Weaning is a big issue for mums – especially first timers. Such a huge amount of importance is attached to this milestone in your baby’s life. For the first few months it’s drilled into you by the establishment that you must not wean before six months, while on the other hand friends and relatives may be pushing you to wean earlier, luring you with the promise of a baby that ’sleeps through’ thanks to the alleged miracle properties of baby rice. When you do make the decision to begin weaning, there’s a whole host of other issues – how much to feed, and how often; introducing new flavours; ensuring your baby is getting enough nutrients, fussy eaters – the list is endless. Weaning can be a stressful time for mums and babies, and while most find what works for them within a week or two, others take longer to get the hang of it!
If your baby is reluctant to eat solids, or if your older child is a picky eater, the first thing you should do is stop worrying. The important thing to remember is that no baby ever starved itself to death, and if you keep offering food, your little one will eat enough to satisfy his or her requirements. But struggling to get your baby or toddler to eat is enough to have you tearing your hair out by day and lying awake by night (sometimes literally if he or she wakes up hungry!) so while you should never force the food issue, there are some things you can try to make mealtimes less of a battleground.
The blueprint for your child’s eating habits is sketched by those very first spoonfeeds so it’s important to make them a positive, stress free experience for both of you. Regardless of whether you start weaning early, or wait until the recommended six months, it is crucial that you wait until your baby shows signs of being ready. These include:
- Demanding milk feeds more frequently than usual.
- Seeming unsatisfied after a milk feed.
- Waking in the night after a period of sleeping through.
Babies that are ready for weaning will also be able to hold their own heads up strongly and sit well with support, they will show interest at mealtimes and may even grab for a piece of what you are eating. The natural ‘tongue thrust’ reflex that protects them against choking will also have diminished – if your baby repeatedly pushes the spoon out of his mouth then he may not be ready for solids. In these early days remember that the amount your baby eats is not important – weaning should be a relaxed and fun learning experience. If you or your baby gets stressed during a meal, just leave it and try again another time.
Encouraging your baby to eat
If you’re sure that your little one is ready for solid food, but they don’t seem keen on eating, there are a few things you can try to pique their interest.
- Start with sweet tastes. Babies – especially breastfed ones – have a natural preference for sweet tastes so things like stewed apple or pear, carrot and sweet potato are ideal first foods. If you have started weaning your baby with baby rice, you could try adding a little fruit puree to it as a gentle introduction. You can also sweeten savoury purees by adding these ingredients – try combining sweet potato with broccoli or cauliflower, or butternut squash with pear. As your baby becomes accustomed to these flavours, introduce new ones gradually – and don’t assume that all baby food should be bland. Many babies enjoy stronger flavours such as garlic (houmous is often a favourite) and even mild curry! Allowing your baby to explore a broad spectrum of tastes will make him or her less likely to be a fussy eater in future.
- Involve your baby in mealtimes. Babies learn by watching adults and older children so sitting at the table for mealtimes is an important chance for them to observe and mimic you eating. Your baby’s routine may differ from your own but wherever possible you should try to sit down together at mealtimes, even if it’s just once a day – this is a great opportunity for family time as well!
- Offer finger foods. From six months, most babies are capable of self feeding with chunky pieces of easy to manage foods and for babies that don’t like to be spoon fed, baby led weaning can be a great (albeit very messy!) option. Because babies at this age haven’t yet developed a pincer grip, it’s best to offer foods that they can hold in their fist so things like broccoli florets, well cooked sticks of carrot, pieces of banana, unsalted bread sticks, mini rice cakes etc. are ideal. You should supervise your baby closely, especially in the early days, while they are still learning how to move food around their mouth. It’s best to offer large pieces of food that your baby can nibble small bits off, rather than giving tiny pieces that they may cram into their mouth whole. You can also buy mesh feeders which allow your baby to chew or suck on soft fruits and vegetables without being able to bite pieces off, and these can be helpful as an introduction to baby led weaning. If your baby enjoys finger foods, you could try encouraging him to dip vegetable sticks etc. into a small pot of another pureé you have prepared as a way of getting more variety into his diet.
