Do Babies Need Teeth for Finger Foods?

babies need teeth for finger food

At workshops I’m often asked by new parents whether babies need teeth to eat finger foods. The short answer is: no. Whether you’re choosing to start with purees or to follow Baby Led Weaning (BLW), we recommend starting to offer your baby finger foods by 7 months. Many babies won’t have any teeth at that age. And, most babies won’t have molars then. Our molars are the teeth that we use to chew food. We use our front teeth to bite and tear.

Babies’ gums are surprisingly strong. They can use them to eat finger foods. It’s the presence of things along their gums that helps them move their gag reflex from the young infant position to the mature position. And, it’s with practice that babies learn how to co-ordinate the chewing, swallowing, and breathing that are involved in eating. That’s why at this age babies put everything in their mouths – they’re practicing.

Introducing a wide range of tastes and textures before 9 – 12 months can help lessen picky eating in toddlerhood. You’ve got a developmental window of opportunity when babies are interested in tastes and textures. Use it!

What makes good finger foods?

  • Pieces of soft cooked vegetables
  • Ripe soft fruits (skins and pits removed)
  • Grated raw vegetables or hard fruits
  • Finely minced, shredded, ground or mashed cooked meat
  • Deboned fish and poultry
  • Bread crusts or toast

Some finger food examples:

  • Tortillas cut in narrow strips and thinly spread with nut butter
  • Omelet cut in to narrow strips
  • Salmon crumbled into small pieces
  • Grated carrot and grated apple
  • Extra-firm tofu steamed and cut in to skinny fingers

Looking for more finger food ideas (including iron-rich finger food ideas)? Check out my video on Youtube.

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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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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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)

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.

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

 

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.

 

Click this link to get tips on introducing solid foods, finger foods, and more child nutrition topics in your inbox.

Can I give finger foods if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?

finger-foods-if-baby-doesnt-have-teeth-yet {Guest Post at Love Child Organics Both in workshops and when providing in-home child feeding sessions, I’m often asked this question: "Can I give finger foods if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?

The short answer is: yes! You don’t need to wait until little ones have teeth before feeding them finger foods.

Babies are ready for finger foods by 7 months, if not before. Many won’t have teeth (or very many teeth) by this age.

Your baby is likely ready for finger foods when you see the following:

  • She can bring food to her mouth using her hand.
  • He can eat thicker purees (the consistency of mashed potatoes).
  • She can sit upright with minimal support.
  • He is very interested in watching people eat and the food on your plate. He May even be grabbing for people’s food, plates, cups etc.

It’s amazing to watch what little ones can handle with their gums. So go ahead and offer finger food versions of a wide variety of foods that your family eats.

Bottom Line: Enjoy watching your little one discover the amazing variety of tastes and textures that food comes in!

For more info on baby food - both purees and Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), check out this blog post.

$14 off! Picky Eater e-book and online seminar + Introducing Solids online seminar

Excited birthday girl. ~ Is finding a way to get your picky eater to try new foods your New Years resolution?

~ Is your baby entering into toddlerhood and you want to do everything you can to prevent them from becoming a picky eater?

~ Are you getting ready to start your baby on solid foods?

 

 

To get your family’s 2014 started on the right foot I’m offering a New Years resolution sale!

Get the evidence-based information you need from the convenience of your own computer or tablet.

To celebrate 2014, both of my online seminars and my guide e-book are $14 off (from now until 7am, January 2nd).

Use coupon code: NY2014 to get your $14 off:

Introducing Solid Foods (4-8 months) Online Seminar: Everything you need to safely meet your baby’s rapidly changing nutrition needs. And, instill a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. Online Seminar.

Snacking Secrets: How to plan healthy snacks that your 2 – 5 year old will eat (without ruining their dinner). Online Seminar.

Provide, Trust, Love (Then Introduce New Foods): A step-by-step solution to transform your child from picky eater to food-confident kid ~2-5 year old edition~ Guide e-Book.

Act now! Use coupon code: NY2014 to get your $14 off before 7am, Jan 2nd.

Iron-Rich Baby Finger Food Ideas

In my recent feedback survey you asked for more finger food ideas for babies and toddlers. So, I recorded this video as a sneak peek behind the scenes as I prepared finger food samples for an upcoming workshop. All these examples are iron-rich finger foods. And, they're all good ideas for babies and toddlers from about 6 months onwards, whether you're moving on from purees or you're following Baby-Led Weaning.

Enjoy! " width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen">

Does My 7 month old Baby Need Water?

baby need water Thank you to the VIP who asked this question: "Does my 7 month old baby need water?".  The short answer is: No. Seven month olds don’t need water. But, it’ a great time to start offering it to them anyways. Let me explain.

