Why your weaning baby needs to eat fat

Your baby needs to eat fat, but we are conditioned to be a bit scared of dietary fats. The low fat diet is really one of the worst dieting fads to have affected us in the western world. Why?

Since the introduction of low fat foods we have had an influx of high sugar, additives and flavourings into our diets. To make low fat foods taste nice they are often ‘ultra processed’, and we have to put additives in including salt, sugar and flavourings. Low fat foods are not necessarily lower in calories, because of the added sugars.

At the same time as we’ve cut out fat we’ve had a huge rise in chronic health conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular conditions, and diabetes.

So why do we need to eat fat?

  • When we eat fat, our body sends out a hormone called ‘leptin’ which send a message to the brain telling us we’ve had enough food for now, and to stop eating. So eating fats helps us manage satiety (when we feel full).
  • Some vitamins are fat soluble so when people have a very low fat diet they may struggle to absorb vitamin A, D, E and K.
  • We also need fats for all the cells in our body as they are coated in fats.
  • Healthy fats support great looking skin and hair too

What fats should babies avoid?

Trans fats – Babies and toddlers do not need trans fats (e.g. margarine). You may also see this as ‘partially hydrogenated’ on packets. This kind of fat has been modified to be solid at room temperature and lengthens the shelf life of products in which it is used. When we eat a lot of trans fats there is an increased risk of systemic inflammation, coronary heart disease, and diabetes.

There is some controversy about saturated fats and how much we should eat. The UK Government recommends men have no more than 30g per day, and women 20g per day, but it’s definitely about the quality of what you eat, and what else you’re eating with it. There are no set guidelines for babies and their saturated fats as they still get a lot from milk.

What are healthy fats for a baby / toddler?

Breastmilk – high in fats (around 60%) for a good reason and it has just the right mix of saturated fats and cholesterol, which are essential to the development of your baby, especially their brain.

Butter and cheese – organic is best, but any butter is better than margarine which is high in trans fats.

Coconut oil – has anti-inflammatory properties and supports a healthy gut because it includes lauric acid which is found in breastmilk and fights off viruses.

Monounsaturated fats help protect our hearts and can be found in plants like olive oil, avocados and nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts and peanuts. 

Oily fish – Omega 3 fats are rich in fish from the SMASH acronym (Salmon (wild), Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring). These smaller fish have lower levels of mercury than big fish like tuna. If you’re vegan consider a vegan algae based supplement for this essential nutrient.

Meat and eggs – if you eat meat some good quality meat can be an excellent source of protein and fats for your growing baby. Eggs are easy to include in their diets through pancakes, omelettes, as well as scrambled, dippy, or poached!

If you’d like some specific advice about your child’s diet get in touch with Anna, our registered Nutritional Therapist in Bristol working with families on healthy diets. Anna will run an analysis of your child’s diet before the consultation, and then ask detailed health assessment questions to get a picture of your child’s health. Together you then come up with some healthy additions to your family mealtimes to support optimal health. Free 15 minute consultations are available to see if you’d like to work together.

Baby Sleeping, yellow hat

Baby Sleep – Frequent waking – why does my baby wake so often?

We know that frequent waking is one of the major issues parents have around baby sleep, so here is our summary of why babies wake up so much, and how to minimise your effort when they do wake during the night.

Babies sleep cycle – shorter than adults

Babies in the first 6 months have a sleep cycle of only 45 minutes, where as adults sleep in phases of 90 minutes. This means they become alert more often than we do throughout the night. Babies begin with about 20 minutes of REM, and during this stage they can be easily woken.

They then have about 20 minutes of non REM or quiet sleep. During this time they are in a deeper sleep and less able to be woken up. If nothing alerts them they then may pass into another sleep cycle. However, they frequently do wake up and call out for us.

Why does my baby wake up?

The shorter sleep cycles mean there are a lot more chances your baby will wake up between their sleep cycles than you will. If they are hungry, cold, wet, or going through a developmental stage and needing more comfort they will need your help passing into the next stage of sleep.

This is an evolutionary protective factor, babies’ primitive brains are ensuring that any perceived danger is responded to. We also know that frequent waking is a protective factor against SIDS.