- Don’t wait til your baby is starving. You should try to offer solids before a breast or bottle feed but if your baby is ravenous she is likely to refuse a spoon feed in favour of the ‘instant gratification’ a milk feed offers. Time spoon feeds so they happen when baby is just beginning to get hungry, and then follow up with a milk feed if necessary. Also, remember that teething can have a major impact on your baby’s willingness to eat – if her mouth is hurting she won’t want you shoving a spoon in there! Offering baby paracetamol shortly before a meal might help but if not, let the solid foods slide for a day or two until she’s feeling better.
Babies who have been encouraged to try lots of different flavours are less likely to grow into fussy eaters, but even the best eaters go through fussy phases when they hit toddlerhood – this often has as much to do with asserting their independence as it does with appetites and preferences! Every parent has days when they feel like their toddler has barely eaten anything but at this age it’s better to look at the bigger picture of what your toddler eats over a couple of days. Some days they will be ravenous and eat everything in sight, other days they’ll pick and fuss over their food, but if you average this out you’ll probably find that they’re getting plenty! Again, they key is to try and relax – if you force the issue you’re more likely to create a lasting problem with mealtimes.
To make mealtimes easier for you AND your toddler:
- Keep portions small. A typical toddler portion will be around a quarter to half the size of an adult portion. If you put too much food on the plate, your child is more likely to feel overwhelmed and less likely to finish the meal, but if you serve a smaller amount and they finish it, they will benefit from lots of praise – and they can always ask for more!
- Make food manageable. Cut it into bite sized pieces or chunks that are easy to pick up, and choose utensils carefully too – wide, shallow spoons and deep-sided bowls make it easier for toddlers to feed themselves, which they generally love to do!
- Presentation, presentation, presentation! You can make food more appealing to your fussy child with just a little attention to detail – home made pizzas can be made into funny faces, for example – I know one clever mummy who cuts sausages into octopus shapes and lets them ’swim’ in a sea of baked beans! Even something simple like using a pastry cutter to make sandwiches more interesting can work wonders.
- Offer healthy snacks. Toddlers cannot consume large quantities of food at a single sitting so snacks are an important part of their diet and energy intake. Snacks should be offered roughly midway between meals and you should try to choose foodstuffs that are healthy and release energy slowly – raisins, fruit crisps, breadsticks with houmous, a banana, crackers and cheese or a small pot of berries all make great, nutritious snacks. Sweets, crisps etc. are fine as an occasional treat but try to offer them after meals rather than between, and always encourage good oral hygiene.
- Introduce new foods one at a time. Serving them alongside foods your child likes will also help. Encourage your child to taste the food but don’t force them and don’t lose your temper if they won’t try, just leave it til another day. And if your child doesn’t like a food first time, don’t give up! Sometimes it can take up to 10 attempts before a child will accept a new food and their likes and dislikes change over time.
- Don’t hurry your child and never force them to eat. Up to the age of three most toddlers will need some help with feeding but don’t shovel food into your child’s mouth if she doesn’t want it. If nothing is eaten after a reasonable amount of time, take the food away without comment and try again with a healthy snack later.
- Sing their praises! Never underestimate the power of praise in motivating little people – whether it’s a round of applause for clearing their plate, a sticker for behaving nicely at the table or a special pudding as a reward, ‘carrot’ usually works better than ’stick’ when it comes to persuading toddlers to eat well.
The advice in this article is intended only as a guide – if you have concerns about your child’s diet and nutrition you should raise them with your GP or health visitor. And if you’ve survived a picky eater, why not post your tips in the comments section below so that other mums can benefit from your wisdom?
Following one of my previous posts about the lack of pretty, practical maternity lingerie available for bigger busted mums-to-be, I came across UK brand, Emily Lingerie and was very excited when the company agreed to let me road test one of their gorgeous bras.
