat alternatives, and iron-fortified baby cereal. Choose a variety of these foods that your family eats.
  6. Foods for older infants and young children must be prepared, served, and stored safely.
    • This refers both to avoiding choking hazards and avoiding food poisoning.
    • An important point made here is to not leave kids unsupervised while eating. I’d add the point that kids shouldn’t eat while driving in the car, running around playing, etc because of the choking hazard.
  7. From one year of age, young children begin to have a regular schedule of meals and snacks, and generally follow the advice in Canada's Food Guide.
    • It’s likely not news to you that they recommend minimal sugar, salt, juice, and sugary drinks.
    • I love that they go on to mention how important parents are as healthy eating in role models!

 

While it’s written in language directed to health professionals, you can check out the recommendations for yourself at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php

 

Will Starting Solid Foods Make My Baby Sleep Through the Night?

will feeding my baby solid foods make them sleep through the night? {Guest Post at Love Child Organics} Exhausted parents often ask me: “Will starting my baby on solid foods make her sleep through the night?” I understand why Moms and Dads (desperate for some sleep) grasp on to this myth. However, it is a myth. Feeding your baby solid foods won’t make your baby sleep through the night.

Does Starting Solid Foods Make Baby Sleep?

It’s true that some babies start sleeping for longer stretches through the night at about the same time that they start solid foods. But it’s not that the solid foods have caused the sleeping. It’s that for many babies, the developmental stage when we start to feed them solid foods coincides with the developmental stage when they start sleeping for longer periods of time. Sorry exhausted Moms and Dads, it’s not the solid foods causing longer sleep.

While I’m at it busting myths related to starting solid foods, I’ll take the opportunity to address a couple more.

Do Big Babies Need Solid Foods Early?

Myth: Big babies need to be fed solid foods early. This is false. There’s no evidence to support starting solids early for babies who are at the top end of the growth curve. Breast milk and formula are very rich. And, your baby is likely an expert at breastfeeding or formula feeding by this age. Therefore, continuing exclusively breastfeeding or formula feeding until about 6 months is recommended (the same as average-size babies).

Do Small Babies Need Solid Foods Early?

Myth: Small babies need to be fed solid foods early. This is also false. There’s no evidence to support starting solids early for babies who are on the small end of the growth curve. As I mentioned above, breast milk and formula are very rich and your baby is an expert at breastfeeding or formula feeding by this age. So continue to exclusively breastfeed or formula feed your baby until about 6 months (the same as average-size babies).

In summary, starting solids early won’t provide big babies or small babies with extra nutrition. Nor will it make your baby sleep through the night.  Introduce solid foods when your baby is about 6 months old.

 

Ready to start your baby on solid foods? Here's how to start your baby with purees or Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

Solid-Food Strikes: Should You Worry & What to Do

solid food strike Thank you to the VIP who asked me this question: “[My son is] 19 months. I still nurse him quite a bit, and for the last 4 days he has refused any kinds of foods…and wants to nurse every 30 mins. (He does this when he has a cold, and people tell me teething).  Besides driving me crazy, I am concerned about his nutrition...are these breastfeeding [solid food] strikes still providing him with what he needs?” 

Why Babies Do Solid Food Strikes

In general, it is quite normal for little ones to regress to just breastmilk or formula when they aren't feeling well, such as with a cold/flu or teething. It's similar to when we adults are sick with a cold or flu and all we consume for a couple of days is chicken soup.

Solid Food Strike: Should You Worry

Breastmilk or formula alone doesn't meet all of a 19 month old's nutrition needs. As long as it's just for a few days it doesn't have a significant impact on his overall nutritional health because our bodies store carbohydrate and fat for exactly these types of situations. Of course their bodies are smaller than ours so they can’t go as long without adequate nutrition as we adults can. If a breastfeeding strike, or perhaps a more accurate term is “solid-food strike”, lasts more than a couple of days I recommend having your little one seen by your health professional to determine if something else is going on and whether any supplemental intake is required. In other words, this is the point when individual assessment is needed – my generalized advice that I can provide in this form of Q & A is no longer appropriate.