Baby Need Water?

We offer little ones solid foods starting at about 6 months of age for two reasons:

  1. To meet their nutritional needs.
  2. To provide the opportunity to learn eating skills.

At 7 months old, your baby will still be nipple feeding (i.e. breastfeeding or formula feeding) several times a day.  They’ll be meeting their need for fluids through nipple feeding. So, your little one doesn’t need water to meet their nutritional needs.

Open Cups

Learning to drink from a cup is a learned skill. Any time from 6 months onwards is a great time to start. From time-to-time, when your little one is sitting at the table, offer them a small amount of water (I’m talking an inch deep or less) in an open (lidless) cup. Yes, the first few times the water will pour down their face. A clever mom in one of my recent workshops shared how she dresses her little one in only a diaper when doing this – there’s less clean-up. Over time your little one will learn how to hold on to the cup, tip their head up just the right amount, and close their lips around the cup. It’s amazing how fast and how young they pick up this skill! Now you may have noticed that so far I’ve only been talking about using an open/ lidless cup.

Sippy Cups

That’s because kids don’t actually need a sippy cup. Sippy cups are helpful for parents because it means less spills. But they aren’t actually a developmental need for kids. In fact, sippy cups with the valves/ bladders in them teach your kids to suck – not sip. They aren’t actually any skill progression from a bottle. Removing the valve/ bladder gets kids moving back towards sipping instead of sucking. But it also means more spills. Some speech language professionals recommend cups with straws instead of sippy cups because of concerns about oral movement and development.

 

The Bottom Line

While your 7 month old baby doesn’t need water yet, it’s a great time to start offering the opportunity to learn how to drink from a cup. Sippy cups and cups with straws are handy ways to limit spills. But they aren’t needed for kids to learn how to drink from a cup.

When Can I Give Baby Strawberries, Peanuts and Shellfish?

When-Can-I-Give-Baby-Strawberries-Peanuts-and-Shellfish {Guest Post at Love Child Organics' blog: www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/ } A parent asked the following question: “What age is it safe to give my baby strawberries (and other possibly allergenic foods)?”

Anyone browsing the internet, reading parenting books, or listening to the advice of family and friends will be confused about what foods you should and shouldn’t introduce to your baby to minimize her/his risk of allergies. Everyone says something different!

Read on and I’ll share with you the inside scoop on why there’s so much conflicting information. And, how the new recommendations are based on the current scientific evidence.

The reason for much of the conflicting information is that most of the previous medical theories about what causes babies to have food allergies have proven not to be true.

As a result, the scientific research community has gone back to the drawing board to develop and test new theories for why babies develop food allergies. And even more importantly, they’ve gone back to the drawing board to find out how to prevent them.

There are lots of theories being tested currently. Two examples include exposure to pollution and almost the opposite theory that babies are raised in too clean and sterile an environment.

The (frustrating) fact is that we currently just don’t know what causes food allergies or how to prevent them.

So the reason that there’s so much conflicting information out there is that some of it is outdated. And, some of it is based on theories that are currently being tested (but not yet proven to be true).

On the other hand, what we do know is that the old rules about waiting until certain ages to introduce specific foods didn’t prevent allergies. In fact, there’s some emerging evidence that delaying the introduction of some foods, such as peanuts, may actually increase the risk of allergy.

Starting at about 6 months of age, introduce almost any food that your family eats. There’s no need to wait to give your baby foods such as strawberries, peanuts, shellfish, or any of the foods previously off limits.

That being said, there are a few foods that we do recommend waiting to introduce. These recommendations are either from a nutrition point of view or a prevention of food poisoning point of view. The foods to delay introducing are:

  • Honey – wait until after 12 months of age
  • Cows milk until 9 – 12 months (small amounts of yogurt and cheese are OK after about 6 months).
  • Raw meats, fish, raw/runny egg whites, or unpasteurized dairy foods until 4 years

For baby food ideas, check out the videos I share on my Youtube channel.

Beets: What to Do with Them

beet-recipes-dietitian-dietician-victoria-bc Aah, beets. These versatile root veggies are one of my favourites! As a dietitian, part of my job is to know how to prepare healthy foods like beets. So I’m sharing a couple of my favourite ways to use them. A classic storage, root veggie, you can find local ones (fairly cheap) throughout the winter here in Victoria, BC.

And, because of their naturally sweet taste, many kids like them.

However, people often wonder what the heck to do with them. Here are some of my favourite ways to use them.

 

 

Grated – Raw Beets

Beets don’t even need to be cooked. Simply wash them, peel off the outer skin, and grate them into a salad.

It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Grated veggies are a fantastic finger food for little ones to practice that pincer grasp.