I received the ‘English Garden‘ underwired maternity bra in size 34F. The bra features black satin fabric with a vintage-inspired floral print, delicate lace edging and a pretty bow embellishment to the front centre. The cups are cotton lined for comfort whilst the bra features ’soft’ lightweight underwires and six back fastenings to accommodate your changing shape during pregnancy.
When the bra first arrived I was won over straight away by the design – it looks and feels luxurious and just like ‘real’ lingerie, unlike many of the matronly maternity bras available to bigger breasted pregnant women. The matching French knickers make this a gorgeous, sexy set.
I found the bra extremely comfortable to wear and it was also very supportive. The fit was good and corresponded well to that of my other lingerie, although I found the back size slightly big – not enough to affect the fit of the bra but if you are a borderline back size I would recommend you opt for the smaller size. The cup size was spot on and the bra gave me a nice shape under clothing, although on a purely personal note I would have liked some light foam padding of the cups for an even smoother silhouette under close fitting tops. The underwire was perfectly comfortable and did not rub or dig in at all – it’s difficult to say whether it will remain comfortable as my pregnancy progresses but with the flexibility of the wire and the extra back fastenings I am confident I will be able to adjust the fit for comfort well into the final weeks.
A personal bugbear of mine with maternity bras is the fact that many have high necklines which are visible under scoop or v-neck tops but this bra has a plunging style that in no way restricts the type of clothing you can wear, while the straps are not too wide and also pretty enough to be on show if required. Priced at £33 this bra is by no means cheap but is definitely the best I have come across so far and a real investment piece that will see you through pregnancy and beyond – I know I’ll wear mine again after breastfeeding has finished but before my breasts have returned to their normal size.
The ‘English Garden’ style is one of two underwired maternity bras offered by Emily, and they also have a selection of beautiful soft cup maternity bras in addition to a number of wired and non-wired nursing bras. I will definitely be purchasing additional items from the range, and I was very excited to hear from an insider at Emily that a white version of the ‘Paris’ bra is currently in the making, as is a range of ‘basic’ bras in black, white and nude! And if you fancy adding some of this gorgeous lingerie to your maternity/nursing wardrobe, you’ll be delighted to hear that we have an exclusive 20% discount to offer for MumUnplugged readers – simply enter code MUMMY10 at the Emily checkout to receive your discount!
One of the best things about breastfeeding is that you don’t need loads of kit to do it – in fact all you really need is a pair of boobs and a hungry baby! But there are a few things that are really useful for a breastfeeding mum, and one of those things is a breastfeeding support cushion. A feeding pillow can significantly help mothers when breastfeeding. It can help reduce the tension that builds up in the back, neck and shoulders of mothers during feeding; relieve the pressure on the mother’s tummy during feeding with its circular shape, and provide secure support for babies whilst they suck.
Chicco have recently launched US bestselling breastfeeding cushion, ‘Boppy‘ in the UK and when they offered me the opportunity to review the product I jumped at the chance to find out why it’s become such a firm favourite with our breastfeeding counterparts across the pond!
The Boppy pillow was designed by a mum in America 20 years ago and in that time it has gone on to become the undisputed market leader. Over a million are sold each year and are used in over a quarter of all US homes. It has won numerous awards including being voted ‘Best Product of the Year’ by American Baby.
The Boppy is designed to create an ergonomic ‘nest’ shape and its ‘Miracle Middle’ adapts to the contours of each individual mum’s body for a snug, comfy fit whilst feeding. The exclusive fibre padding used in each pillow means it keeps it shape and for practicality, the pillow and slipcover are machine washable at 30˚and can also be tumble dried.
The first thing I noticed about Boppy was that the product is quite heavy and the filling quite dense, which I initially thought might be a negative point. However when it came to actually using the product I soon realised that this is exactly the thing that makes it so great! The pillow really does ‘hug’ around you and feels very secure, while the fact that the filling is so firm means your baby is positioned at exactly the right height for feeding – no need to support pillow or baby with your arm. I gave the product a ‘dummy run’ with my two-year-old even though we are no longer feeding and I can confidently say it would support even his weight easily. I used a much floppier breastfeeding pillow when he was small and although it did help with positioning, it didn’t give me the level of hands free support that Boppy does – this product would have been a godsend in those early days when we were struggling to perfect the latch.
