Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Weaning and when to start

In honour of the fact that my niece is rapidly approaching weaning age, I thought I'd do a few articles on weaning. Over the next few weeks, I'll cover the topics:

When to start weaning

Today, let's look at when to start weaning.

The Department of Health and the World Health Organisation say that breast milk or formula will meet all your baby’s nutritional requirements until they are 6 months old. They both agree that solid foods should not be given before 17 weeks old (4 months).

The Department of Health advises that your baby should be able to sit up, want to chew and is putting things in their mouth and reaches and grabs accurately. 

The European Society for Paediatrics, Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) recommend weaning between 17 weeks and 26 weeks.

So, although there is a slight discrepancy in advise, general consensus is between 17 weeks and 26 weeks.

It's important to remember that all children are different. With my first child, I thought I would hold off weaning him until he was 6 months. But from an early age, he showed all the signs of wanting to be weaned. He would watch us as we ate and seemed very interested in food. His evening feeds were getting earlier and earlier as he was clearly hungry. I ended up weaning him at 17 weeks and he took to it like a duck to water.

With number 2, I thought I'd do the same thing. I started at 17 weeks and it was as if I was trying to poison him. I delayed a few weeks and everything turned out fine.

Don’t leave weaning too long after 6 months as there is a window of opportunity. Babies who are weaned too late can develop problems swallowing lumps and also, they will need more calories and iron than milk alone can provide. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Beware sugary drinks!

A study by the University of Glasgow has reported that people hugely underestimate the amount of sugar in drinks that are perceived to be 'healthy' such as juices and smoothies. This included not only fizzy drinks but also regular drinks such as apple juice and orange juice. They suggest that the average person in the UK consumes around 450 calories a day in (non alcoholic) drinks. That's amazing, that's roughly 2 chocolate bars worth of calories. 

I remember buying a bottle of 'water' in a garage once to discover that it was 'flavoured mineral water'. It was  made with mineral water and looked like mineral water but contained flavourings including sugar…so, er colourless squash then? Rather than 'water'.

On a serious note, we do have an epidemic of obesity in the UK, mainly affecting adults, but increasingly being seen in children. (Sadly with complications of obesity now being seen in children, like type 2 diabetes). Generally, the eating habits that you develop in childhood will continue into adulthood. So, if your child drinks water and eats healthily, they are likely to continue to do so as an adult. Equally, if they drink lots of sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks as a child, they will as an adult. I'm not saying that children should never have sugary drinks and treats, but that mostly they should eat healthily and have treats as treats.

Another thing to consider is their teeth. Brushing twice a day is great, but their diet also contributes to dental health. There is an increasing epidemic of dental decay in children (especially in Scotland, where the research was done.) Sugary drinks are among the worst culprits, along with sweets, particularly those that you suck. Once you have your second set of teeth, that's it, there are no more.

So, as Dr Seuss says "Don't gobble junk like Billy Billings. They say his teeth have fifty fillings!"

And don't be a sop, drink water instead of juice or squash or pop….

Friday, April 6, 2012

In praise of reward charts

When bringing up children, parents quickly realise that the maxim 'reward good behaviour and ignore bad' only goes so far. Apart from anything children need to be told that bad behaviour IS bad behaviour, it's not as if they're born knowing. So, inspired by supernanny, I have frequently fallen to the reward chart to try and improve my children's behaviour.

A few weeks ago, my 3 year old was quite unwell for a few days with high temperatures. He had to have 3 days off school and lay either asleep or languidly watching the TV. When he was well enough to go back to school he was much improved, but not his normal self. He had tantrums and generally his behaviour wasn't great.

Time to pull out another reward chart. My reward charts are generally quite simple and I let him choose what theme he wants. This time it was 'rockets' so we drew a big moon with 7 rockets surrounding it. Each rocket had to get 6 stars to reach the moon. So 6 stars and then he can have a reward (normally a couple of sweets). I have to say I arrange it so that he can generally get one reward a day. Reward charts don't have to be pictures on paper, we once had a reward 'treasure chest' that we had to put 'treasures' in.

You can use reward charts for specific things such as 'keeping your room tidy', 'brushing your teeth', 'getting dressed by yourself'. But I also find them useful just for 'good behaviour' i.e. no tantrums and no snatching toys from your younger brother. That way, I am constantly reminding him what is considered good behaviour. So, a star for eating your breakfast nicely (and behaving well around that time), a star for eating lunch and dinner nicely, a star for behaving well at bath time and another for going to bed nicely. Plus a bonus star for 'something that I want to reward', generally being nice to his brother. (Not at all contrived!)

Supernanny says that you can also take away stars for bad behaviour. I sometimes threaten it, but rarely do, perhaps my children are a little young for that.

The main problem that I have with star charts is finishing them. After a few days, we all seem to get a bit bored of them and forget to stick the stars down. But that must be a good sign that whatever bad behaviour was the issue is now resolved. I think they're really effective. And if all else fails, as a friend recently joked, you can always roll them up and use them to swat your child...

Check out what super nanny has to say on reward charts.