Solid Food Strike: What to Do

Even if he’s refusing to eat solid foods, continue to provide the same opportunities to eat solids as you would normally. Although perhaps prepare smaller servings so that you waste less food if/when he refuses to eat. I recommend this for two reasons:

  1. Just as quickly as kids get sick, they get better. The next opportunity to eat may be the one that he’s feeling better at and decides to eat a ton because his appetite’s returned.
  2. Sticking to your routine will make it easier to transition back when he’s feeling better.

If you suspect that it’s teething that’s causing the solid-food strike, then plan snacks that are soothing for sore gums. Cold and/or smooth are characteristics that can be soothing for sore gums. Examples include:

How Long Should I Breastfeed?

How Long Should I Breastfeed? I shared this post previously with the Modern Mama Community. It got lots of attention so I wanted to share it with you too.

When leading my workshop for 9 – 18 month olds, I’m often asked this question. Sometimes moms are planning to return to work after being on maternity leave and are wondering how to make the transition. Other times, moms are receiving pressure from friends and family members to wean their babies (often these folks express their unsolicited opinion in an un-delicate ways).

The answer that I share with parents is actually quite simple (and perhaps surprising):

From a nutrition point of view there is no age that you need to stop breastfeeding.

The recommendations from the World Health Organization that both Health Canada/ Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial health ministries have adopted is:

“Breastfeed until 2 years or beyond.”

When you first start your little one on solid foods (baby food), breastmilk will meet the majority of your child’s nutrition needs. Gradually over time, other foods and beverages will play a larger and larger role in meeting your child’s nutrition needs.

I’ve been asked this question too so I want to be really direct here – even after your toddler is eating meals and snacks with lots of finger foods, breastmilk still provides more than just water. They’re still receiving a variety of healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and immune support. And of course there’s also the comfort and snuggle factor when breastfeeding.

From a nutrition point of view there are no hard and fast rules around when to stop breastfeeding. Some little ones wean themselves – at a wide range of ages. Some Moms stop breastfeeding because they’re returning to work. Some Moms stop because they feel “done”. No matter what age you stop breastfeeding, unfortunately, you’ll likely receive judgment from people about your decision. It’s another example of how we need to stop the “mommy wars”, put away the judgment and instead celebrate that there are a multitude of “right” ways to parent.

The bottom line: Breastfeed as long as you feel comfortable doing so - you are supporting your child’s nutrition needs.

 

My Son Doesn't Feed Himself. What Should I Do?

son doesn't feed himself {Guest post I contributed to the Love Child Organics blog. } Thanks to the Love Child Organics community member who asked a question regarding her 9 month old son. “My son doesn't feed himself. He is 9 months and has been eating finger foods since about 7 months. Is there something I can do to help this? Or will it just come to him?”

 

 Without doing a full assessment I can't tell you for sure why he isn't feeding himself. Here are common causes that I see and their solutions.

Why Babies Don't Feed Themselves

  1. Medical conditions or developmental concerns. Because you didn't mention it, I'm assuming that your son doesn't have any medical conditions or developmental concerns that would affect his dexterity/ motor control.
  2. Missing role models. Kids learn from watching others - particularly older kids and adults. If no one else is eating there isn't anyone to act as a role model for how to do it. Also, eating is a social activity for us human beings. Kids of all ages eat better when adults join them at the table.
  3. Temperament (also known as personality). Some little ones are what I call "outsourcers". They're happy to sit back and let others do things for them instead of doing the hard work of figuring it out themselves. Because learning to self-feed does take work at this stage.
  4. Over-helpful caregivers. Sometimes parents (and other caregivers) have such strong desires to help their little ones that they jump in and "help" instead of sitting back and allowing their little one figure things out for themselves. This can sometimes also be fuelled by impatience and/or anxiety about your little one getting enough to eat. The result is a learned helplessness.

 

If the cause is #1 then working with an Occupational Therapist can be a great help.

The solution to #2 is to sit and eat with your child. Ideally, eat the same foods too. This way you're sending a message loud and clear that you want him to eat what’s in front of him. And, you’re creating the social environment that’s most conducive to eating and learning.

The solution to #3 and #4 is the same. Resist the urge to jump in and "help". You're actually being more helpful by holding off and allowing him to learn the skills himself.  

Bottom Line: Just like learning any new skill, kids learn to feed themselves with finger foods at different rates. Join your child at the table and give them the opportunity to practice. They’ll learn this new skill in their own timing that’s perfect just for them.

 

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