I feel so groggy when my baby wakes me

There is a chance you’ll be in a deep sleep when your baby wakes up. The sleep stage you are in when woken may impact you and your ability to deal with what’s going on.

For example, if you are woken during your REM sleep phase, you may still be in a dreamlike state and in the middle of processing some of your own stresses and anxieties from your day. It may leave you struggling to put your baby’s needs into perspective.

If woken in the late stage of deep sleep, you may feel shaky and confused, and find it hard to work out what your baby needs.

Tips for minimising your effort when baby wakes

  • Have nappies and wipes ready to go on the change table or in a convenient place near the bed.
  • Have a change of clothes for you and baby handy in case of sick, or milk spillage.
  • Have a clear plan with your partner about who is going to do what in the night, will they take over after an agreed time if baby not settled? Tell your partner what you might need them to do in the night and ensure you both know where things are.
  • Practice and learn how to feed lying down in the day so you can do this at night. (follow safe bed sharing advice).
  • Be kind to yourself and your partner, you’re in it together.
  • Breathe and relax. This will pass.
  • Remember your baby isn’t waking to annoy you, they need something and you have everything they need.
  • Don’t try and implement any changes to routines or new ways of doing things in the middle of the night, save this for the day or evening when you can think a bit better.

If you want to know more about what is normal for baby sleep, how to encourage good sleep and how to support yourself and family during times of great tiredness come to our next Sleep Support Seminar to learn more. Email us for more details or book on!

Reiki Treatments – Jane is now a qualified Reiki Practitioner

Our Holistic Therapist Jane is now a qualified Reiki practitioner and is a mobile therapist, visiting you at your home.

What is Reiki?

The formal definition of Reiki describes “a Japanese technique for relaxation and stress reduction that also promotes healing”.  It is often perceived as quite a profound, almost spiritual, process which harmonises and balances the flow of energy around the body, creating a feeling of deep relaxation and peace in the client.  This provides the perfect environment to support the body’s normal and natural healing processes, which are often hampered by excessive stress or tension (which many people suffer in daily life).

What happens during a treatment?

During a treatment the client remains fully clothed and the reiki practitioner will place their hands lightly on or around the client’s body, treating the whole person rather than specific areas – there is no massage or manipulation of the body involved so it is often an ideal therapy for those who perhaps do not like hands-on massage, or who cannot receive standard massage therapies for other reasons.

Why I love Reiki by Jane – our qualified practitioner

“I personally wanted to study Reiki because, perhaps like a lot of people, I had heard some incredible stories about this technique from people who had either experienced or studied Reiki and, to be honest, I was a bit skeptical about it all and wanted to learn more for myself!  I also thought, if I then decided to learn Reiki, that it would complement the other massage therapies I currently offer – I’m very interested in the “holistic” and “whole body” aspects of therapy and I’m constantly looking for varied techniques that can help support clients in their general wellbeing.

It’s a very supportive technique

I can happily say now that I was absolutely blown away by learning Reiki!  I was fortunate enough to find a teacher who took a lot of time to explain and guide her trainees through the processes involved and, from the very first class, I realised that this was a very real and very supportive technique that I just had to learn! It has taken me over a year to gain my practitioner certificate (did I mention my teacher took her time?  Unlike some of the shorter day or weekend Reiki courses, we were all expected to study and fully embrace the Reiki principles, and then complete a series of case studies before being “released into the wild” with our certificates!).

It even helped my fear of flying!

I can definitely say now that Reiki has completely changed my life – and for the better!  As most Reiki practitioners will tell you, it becomes a way of life for those who learn it and it’s now something that I use every single day – from helping me to stay calm in stressful work situations; getting me relaxed and stopping my mind buzzing before I go to sleep at night (I have really bad insomnia!); and trying to alleviate headaches or cold symptoms – I’ve even used it to help reduce my fear of flying!!!

Give it a try and see what Reiki can do for you!

I personally think Reiki is an incredibly supportive modality for physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and can create a really deeply relaxed, almost meditative, state in the receiver.  It can help reduce stress levels, ease tension, and reduce headaches and insomnia – any quick search online will also bring up a number of additional benefits that people have experienced, but why not give it a try and see what it can do for you?”