However, be warned – beets stain! Pick up pieces from all surfaces (including the floor) quickly.

Grated, raw beets are a delicious part of my lentil-farro power bowl (full meal salad).

 

Roasted Beets

When I’m turning on the oven to cook something, I often pop a few beets in at the same time – either for a warm side-dish today, or for chilled as a salad in the future.

  1. Wash beets and cut off any long tails or furry top bits.
  2. Cut a piece of tin foil large enough to wrap the beet in. Lay it on the counter, shiny side up. Pour a dollop of olive oil in the centre.
  3. Roll the beet around in the oil to coat it. Wrap the tin foil tightly around the beet.
  4. Repeat for each beet.
  5. Place wrapped beets on a cookie tray or in a baking dish.
  6. Roast until tender, how long this takes depends on the size of the beets and the heat of your oven – at 350 degrees F it may take as long as 2 hours; at 425 degrees F it may take as short as 45 min.

 

 

Beet and Bean Borscht

Check out this fantastic hearty and tasty full meal in one pot, vegetarian borscht here. While the recipe takes a little longer to cook, it makes a lot of soup. And, this soup tastes great re-heated. Freeze leftovers (without the yogurt or sour cream topping) in small batches. I wanted to share it not only because it’s so tasty, but because it’s handy to have healthy meals like this in the freezer when the busy holiday season starts up.

Beans, beets and cabbage are all super healthy (and inexpensive) that I’m always looking for new recipes. I picked up this little pamphlet at the Saskatchewan pavilion at the 2010 Olympics. Did you know that we grow tons of beans, split peas and lentils here in Canada?

If the mixed textures in this soup are too advanced for your little one, simply take beans and pieces of the veggies out of the soup and place them in your little one’s dish/ on their tray.

Can I give finger foods if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?

finger foods baby doesn’t have teethThank you to the parent who asked me this week’s question: "My baby doesn’t have any teeth yet. Can I give her finger foods?" The short answer is: yes! You don’t need to wait until a baby has teeth before giving finger foods.

Babies are ready for finger foods by 7 months, if not before.

Many babies won’t have teeth (or very many teeth) by this age.

It’s amazing to watch what they can handle with their gums. So go ahead and offer finger food versions of a wide variety of foods that your family eats.

Enjoy watching your little one discover the amazing variety of tastes and textures that food comes in!

Check out this video for iron-rich finger foods for babies.

Take the Opportunity to Learn from me In-Person

mom & daughter eatingFrom workshops to the Vancouver Island Baby Fair, there are lots of upcoming opportunities to learn in-person and have me answer your questions. Workshops If you live in Vancouver or the North Shore and your little one is anywhere from 4 months to 5 years old, there's a workshop coming up for you. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee and some goodies, meet other parents, and learn how to meet your child’s nutrition needs today and instill a life-long love of healthy eating (and there’ll be lots of time for questions).

Baby Meets Broccoli (4-9 months): Introducing Solid Foods. Wed October 9th, 9:30-11:30am. Cactus Club Park Royal (West Van) Register at: Modern Mama North Shore's website

Taste and Texture Transition (9-18 months): Transitioning From Baby Food to Big Kid Food and Prevening Picky Eating. Tues November 5th, 10am-12noon. Broadway + Granville (Vancouver) Register at: Modern Mama Vancouver's website

Taste and Texture Transition (9-18 months): Transitioning From Baby Food to Big Kid Food and Prevening Picky Eating. Wed November 6th, 9:30-11:30am. Cactus Club Park Royal (West Van) Register at: Modern Mama North Shore's website

Toddler at the Table (19-36 months): 3 Most Common Causes for Picky Eating and How to Minimize It. Tues October 8th, 10am-12noon. Broadway + Granville (Vancouver) Register at: Modern Mama Vancouver's website

Picky Preschooler (3-5 years): 3 Most Common Causes for Picky Eating and How to Minimize It. Tues December 3rd, 9am-11am. Broadway + Granville (Vancouver) Register at: Modern Mama Vancouver's website

Vancouver Island Baby Fair The Baby Fair is this weekend! I'll be joined by lots of great exhibitors and fun entertainment. Catch me on the Main Stage at 11:30am-12noon on Saturday where I'll be talking about Beyond Mush: Introducing Solid Foods

Stop by my booth to say Hi. I'd love to meet you!

Here's all the Fair details: http://www.vancouverislandbabyfair.com/index1.cfm

Homemade Baby Food - Egg Yolk

Egg Yolk contains the easiest form of iron for our bodies to absorb (called heme iron). This makes it a great first food. And, the new recommendations are to offer your baby egg from about 6 months onwards, there's no need to wait until after 12 months to prevent food allergy.

Check out this video for how to prepare it (it's super easy):