Despite its weight/density, the pillow itself is quite compact and the packaging doubles up as a handy waterproof carry case that would be handy for travel. The slipcover is well made and pleasantly soft; it fastens with a concealed zip for comfort and safety and is available in five cute designs to suit all tastes. I really liked the fact that the entire pillow can be machine washed and dried without losing its shape because as we all know newborns can be messy little creatures!
The Boppy is also extremely versatile for growing babies and as well as being used as a feeding pillow it can be used as a nest for small babies to lie in, a support for use during ‘tummy time’ and a safety net for little ones who are just learning to sit up! Again I thought this was a major plus as the product isn’t cheap and the multiple functions mean it offers better value for money – although I would still buy it even if it had no alternative uses. I would definitely recommend this product to anybody who is planning to breastfeed their baby.
Sold exclusively through Mothercare in the UK, Boppy prices start at £39.99 for the ‘Bare Naked’ pillow without slipcover, through to £49.99 for the pillow plus one of five cute cotton slipcovers or £59.99 for the pillow plus a velour slipcover. Extra slipcovers are also available. For further information visit the Boppy website or tel: 028 2587 8300.
Given the unpredictable nature of our weather recently I was almost tempted to call this article ‘10 ways to spend a snowy afternoon’, but seeing as our wee Norn Irish climate finally seems to have caught on that we’re officially in British Summer Time I’ll refrain from treating you all to that one, for now at least.
After such a ‘wintry’ winter, I know I’m not alone in hoping that our summer this year will be just as textbook – the brand new barbecue that’s been sitting in a box in our shed since 2008 is certainly hoping to get an outing! When you’ve got kids around, the prospect of long, sunny days spent in the garden followed by balmy evenings with a glass of Pinot, while the little darlings sleep the dreamless sleep that always results from a day filled with fresh air frolicking, is quite simply blissful. When the sun shines, everyone is in a better mood – we’re more relaxed, more patient, more open to spontaneity and having fun – and what better combination is there when it comes to spending quality time with your children? As an added bonus, there are loads of things you and your little ones can do on good days without spending very much money – many of them without even leaving your own back garden! Read on for our top ten ‘fun in the sun’ activities…
Get the paddling pool out!
This is an absolute classic – I’m sure most parents can remember the rush to get that inflatable pool filled with icy water from the hosepipe at the first glimmer of sunshine and today’s children are no different! That said, there’s a whole host of fancy pools and accessories on the market these days; no more turning blue in the face for mums and dads thanks to the ready availability of foot pumps, no more sunburnt shoulders thanks to the invention of pools with built in UV sun shades and no more messing about with bin liners and Fairy Liquid to make water slides (or was that just me?!) – you can buy them ready made! Of course, most kids will be perfectly happy with a cheap and cheerful paddling pool – fill it with warm water to increase their playing time and avoid chills. The pool will warm up naturally if placed in full sun but if you do this, make sure your little ones are wearing appropriate sun protection and hats.
Have a picnic!
It is a fact universally acknowledged that food tastes better when eaten outdoors and wee ones will delight in spreading a rug on the grass and enjoying lunch al fresco. Of course, you can do this in your own back garden (why not invite their cuddly friends for a teddy bears’ picnic?) but for a real treat, pack a cool bag or basket full of their favourite sandwiches, fruit, crisps and drinks and take it to the beach or park – they’ll work up a great appetite running around and polish off the lot! Other brilliant picnic foods include pasta salads, cold cooked sausages, wedges of Spanish omelette or quiche, and skewers with chunks of cooked meat, tomatoes etc. For more ideas click here.
Set up an obstacle course!
