Tag Archives: Food

An Apple A Day, Growth Vs Nutrition.

20131114-103413.jpgWas the first year of your baby’s life blighted by that WHO growth chart. Each weigh in, exciting, but tinged with just a little fear…failure to thrive, dropping off the curve, supplementing suggestions, early weaning…

Then the solids start, and the mission to bulk up continues.

Food becomes such a focus, but is it for the right reasons?

There are many reasons why a healthy, varied and fun diet is so important in those first months and years…but only at the bottom of my list of reasons will you find the growth chart.

Here are a few of the reasons why I try to focus on variety and enjoyment of food, rather than pure old weight gain.

Variety is the spice of life…

It is believed that the taste for flavour begins in the womb, literally, by flavouring the amniotic fluid! What you eat in pregnancy supposedly going on to affect you baby’s tastes as the grow up. The idea continues with breast milk, not only a constantly evolving source of nutrition but of changing flavour too. It is another way of potentially influencing tiny taste buds and preparing them for a variety of foods.

So the idea continues from birth to 12 months. This is a time when baby is most receptive to new tastes and textures, the theory being that exposing them to as many flavours and foods as possible in these early months means that they will continue with all of these recognisable foods and hopefully be as adventurous going forward in life.

Iron deficiency

Quite a major reason for a varied diet, particularly in a breast fed child, is the lack of iron in breast milk. Around six months when the digestive system is fully formed (please read my article on the virgin gut) and baby’s reserves of iron are all but gone, it is important to introduce some good sources of iron like beans, peas, lentils, broccoli, green leafy vegetables and dried fruit. Knowing you need to incorporate such specific foods can make you quite creative, my guy loved this spinach and lentil dahl for an iron boost and a more exotic alternative to broccoli!!

Strong skeleton, strong mind…

The adult skeleton normally contains 206 bones.  Babies on the other hand have a different mix of over 300 different bones and cartilage parts. One you probably know about, the cranium, start off as three separate plates which shift and move to allow for passage of the baby’s head through the birth canal.  As the baby grows, these plates fuse into one cranium, that soft fontanelle disappears.

All bones start off as cartilage, but many are still cartilage at the time of birth. Cartilage turns into bone over time through a process called ossification.

Calcium is obviously the big factor in bone development.  A diet rich in calcium is vital for your child.  But bones are a made up of more than just calcium…collagen water, phosphorus, magnesium, and other minerals are all found in bone…so they are all as important as calcium in making bone!

Vitamin C from citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, and other fruits and vegetables is essential for making collagen, the connective tissue that minerals cling to when bone is formed.

Vitamin K is thought to stimulate bone formation. It is found mainly in dark leafy greens like kale and spinach, but is also available in beans, soy, and some fruits and vegetables.

Potassium decreases the loss of calcium from the body and increases the rate of bone building. Oranges, bananas, potatoes, and many other fruits, vegetables, and beans are all rich sources of potassium.

Magnesium, like calcium, is an important bone mineral. Studies have shown higher magnesium intakes to be associated with stronger bones. “Beans and greens”—legumes and green leafy vegetables—are excellent sources of magnesium.

Fruits and vegetables are also important for what they don’t do. Some foods—especially cheeses, meats, fish, and some grains—make the blood more acidic when digested and metabolized. These foods add to the body’s “acid load.” When this happens, bone minerals, especially calcium, are often pulled from the bones to neutralize these acids.  Diets high in fruits and vegetables actually tip the acid-base scales in the opposite direction and make it easier for bones to hold onto their calcium. (Source: PCRM)

So variety really is more important than quantity?

When you understand the importance of developing good lifelong eating habits and growing bones and growing every other element of a child’s body, it becomes clear that pure weight gain is just a by-product of all of this.

Were you a slave to the growth chart, were you terrified of dropping down a percentile??  Do you think less importance should be placed on that growth chart, or do you think it is an important indication of a healthy child.  Please comment to let me know your thoughts.





The Virgin Gut. How Important Is Gut Flora In Babies


Something that makes me a little uneasy is seeing a four month old being spoon fed baby rice.


How much do you know about the virgin gut?