Contact Jane on info@the-gentle-touch.com to book in a treatment.  Jane also offers holistic massage treatments, Indian Head massage and a rejuvenating face massage.

Should I give my baby food before or after milk feeds?

Many parents wonder about the right time of day to introduce solids to a baby, what is the best weaning schedule and how to fit food in with the milk feeds. Anna, our registered Nutritional Therapist, answers your weaning questions.

During the first few months of weaning your baby will still be relying on milk for their nutrients. The weaning schedule can be fairly relaxed. The initial elements of weaning are very much about playing with the food, testing and exploring texture, small and taste. This is such a fun adventure for little ones, and an exciting family milestone.

Offer food in between milk feeds

We suggest giving your baby food in between milk feeds so your baby is not too full of milk, but not too hungry. During the first few weeks your baby will not know that food can fill them up so they may be frustrated looking at food.  Think of the first few times offering food as an activity for your baby rather than a meal.

Allow 45-60 mins after a feed to offer your baby solid food.

We are not replacing any milk feeds at this time. By the time your baby is around 10 months they should be eating 3 meals a day with some snacks in between so there is plenty of time to ramp up to this weaning schedule. Don’t stress if you baby doesn’t take to food straight away, they will get there with patience.

When to offer first foods to your baby

Start offering food in the morning or mid-afternoon in between feeds. It isn’t advisable to offer solids for the first time right before a big sleep (e.g. night time) in case there are any digestive upsets or any allergic reactions.

If you have any questions about your baby’s weaning schedule or anything else about first foods you can join our Baby Nutrition & Weaning Facebook group to get Anna’s support with weaning.

Weaning classes in Bristol – If you’re interested in a comprehensive overview of weaning including how to start, when to give foods, what first foods will support your baby, as well as an overview of allergies and specific nutrients your baby needs come to a class. We run regular Baby Nutrition & Weaning workshops around Bristol – book online. 

Does my baby need iron supplements?

Anna, our Registered Nutritional Therapist works with babies and children’s health in Bristol

You may have heard that babies need to boost their iron levels, but most babies don’t need to take supplements.

Iron supplements shouldn’t be taken by anyone unless levels have been tested and a medical professional has recommended it. This is because it cannot be excreted from the body, and can be toxic at high levels.

Can you have too much iron?

Taking supplements can result in high levels of iron. Infectious bacteria also love to use it to grow inside us. Normally iron travels round the body accompanied by a transport protein, and if we have too much iron in our body then there isn’t enough of the transporter, then the bacteria like to feed on it, which can potentially lead to inflammation or infections.

Menstruating women excrete iron each month in their period so often have lower levels.

How do babies get iron?

Babies are born with iron stores which have crossed over from the placenta. Premature babies will have had less time for this transfer through the blood and so may have lower stores, it’s occasionally recommended premature babies need to take supplements.

After birth in the initial 6 months our ferritin stores decrease, but babies get iron from their milk. There is a small amount in breastmilk, very well absorbed, and a larger amount in formula which is not so well absorbed. Higher levels in formula may account for these babies being more constipated.

What iron rich foods can my baby eat?

Babies need more iron from around 6 months and there is a range of healthy foods you can include in their diet. The best source is organic liver, although most people don’t relish the idea of eating it!

There are two different types:

  • Heme-iron, found in meats, is more easily absorbed by the body.
  • Non-heme iron comes from plant sources like legumes, vegetables, and cereals. The absorption can be increased by eating vitamin C with these foods. Vitamin C is high in tomatoes, red pepper, cauliflower or fruits like oranges, strawberries or kiwi.

How to give iron rich foods to babies

Babies between 6-12 months should be able to get enough in their diet from breastmilk / formula and eating a range of foods:

  • Meat 2-3x a week
  • Fish 2-3x week
  • Pulses (lentils or beans) 2-3x a week
  • Eggs 3-4x a week
  • Green vegetables 5-6x a week

Avoid giving too much dairy at the same time as meat, fish or pulses. High levels of calcium can interfere with iron absorption.

