There are certain things a baby needs in his or her life such as comfort, love, attention, warmth, shelter, a snuggly blanket, some cute toys, milk (lots of milk) and dribble bibs (to soak up all that milk)!
As they grow and develop your little bundle of joy will start to need more than just milky goodness, it’s time to move onto solids, to slowly introduce new tastes and textures. Weaning can be challenging, not all babies take to it straight away. For some milk will still be top priority for a while longer until they get a taste for what else is on offer. There’s no need to rush, allow your baby to lead you.
Weaning can be messy (bibs and paper towels are highly recommended) and sometimes frustrating, so take it slowly! Pureed, smooth food is needed at the start, and only in very small quantities. There is so much information available about feeding your child (thank your websites, books, magazines, TV shows and celebrity self-proclaimed baby gurus) that it’s very easy to become overwhelmed by it all. Don’t get bogged down by it all, introducing your child to the world of food should be a fun experience. Yes, there are rules to follow and proven tips that will make your life easier but this is your journey with your child – enjoy it.
Weaning at Your Baby’s Pace
Babies are generally weaned at six months old and it usually takes a month to get baby interested in solids and accepting them on regular basis. But every baby is different and whilst one may enjoy the new taste and texture of food over milk, others may take an instant dislike to the plastic spoon and its contents – preferring to wait until the good old milk returns. Don’t worry, your baby will pick up weaning at his or her own pace and they all get it in the end. How many school children do you see choosing a beaker full of milk over a cute lunchbox full of goodies such as star shaped sandwiches, vegetable crudities, mini-squashy yoghurts and a special animal shaped cookie as a treat?
Introducing Taste and Texture
Your baby might seem to favour sweeter tasting foods as first, and that’s partly why it’s deemed a good idea to start out by introducing your little one to vegetables instead! Offering vegetables sets your child on the right path to developing healthy eating habits. Choose one vegetable to begin with and don’t be tempted to mix it with sweeter tasting fruit. Go down the veggie route with an open mind (don’t assume your baby won’t like it) and don’t give up after the first go, perseverance is the key.
Steer Clear of Sweet and Salty
Two very distinctive flavours – sweet and salty – these are not tastes your baby should become familiar until a later date (at least until they turn one). Some feel that adding flavour to your child’s food (in the form of salt or sugar) will make it more palatable, but that’s not the case. Babies taste buds aren’t that refined, they are very much influenced by the foods you give them at this stage of the game.
Babies can get their required amount of sugar from naturally sweet food – fruit is the perfect example, healthy for your baby, a source of goodness and full of natural sugar – fruit makes for great baby food. But don’t be tempted to just stick to fruit, too much of a good thing isn’t always wonderful.
Why Is Sugar Bad for My Child?
Refined (white) sugar has no real nutritional value for your baby and offering it early on can set your baby on a path that sees him seeking out sweet tasting food over other, healthier options. You can’t keep track of what your child eats forever, as they grow up they will develop their own tastes, earn their own cash (hopefully) and buy their own groceries (fingers crossed they will have learnt to cook too)! So, whilst you do have some influence try and steer them in the right direction by not including too many sweet foods.
Sugar Manipulates the Taste buds
Our children are born with an open mind, let’s not push them into a corner regarding the food they eat – allow them to try a variety of flavours and you might be surprised how their taste buds develop. Children who enjoy a mixed diet and variety of food are more likely grow up enjoying food and more importantly the right type of food.
Children who are introduced to sweet flavours early on are more likely to seek out sweet foods when they get older, bypassing the carrots and cucumbers in favour of a succulent strawberry or a juicy pear. There’s nothing wrong with liking fruit, but that sweet tooth could lead to a penchant for cookies, cakes and all of those ultra sweet things that bring nothing to our nutritional table.
Sugar Can Contribute to Weight Issues
Lots of sugar can lead to lots of excess pounds, sugar is calorific and a child with a taste for all things sweet is likely to fill up on sweet stuff such as chocolate and ice cream. We are not suggesting that all sweet things should be banned but it is true that over-doing the sugar and weight gain inevitably go hand in hand.
Sugar Can Contribute to Diabetes
Too much sugar can cause medical problems as you mature – diabetes (especially Type 2 diabetes) is linked too overdoing the sweet stuff.
Sugar Can Contribute to Tooth Decay
Babies who enjoy sugar and continue to participate in munching sweet things could run into trouble with their dentist. Too much sugar can cause tooth decay – think unsightly cavities and crumbling teeth, not a good look for a child (or an adult for that matter)!
Sugar Can Contribute to Tiredness
Sugar is sometimes associated with providing energy and get up and go, but too much can actually send you the other way. Over-indulging on sweet stuff could result in more insulin being produced, which will cause blood sugar levels to decrease. Therefore, feeding your baby or child sugar could make him very lethargic.
Sugar Can Contribute to Hyperactivity
This one is still up for debate, but many parents that feel sugar causes their child to become overly excitable. A pack of sweets and a sugary drink can be enough to send some kids up and climbing on the ceiling. To this end we could also argue that sugar can reduce concentration and your child’s ability to focus on the task in hand.
How Can I Keep an Eye on Sugar Intake?
Certain foods are very obviously laden with sugar, such as biscuits and cakes. Others contain sugars that might not be so evident. Processed foods can be a real problem– be aware that jellies, jams, syrup and some sauces can be jammed full of sugar. Also keep an eye out for canned fruit (don’t be fooled by the “fruit” title, it’s sometimes swimming in sugary syrup and loaded with sugar).
Cereals can be tricky too – they seem to be a reasonably healthy option when you’re in a hurry and need to the feed the kids quickly. But many cereals (especially those designed to appeal to children, such as chocolate cereals) are loaded with sugar.
Flavoured yoghurt can also contain lots of sugar so it’s a good idea to go for plain instead. The taste can be a little bland and it’s tempting to reach for the sugar bowl. Instead add a touch of sweetness to plain yoghurt by swirling in a little fruit pulp. You can also add this to porridge to pep up the flavour. Your little one should find that just as tasty (and it’s a much healthier option).
Drinks can catch you out too, smoothies and fruit juice may sound like a sensible option but many brands are packed full of sugar. Again, make sure you check the label carefully. For the record the best drinks you can give to your child are milk (don’t add sugar though) and good old water.
As parents you have a whole lot of responsibility on your shoulders, but don’t be daunted! There’s lots of information available to help you make the right choices when it comes to what you feed your kids. Aim for a healthy, balanced diet and start as you mean to go on.