I didn’t know about the virgin gut until many months into motherhood. I haven’t been a mum for that long, I pretty much learn on the go, in fact I was still totally clueless about parenthood until I had the guy in my arms. Like a lot of things that I am passionate about today, my knowledge of the virgin gut grew from a seed of information which I became totally obsessive over.

I have been desperate to share my understanding of it ever since, but I have been too chicken to spout to all but one close friend. So now I am ready to dazzle my captive audience…because if you have got this far, I know you are interested.

What is it about?

The virgin gut is all about gut flora, immature, open guts and and what can pass into the blood stream from that gut. And before you reach for that bowl of baby rice (see more reasons here), or that bottle of formula, just small quantities of anything other than breast milk can quickly upset the gut flora of baby’s tiny digestive system, before it has had a chance to fully mature.

The consequences of introducing foreign substances can have lifelong effects, asthma, eczema and allergies…which is why the WHO recommends six months exclusive breast milk…here is the reasoning…

A theory.

At the heart of the theory is the gastrointestinal tract – the digestive system – the alimentary canal – or simply, as I will refer to it – the gut – from food in, to food out and most importantly for this article the stomach and intestines.

An adult gut contains thousands of species of bacteria, how they get there is a process that starts on that journey out into the world. (There is current research that suggests the process of colonizing the gut with bacteria starts in the womb, with the swallowing of the amniotic fluid, but lets assume as is more widely accepted that the process of colonizing the gut starts as the baby is being born.)

sleeping babyDuring a natural birth, through labour and delivery, baby starts swallowing all those bacteria hanging around the birth canal and rectum. The bacteria travel through the stomach and the small and large intestines and multiply over the first few weeks of life to establish a pretty diverse microbiota (a community of micro-organisms, bacteria, viruses, and fungi that normally live in or on a given organ in the body.)

Interestingly, the type of bacteria of the gut of an emergency c-section baby is different to a vaginally born baby, and a planned c-section baby has a different gut flora altogether, this is due to different environmental factors being introduced to the baby, and less chance of swallowing mums personal bacterias!

Why is this gut flora so important?

The colonization of the gut flora at the beginning of life is massively important because it impacts the development of the immune system and has a major role in immune system functioning. It has been suggested that 80-85% of the immune system is in the gut. So from birth, right from the outset, the gut is building to protect from autoimmune and metabolic diseases.

What is happening inside baby?

Back to baby…In newborns the gut is not fully matured, it is referred to as an open gut, full of tiny holes or spaces through which things can pass into the blood stream.
From breast milk it will be antibodies, friendly bacteria, vitamins, minerals, hormones, enzymes, growth factors and many other special substances that will pass through. From formula and other foods, allergy triggering milk proteins, less desirable bacteria and other nasties will pass through.

Breastfeeding symbol

Breast milk.

So lets take a newborns gut and colonize it with mothers helpful bacteria. Then fill it with the good stuff, exclusive breast milk, and throw in a few helpful bacteria picked up from mums boob as well…it is only this combination of milk and breasts which can results in the development of biofilms. Biofilms are groups of micro-organisms which in the gut, create a protective lining against harmful pathogens. This is how breast milk reduces incidences of diarrhoea, influenza and respiratory infections during infancy, and begins to protect against the development of allergies, type 1 diabetes and other illnesses, because the beneficial bacteria are present and correct and doing their job!

baby bottleFormula milk.

Now…introduce anything else to your little ones gut before it has had a chance to mature and the resulting effect strips the gut of all of its original flora, the gut opens up, the tiny microscopic spaces are left wide open. Even adding probiotics (live bacteria) and prebiotics (oligosaccharides) to make the microbiota of formula milk similar to that of breast milk is futile because milk proteins strip away the biofilms lining the gut, and leave it literally wide open.

It is these milk proteins, themselves allergens, which pass into the blood stream and stimulate or trigger protective processe. The immune system sees the proteins as the enemy and tries to fight it off. For the unluckiest of babies it can lead to a life blighted with sensitivities, asthma, eczema, and many different food allergies.

I am a breast feeding mum, I am not against your personal choice to formula feed or combine feed, but personally I would do my utmost to avoid my feeding my baby a drop of artificial milk. In rare cases, I understand that there can be complications with mum and formula may become a necessity.