This is great fun for slightly older children and also great exercise for kids and parents alike! You don’t need masses of space, or loads of expensive kit – the toys and sports equipment you already have will work just as well! If you’ve got a pop-up tunnel then great, but if not you can make a tunnel using plastic garden chairs; make a balancing game by drawing a line on paving stones with chalk and get your kids to walk along it; challenge them to do ‘keepy ups’ with a tennis racket and ball and use cushions or rolled up jumpers on the ground and get them to ’slalom’ in between them – use your imagination! And don’t forget the stopwatch to see who’s the fastest!
Have a painting party.
A gorgeous day is a great excuse to make the sort of mess best reserved for outside spaces that can be hosed down afterwards and children of all ages will have a whale of a time making giant works of art. Using washable poster paints, fill a number of large plastic tubs or trays with different colours and then place large pieces of paper on the ground – the reverse of a leftover roll of wallpaper is ideal. Make sure the kids are wearing old clothes – shorts and short sleeved t-shirts are best, and then let them go wild making hand and footprints or even printing with leaves, stones and other natural materials. When they’re done, peg the artworks on the line to dry while you rinse everyone down in the paddling pool!
Do some gardening!
Perfect for overcast days when it’s not warm enough for water play, a spot of gardening is a fun and educational way to spend an afternoon, and your child will love lending a hand as you get on with seasonal maintenance. It’s a good idea to invest in some child-sized garden tools such as a small plastic wheelbarrow, a trowel and rake and a little pair of gardening gloves – this way they can help you with most jobs from collecting fallen leaves and deadheading flowers to pulling up weeds and planting. Even very little ones will have a whale of a time with a spade, a watering can and a container with some fresh compost. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try growing some summer berries or vegetables – you’ll be surprised what you can get them to eat when they’ve grown and harvested it themselves!
Break out the bubbly……
…well, the bubbles! Tiny kids love watching them, big kids love popping them – bubbles really are good clean fun! ‘Manual’ bubble wands are as effective as anything but for a full-on bubblefest we definitely recommend Early Learning Centre’s Bubble Machine – just add the mixture and switch on for instant, plentiful bubbles that will have little ones squealing with delight.
Have a treasure hunt!
This is best suited to large, rambling gardens or even a public park if you’ve got the time and inclination to set it up beforehand. The idea itself is simple; hide a series of clues (try picture clues for younger children) that will eventually lead them to the treasure, which could be a sweet treat or a small toy each. Give them a map indicating roughly where each clue is hidden and then watch as they learn about teamwork while having fun into the bargain! This idea works brilliantly at birthday parties and you can even split the children into two groups and challenge them to reach the treasure before their competitors.
Set up an ice-cream factory!
This idea was inspired by my American surrogate mom who used to set out huge feasts of flavoured ice-cream plus bowls of M&Ms, nuts, sprinkles, wafers and chocolate along with a selection of ice cream sauces, and then allowed us to help ourselves! Definitely not for the faint-hearted (or for the very young, who might just overdose on all that sugar) this is a perfect post BBQ dessert option and children will love piling their plates high with colourful, delicious concoctions.
OK, so before you start freaking out at thoughts of sharing a tent with a load of creepy crawlies, we mean pretend camping! Pitch a tent on the lawn and set up camp for the day with books to read, songs to sing and games to play – even good old snakes and ladders is more fun when you get to play it outside! For older kids, you could light the barbecue as evening draws in and toast marshmallows as a special treat before bed.
Go on a mini-beast safari!
If the above-mentioned creepy crawlies make you shudder then this might be an activity best reserved for Dad – yep you’ve guessed it, time to get bug-hunting! Little ones have a natural curiosity about living things and most are far less squeamish than their parents. You can buy special kits on websites such as Amazon that have equipment for humanely catching and studying bugs or you can make your own. Kids will enjoy identifying the different creatures they can find, counting limbs and wings and learning more about what the insects eat, where they live and such. You could even get them to draw pictures of the bugs they find before releasing them back into the wild. If you really can’t tolerate creepy-crawlies, a nature safari is a good alternative – encourage your kids to explore, looking for interesting objects like weird-shaped rocks, unusual foliage or twigs and wildlife. As you walk, talk about what you see and answer their inevitable questions about the world around them!