Here in the UK, our toddlers are the proud winners of the prize for the highest levels of picky eating in whole of whole of Europe. I’m interested in how we achieved that accolade – I’ve yet to explore eating patterns in other European countries (it’s on my bucket list) but I have a sneaking suspicion it might have something to do with hunger.
As parents, we feel that it is part of our job to make sure that our children never get hungry. We never leave the house without a snack, no car journey can get under way until raisins have been distributed and every playgroup in the land is punctuated by snack-time.
Children should experience hunger – they should sit down to meals hungry and get up from them full. It’s part of the natural rhythm of the day. I’m not talking about the kind of hunger that is born of deprivation, I’m thinking of hunger in the context of appropriate meals being offered at appropriate times.
Many health professionals advocate two snacks a day for young children and that’s fine, IF they are also hungry at mealtimes. My message is simple – if your child is refusing food at breakfast, lunch or dinner, cut out the snacks. In fact, I’ve had dramatically more feedback from readers of War & Peas about my stance on snacking than on any other aspect of my approach. It really does work. So much so, that I’m going to be having a dedicated snack week on the blog, featuring a guest post about ‘snacktivism’ – one US mother’s fight against American snack culture. Continue reading
First off, can I state that I haven’t set out to indulge in a little mid-week Gina Ford bashing? That’s too easy and it’s been done to death. Having said that, every time I hear her mentioned, I can’t help but remember my friend ritually burning The Contented Little Baby Book because her baby hadn’t read that she was supposed to be napping every day at 9 and 2 and wouldn’t play ball.
Top Tips for Fussy Eaters
When I saw that Gina Ford had written a book on fussy eating, I was curious to find out what she had to say. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised. Her advice is, on the whole, sound and she is much less prescriptive than I was expecting. This book isn’t heavy on content but if you’re a busy parent, maybe that’s a good thing. It’s teeny – a little square book with big print, literally half of which is filled with case-studies, FAQs and recipes. If you’re after an in-depth exploration of picky eating, look away now. Continue reading
How it all began…
Gill Rapley a health visitor by training, came up with an approach to weaning where control is handed over to the baby during mealtimes. She noticed that weaning was much easier when babies were left to feed themselves and went on to do a Master’s Degree during which she investigated this idea in more depth. She called this new way of feeding babies ‘baby-led weaning’ (BLW), a term that has caught on and is now very much in common parlance in the world of parenting. Rapley’s techniques (as she herself acknowledges) have been practised by parents for thousands of years. What she has done is to formalise this way of feeding children, challenging received wisdom and empowering parents to trust their babies to feed themselves.
Baby-led Weaning-Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett
With BLW, babies (from the recommended six months of age) are given graspable pieces of food to eat and they decide how much they want. No spoon-feeding, no purees and definitely no little orange ice cubes. There is much to be said on what kinds of foods are suitable for BLW, but this post isn’t the place – there are lots of good resources online, as well as Rapley’s excellent book on the subject.
So, fantastic, that’s weaning solved then? Not quite. As with every aspect of baby rearing, some controversy lurks not far beneath the surface… The main problems people seem to have with BLW are the mess it makes and a perceived risk of choking. One mum (Rachel of House of Dominic ) was at the receiving end of some fierce criticism on both of these fronts from a member of the public. She gave her seven month old son his meal whilst they were eating out one day. He was tucking into his pieces of pineapple, cucumber and chicken, making the the kind of mess that is to be expected when food and babies meet. A woman at a nearby table made a comment about how Rachel ought to clean up the mess. Then, Dominic gagged and spat up some of his pineapple. The next thing Rachel knew, she was being shouted at: ”You’re putting him in danger. He will choke. Would you risk your babies life for a fad?!” said the angry lady. Continue reading
It’s baby-led weaning week on the EAF blog and to start us off, I am excited to be posting an interview with Nutritional Therapist Kathryn Barker. Kathryn runs ’BabyBites’ baby-led weaning and infant nutrition classes in the East Midlands, UK. Kathryn trained as a Nutritional Therapist when her eldest child was a baby. She is passionate about baby-led weaning and started teaching other parents about it when she realised that there was a huge demand for more information on the subject. Continue reading
This post follows on from my last – it is the second half of my answer to Lydia’s questions about picky eating. She wanted to know if picky eating is ‘just a phase’. The quick answer is “normally – yes.” The long answer is not so simple.
When we talk about ‘phases’, what we are really describing is something that is developmentally normal for a child. For example, many parents recognise a ‘clingy phase’ that their child goes through at around six to eight months. This is normal for a child of this age and indicates a healthy attachment. It is also bound up with the baby’s inability to understand that her care-giver has not disappeared for good as soon as he or she is out of sight. In other words, an amount of moderate separation anxiety is to be expected when babies reach this age. The key feature of a phase is that it is a pattern of behaviour that children move in and out of. As parents, our job is simply to weather the storm and eventually we will come out the other side.
So going back to picky eating, scientists have long known that it appears to be developmentally normal for children to suddenly become much fussier about what they’ll eat at around eighteen months old 1. Some researchers have put forward a very interesting evolutionary argument for this 2. They suggest that once a child has learnt to walk, it makes evolutionary sense for her only to want to eat things that are recognisable as ‘safe’ food. The argument goes that, back in our hunter-gatherer days, if a child did not have this safety mechanism in place, she might wander off and start to eat brightly coloured poisonous berries. This makes sense when we think of our modern-day fussy eaters Continue reading
Lydia got in touch with me on twitter with two really interesting questions about picky eating, in relation to her daughter, Evie.
1) Do food allergies make picky eating worse?
2) Is picky eating ‘just a phase’ ?
Leo and Evie at snack time
I’m going to tackle these questions in two separate posts as there’s so much to say on both!
Food allergies and intolerances are a common problem. According to figures from the USA, since the late 1990 s, the rates of reported food allergies in children has been increasing almost five-fold.So does this have an impact on picky eating and food refusal? First, it’s important to distinguish between food intolerances and plain pickiness. Perhaps your child is having a physical reaction to certain foods, such as a bloated stomach or discomfort around the lips or mouth. If you have a suspicion that he may have an allergy or intolerance, get this checked out by a medical professional. Laurel Rockefeller describes what it’s like when food allergies get mistaken for fussy eating.
In Evie’s case, her mother Lydia explained that she was dairy intolerant but grew out of it, as many children do. Her brother Leo, however, still has a dairy intolerance. He is also egg and soya free. Dairy intolerance is something I can relate to, having been through it with two of my three girls. Both of my daughters thankfully grew out of it at around the age of one, but it gave me a valuable insight into what it’s like to live with food allergies. Lydia was wondering whether living in a household where there were food intolerances was contributing to Evie’s fussy eating.
In answer to Lydia, two things spring to mind Continue reading