However, I do believe that if more people understood exactly what formula is doing inside that tiny gut, then society may become less convinced that formula is a fantastic alternative and more people may battle through the frequent feeding, night waking, pain, and hungry demands of baby really make breast feeding work.


WHO | Exclusive breastfeeding. 2013. WHO | Exclusive breastfeeding. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/exclusive_breastfeeding/en/. [Accessed 31 March 2013].

Maternal Factors Pre- and During Delivery Contribute to Gut Microbiota Shaping in Newborns. 2013. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3417649/. [Accessed 31 March 2013].

Breast Milk Promotes a Different Gut Flora Growth Than Infant Formulas – DukeHealth.org. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/news/breast-milk-promotes-a-different-gut-flora-growth-than-infant-formulas. [Accessed 31 March 2013].

Intestinal microflora in early infancy: composition and development. 2013. . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.medicinabiointegrata.com/doc/probiotici/Microflora%20intestinale%20nel%20bambino.pdf. [Accessed 31 March 2013].

Choose your food destiny…Choose Baby Led Weaning


We have had a few comments recently about how well the little guy eats.  Literally…how well he handles his food in his mouth, his hands…his hair!  Actually he is becoming a lot more accurate at meal times, so much so that the shower curtain covering up the floor has been lifted.

It got me thinking back to the reasons why I chose to take the baby led weaning path (BLW), or more accurately, why I let my guy choose his own food destiny with BLW. You can read my tips on getting started here.

Before I start, I have to say that I am of the camp that exclusive breast milk up to six months is essential.  As parents, it is our duty to protect the delicate gut lining of our precious bundles.  Starting to wean before six months can upset the fragile balance of gut flora that is protecting their digestive system while it fully develops.  Too many people confuse a growth spurt at around four months with a hungry baby, instead of the developmental milestone that it is.  Around this age babies may need less sleep than you are accustomed too, they want to explore their world, and they are interested in watching you eating, but they are not necessarily hungry.  It can be challenging, but you are still producing enough milk to totally fulfil their requirements, however big, hungry or wide awake, just maybe bigger feeds from you more often.

That said, BLW works for any breastfed of bottle fed baby, the principles are the same.


I never want to let my little guy feel left out at a meal time, I never want to trick him into eating just one more mouthful, I don’t want to stress him out or pressure him to eat anything he may not like and I have no real desire for him to wean him quickly from my breast.  BLW addresses all of these issues…here are my favourite reasons to hopefully convince you to give it a try.

  • Babies learn through play, they explore, touch and taste almost everything that crosses their path.  Food should be no different, you can let them play with it, explore the textures, temperatures, shapes and tastes.  This way, they can start to distinguish different flavours, they can pick out things they don’t like, and they can eat at their own pace.
  • Because BLW babies are allowed to explore food themselves, they are less suspicious of food and more willing to try new foods.  They can stop eating when they have had enough and they can demand more if they are still hungry.  This means they learn about their own appetite from an early age and will hopefully carry this through into healthy eating habits later in life.
  • By six months, the digestive system is more likely to be able to tolerate anything, so there is no need to follow the outdated rules of one new food at a time.  This means food can always be exciting, tasty, varied and never bland, mushy and boring!  The only limit might be your cooking skills!
  • You all get to eat together.  Even if its just you and baby, you can eat your meals hot, together, and enjoyably.  Baby can learn about conversation and table manners at the same time as learning about food.   There is no need to feed baby, and then entertain baby while everyone else tries to eat and he will never feel left out at a meal time.
  • Progression happens naturally and safely.  At the start of the BLW journey, very little food actually goes in, most ends up in a gummed up mess back on the table or floor.  Slowly  the gag reflex moves from the front of the tongue, further and further back.  This happens as the baby learns to move food around and break food down into manageable pieces before finally swallowing.  This natural progression is the safest progression.
  • No more revolting bland mush, no ‘baby food’, just one meal suits all.  Meal times become easier, you can create one meal, be it traditional, exotic, experimental or a family favourite.  You can adapt a little portion for baby if you like things particularly spicy or salty but you get  accustomed to lowering your salt intake pretty quickly.

