Missed our Wednesday Lunch Club with nutritionist Julie Clark? Don’t worry, you can read all of the expert advice she shared here.
Every week at Mother&Baby we bring you the Wednesday Lunch Club – a chance to get brilliant advice for your parenting questions from a top expert. This week, nutritionist Julie Clark was on standby to answer your questions.
The author of Baby Led Weaning Step by Step, Julie has been a registered nutritionist for over a decade. Through her business, Spring Nutrition, Julie works closely with women and children as well as running a number of both pre- and post-natal courses.
If you missed the chat, here’s what happened…
I want to bring my baby up as a vegetarian as both my partner and I are. But will she get enough vitamins/nutrients? I want to make she's healthy but don't really know what I'm doing as she's my first child.
Julie: There’s no reason why you can't bring your baby up as a vegetarian especially as you and your partner are. Make good use of quality vegetable proteins and combine with grains to ensure a good intake of all the amino acids. For example a mild chickpea curry with spinach and rice would give a good source of iron as well as the right amount of protein.
I would recommend you get a good book, there are a number about raising a vegetarian. All the same applies if you were weaning a non-vegetarian but you just need to ensure that you have sufficient iron (which you can source from foods such as dried apricots, spinach etc) with good protein (beans, pulses, seeds, nuts, tofu etc). With seeds and nuts you can use these in ground or butter form until your baby is three years old.
When should I start weaning my baby? He's five months at the moment but it seems like milk isn't enough for him anymore.
Julie: Your baby is making all of the right noises to start weaning soon. The recommended age for weaning is six months and this is because we know from studies that this is the best age in terms of digestive function and development. However, babies are all different and some may be ready a couple of weeks before. It is very common for babies to seem unsettled at this age and it may feel like the milk feeds are not enough.
Keep on feeding milk as needed and then check that your baby is really ready. Is he able to hold his head up? Can he sit almost unsupported? Is he showing a real interest in food? Has he tried to grab what you’re eating? These are all signs to look out for.
I have a 9-month-old boy. He started solids at five and a half months and is now eating mainly what we eat! For the last few weeks or so he just hates eating, doesn't open his mouth and hates being put on the high chair, I give him his favourite foods like yoghurt or banana and he's still fussy and cries. We try to distract him with toys and songs but this doesn’t work and his intake has gone down. What should I do?
Julie: He may simply be teething or getting frustrated with the transition to finger foods. He will not starve himself so stay calm and if he eats he eats and if he doesn't then he doesn't need it.
My little boy is cows milk protein intolerant and isn't gaining weight very well – he’s dropped from the 98th centile at birth to the 50th now at 12 weeks. Would I be better weaning him at 17 weeks rather than waiting until six months to get more calories into him?
Julie: Although he has dropped to the 50th percentile this is still a great weight so I would not be too concerned at the moment. He is still very young so give him time to balance out. The biggest issue with weaning before six months is that there is a risk of triggering more allergies. I would always recommend waiting until a baby is at least five months before considering weaning (unless there are other factors involved around the babies health).
My son has an allergy to milk or lactose, yet to be confirmed by paediatrician. He's started weaning, enjoying fruit and vegetable puree but struggling to find cereals that he can have. Any suggestions?
Julie: Until you have a confirmed diagnosis you will need to avoid all milk products. Cereals should be fine and you can use your breast milk or formula milk with water. Depending on his age you can also use dairy alternatives like oat milk. Porridge is a good option.
My son is 14 weeks old and has had feeding problems since birth. He was tongue tied but despite having this fixed still has difficulty. He is currently taking ranitidine for reflux and we are trialing a cow's milk protein free formula under the supervision of a paediatrician. Feeding has been very stressful and traumatic for us all and I cannot wait until he is on solids. Would you still advise waiting until the recommended six months to wean him?
Julie: Reflux can often be traced back to stress before or during pregnancy, C-section delivery, medications given early on and lots more. I find that many reflux babies have issues with standard formula milk so its good that you are getting some help here. Some probiotics would usually be my recommendation.
Relfux babies tend to take very well to baby led weaning as they can in control of how much, what food and how long they take. A baby with reflux has a very unhappy digestive system so early weaning is not usually a good idea.
My son is 12 weeks old and he seems to be really hungry. Is it too early to try baby rice?
Julie: As a nutritionist I really do not like baby rice. It’s completely devoid of any nutrients. The best food for a baby is breast or formula milk. It is very usual for babies to seem hungry, if you are breastfeeding attend a support group and make sure your latch is correct. If you are bottle-feeding then make sure you have the right number of scoops. Remember all babies are different so be guided by what your baby needs. There are hungry option milks on the market or if you are breastfeeding you must make sure your diet is good.
I have just had my third son and I understand that we won't start the weaning process until he is six months old. I have two older sons (15 and 11) and they were weaned much earlier and I just wondered why the age has increased. My baby is a very hungry, breastfed baby and I don't know how breast milk alone will be enough for him for so long as my other two were more than ready.
Julie: The weaning age was changed in 2003 after the WHO recommended after a huge study that babies be exclusively breast fed for the first six months. We also know that a babies digestive system is not really ready until they are six months old to process solid foods.
Things have changed – we used to lay babies on their front! Breast milk is an amazing food, and it actually has all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six to 12 months. Make sure that your diet is as good as it can be as this will help keep your little one satisfied. The weaning age of four months was in fact born out of the food manufacturing companies post war and woman having to work, it wasn't necessarily linked to the best needs of the baby. If your baby is really showing all the signs at five months you can introduce fruits and vegetables.
My baby isn't ready to wean yet, she is only four and a half months old, but she is my first and I have no idea what to do. What would you recommend being her first food? I wanted her to have her first food on Christmas day to join in but don't know what to start her on.
Julie: There’s absolutely no reason why she can't join in at Christmas. If you are going down the baby-led weaning route then she can have any of the food from the turkey to the potatoes and vegetables. Avoid the gravy and any trimmings. It sounds like you could do with a copy of my book for Christmas!
Before starting making sure she is ready, look for the signs. Is this watching you, sitting up almost unsupported, has she tried to grab some food from you. This happens around the five-month mark. A couple of weeks before Christmas sit her up with you when you eat and give her a beaker and spoon to play with. As you get close to Christmas give her some simple foods to try such as banana.