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What is weaning? Weaning simply means gradually moving your baby from a total milk diet to one that also includes solid foods.
Why should I wean my baby?As babies become more active, they need extra minerals and vitamins to help them grow and develop both mentally and physically.
How will I know when my baby is ready for weaning?When your baby cries or demands more food after a feed.
When your baby becomes irritable before the next feed is due.
When your baby starts chewing her hands, toys and other objects.
If your baby starts waking up more frequently than normal in the night.
If your baby has difficulty in settling down for a day time nap or wakes up early.
When your baby shows an interest in the food that you are eating.
When should I wean my baby?The Department of Health recommends that babies should not be weaned under the age of 17 weeks, because their digestive system is not fully developed. Your baby will get all the nutrition that she needs from breast or formula milk.
The recommended age for weaning is about 6 months of age.
Why is weaning important?
Eating solid foods helps to develop chewing and swallowing skills, which in turn develop the muscles needed for talking.
Research suggests that if solid foods are not introduced by the age of 10 months, babies may not be so willing to try new tastes and foods later on.
Where do I start?Choose a stress-free time.
Establish a set time of day to help your baby get used to the change.
If your baby is very hungry, offer the first solid food halfway through a milk feed.
Your babyís tummy is about ten times smaller than yours, so start with small portions (about the size of an ice tray compartment).
Offer your baby small amounts of food over the course of several days until they are accepted.
Let your baby decide how much food she wants until she gets used it. Gradually introduce new tastes and textures.
Move up to two or three meal times over the next two or three months.
What if my baby does not want to be weaned?Because eating and sucking are so different, it may take your baby time to get used to the new experience. Offer food gradually over the course of several days until she accepts it.
If your baby has a cold, is unwell or has been recently immunised, try again when she is feeling better.
What foods do I give my baby?The first solid food should be mild tasting, pureed, smooth in texture and of thin consistency so that it can be easily sucked off the spoon and swallowed.
Avoid giving your baby hard foods until she is able to swallow properly.
From the age of about 7 months, mash, mince or finely chop foods to encourage chewing. If your baby spits out the lumps, donít give up!
No single food can provide all the essential nutrients and vitamins that your baby needs, so variety is important. Foods such as red meat, poultry, cereals, fruit and vegetables and dairy products will provide the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins that your baby needs for energy, growth and development.
By the age of 9 months, your baby should be able to eat many of the same meals as the rest of the family.
Make sure that your baby has plenty of fluids between meals. Cowís milk should not be used as a main drink until your baby is at least 12 months old.
Continue to provide breast or formula milk as part of your babyís diet until the age of 12 months.
What foods should I avoid?Babies enjoy the same foods as adults, but avoid canned or processed foods since these usually have a high salt content. Home prepared foods are best, but donít add salt as this can have an effect on kidney function. The recommended salt intake is less than 1g per day.
Avoid adding sugar to food or drinks, as this can cause dental decay. Avoid drinks that contain artificial sweeteners such as fruit squash and fizzy drinks.
Avoid honey during the first year as it may contain botulism spores which can make your baby seriously ill.
Don't give your baby foods containing nuts (including peanut butter) and avoid potentially allergenic foods such as shellfish. Whole nuts are a choking hazard and should not be given to any child under the age of five years.
First foods should be gluten free as some babies are sensitive to it. Gluten is a protein found in cereals wheat, rye, oats and barley. Most babies tolerate small amounts of gluten from the age of about 7 or 8 months. Introducing gluten at this age actually reduces the risk of developing Coeliac disease, type 1 diabetes and wheat allergies later on.
If your family has a history of allergies, avoid dairy products and eggs until your baby is at least 7 months of age.
Babies who receive a vegetarian diet should have a sufficient amount of breast or formula milk as well as dairy products. Vegan diets however, are not appropriate for babies and young children.
Why do some babies resist certain foods?With so many new tastes and textures to discover, it is no wonder that many babies reject some foods and accept others.
Babies who are fed exclusively fed on breast milk or formula may resist foods that have an unfamiliar taste. It can take as many as 20 attempts before they are accepted. Babies also have a tongue thrust reflex, which makes them push out their tongues when food is placed on it. The reflex may be interpreted as dislike of a certain food. The reflex protects your baby from choking and usually diminishes when food can be swallowed properly.
Being able to swallow properly indicates that your baby can move food from the front to the back of the mouth and that she is ready for solid food. From about 7 months of age, your baby may show a strong aversion towards bitter tasting foods such as broccoli. If your baby is extra-sensitive to bitter tastes, she may have more taste buds than babies who are less sensitive.
Accepting food from a spoon and exploring unfamiliar textures is a new experience for your baby, so take it slowly!
When will my baby start to feed herself?From the age of 7 months, finger foods such as slices of fruit and toast, chunks of cheese, cucumber and banana will encourage your baby to feed herself. Foods should not be too small or hard or your baby may choke.
When your baby grabs the spoon, she may be telling you that she wants to feed herself. However, putting food on to a spoon and then directing it towards the mouth is no easy task. Babies have to learn a series of complex actions, which include reaching, scooping, tilting, opening the mouth and swallowing. This is why food ends up over their face, ears and hair. With practice and patience, your baby will learn to control the spoon without food ending up everywhere.
by Dr. Lin Day of Baby Sensory
About Baby Sensory
Baby Sensory is the only provider of baby development classes designed specifically for babies from birth to 13 months. The classes are run in over 400 locations throughout the UK and in 12 countries including the US, Australia and Spain and has most recently launched in China. The Baby Sensory programmes have been developed in the UK by Dr. Lin Day (PhD Dip. Ed. BSc. PGCE. M. Phil), who has worked with babies and young children throughout her career. All activities are excellent for developing physical, social and emotional, and language skills, co-ordination, awareness of the world, a love of music and the concentration needed for further development. The programme is also suitable for babies with physical or learning impairments.Currently one in 45 babies born in the UK attends Baby Sensory classes.
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