Imagine someone coming at your face with a garden shovel full of food.  They hold it really close to your face so you cant focus on what is piled on the end of the shovel.  They try and get the shovel into your mouth and you try and push the shovel away to see what you are being forced to taste.  This must be what that teaspoon of food  seems like to a little person.  Scary.

Stop the slop!!

Read my tips on getting started on your BLW journey here!

Baby Led Weaning. Top Tips To Get You Started.


Baby led weaning is the most fascinating, inspiring and entertaining activity…for adults! Still, after four months, I watch in awe as my little guy handles grown up food…as he shovels way too much in, gags a little and then sticks a bit more in for good measure. He loves to play and learn and food is no exception to this.

I wish more parents had a positive experience of the first few scary months of BLW, but I often hear of parents abandoning ship because it is too scary or too messy.

I have created a list of a few things to get you started and help you feel more confident in committing totally to the BLW experience. As you get started on your journey, keep these tips close at hand to remind yourself that you and baby are in complete control…


  • Have confidence in yourself. This is the single most important piece of advice I can give. Brush up on your first aid, attend a red cross course or at the very least, know what to do in an emergency choking situation. Learn the basics of back slaps to bring up a lodged piece of food, and understand the process of checking airways, breathing and circulation. Armed with this knowledge you can take a much more relaxed approach to BLW. Look here at the Red Cross site for many great tips
  • Relax. Once you have confidence in your ability in a sticky situation, and trust that your baby knows what he is doing, then you can relax and pass the calm vibes onto your little one. At the start of my BLW journey, I used simple yoga breathing techniques to relax, release and let go of any tension in my body. I kept that calm feeling throughout every early meal until it became natural to both me and baby.
  • Trust in your baby. Your baby has been born with a gag reflex and it starts way further forward on his tongue than on yours. This reflex is your friend, the sound of retching or heaving are his way of dealing with an object and keeping him safe. Try not to interfere while he deals with the object himself, but be at the ready to step in if he can’t handle it
  • Bibs. Double up, I use a long sleeved coverall with a smaller dribble bib on top to fit close around the neck. You will not be so worried about staining the clothes underneath and again you can sit back and relax while chaos take over in the high chair. Tip: Cut the bottom half off of old baby grows and use them back to front as full coverage bibs!
  • Cover the floor. Buy a cheap shower curtain and let the food rain down! Pop in in the washing machine, shake it out after a messy meal, pick big bits up and give them back to baby, and relax in the knowledge that your flooring is protected!!!
  • High chair. I took my high chair for granted until I tried out a friends contraption! Make sure it doesn’t have a fiddly harness or tray that locks too tightly around your baby, you need to be able to whip them out quickly and easily if they become distressed. Look here at the Ikea Antilop, great value, and easy to clean, great for BLW. Look here at the safety 1st baby highchairs, plastic free, able to grow with your child, fairly easy to keep clean but slightly more expensive.
  • Gagging is good. as I mentioned before, it is your babies way of clearing a blockage or learning that trying to swallow something before breaking it down isn’t such a good idea.
  • Silence is not good. look to see if they have panic on their own face, or look like they are silently struggling to bring something up. This is definitely your cue to step in and manually give a helping hand.
  • Let them get back to it. However shaken up you feel, don’t pass your anguish on the baby. Let him get stuck back in straight away so as not to start associating anything bad with his eating.
  • Know that milk is still the main source of nutrients. Please try not to stress over the quantity of food on the floor, or the amount he is actually eating. Food is still just for fun in this phase, once you take the pressure off getting food into baby, and let him take his time over meals, he will become better equipped to understand his own appetite, not what you think his appetite should be.
  • Eat together, don’t stare. Whenever possible, eat at the same time as baby. DO NOT sit and stare at him eating, as fascinating as it may be. Let him see you chewing and swallowing, watch from the corner of your eye, chat and laugh. How would you enjoy a looming figure watching you, praising you and getting involved with your plate of food!!!
  • Don’t overcrowd the tray. My guy likes to eat from a white china plate, he can see the food clearly and knows where and what he wants to reach for. Try adding food slowly to the high chair tray.

Stop The Slop!