It’s all about a balanced diet. If you’d like help reviewing what your child eats and working with a registered Nutritional Therapist to develop a balanced diet then contact Anna for a Children’s Nutrition appointment.

Has your baby lost their tongue thrust reflex?

What is the tongue thrust reflex and does your baby have one? Anna, our Baby Weaning expert and registered Nutritional Therapist takes a look.

Does this sound familiar? You are really keen to get going with weaning, so you make up some purees and get the camera ready, all excited to feed your baby. You put a spoonful in their mouth and they spit it all back out. And again!

If you’ve started weaning your baby and they are not able to swallow they may still be hanging on to a natural infant reflex. They might not be ready for weaning yet.

What is the tongue thrust reflex?

Babies are born with a natural infant reflex to spit things out from the mouth. As they feed from a nipple or teat the tongue comes out as they suck the milk. About 4-6 months in to their life this reflex becomes triggered further and further back in the mouth as they get older.

This is one of the signs they are ready for solid food.

Can I still wean a baby with a tongue thrust reflex?  

It’s a sign that your baby isn’t ready to start eating solid foods if they still have a strong reflex to spit things out. Try again in a few weeks. If this continues past 6 months then you may wish to speak to a health visitor about it. It will be frustrating for you trying to get food in, and also a strange experience for your baby too if you carry on trying to put food in their mouth before they are ready.

Weaning insights like this are all covered in our Baby Nutrition & Weaning classes – you can book a private class for you and group of friends or come to one of our public classes around Bristol. Anna is a registered Nutritional Therapist so you can trust her content is backed by the latest evidence about baby weaning and gut health.

Does My Baby Need Vitamin D?

We are learning more about the importance of vitamin D all the time through new research. Anna runs classes in Baby Weaning in Bristol which cover everything you need to know about baby nutrition. Bespoke nutrition consultations are available for the whole family to help you get the most from your diet. 

Anna, our registered Nutritional Therapist, explains the importance of vitamin D for babies and new mums.

How do we get vitamin D?

We make vitamin D in our skin using cholesterol when we come into contact with the sun. Since we don’t get much sun in this country we are only able to process it during the summer months (April-September). To enable our skin to make vitamin D the sun must be directly overhead, so in the middle of the day in summer, and any autumn or early spring sunshine doesn’t work as the sun is lower in the sky.

Allow your skin sometime in the sunshine with no sunscreen in the midday sun (only 15 mins, and don’t allow to burn). Babies can be taken into the sun for a few minutes before being covered up to allow them to build up some vitamin levels. Never let your baby burn in the sun.

Vitamin D in the diet

There are no foods which provide a good source of vitamin D. Some oily fish can provide a small amount, but this is never enough for what we need. Some food is fortified with it but this is normally D2 (see below).

If your baby has more than 500ml of formula then you don’t need to add any supplemental vitamins as these are included. If they drink less than this you can top up with a supplement.

Should I take vitamin D supplements?

We all need vitamin D for strong bones and teeth (it helps us use calcium from the diet). It’s also very important for our immune system health, so if your baby is constantly picking up infections it’s good to consider how to support the immune system. Since we can’t get any from the sun in the winter, or from our diet it’s recommended we take a supplement.

The NHS recommends all children from birth to age 5 take it every day. 

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so it gets stored in your body (whereas vitamin C and Bs are water soluble and get washed out each day). This means it is possible to take too much. However, for adults the levels of toxicity are around 10,000 IU which is way above what most people would every take.

What to look for in a supplement

Vitamin D should be in the form of D3 (Cholecalciferol) not D2 (Ergocalciferol). Look at the ingredients list to what is listed. We need D3 when it needs vitamin D, and we cannot process large amounts of D2. D2 is converted into D3, but some of the vitamin is lost in conversion. This means if you rely on fortified foods to get it, the packet may tell you one amount, but that isn’t what is actually absorbed by the body.

Does my vitamin D transfer to my baby through breastmilk?

Most multi-vitamins contain around 400 IU of vitamin D (or 10mcg). For large amounts of vitamin D to transfer via the breastmilk you’d need to be taking around 6000 IU! So if you’re exclusively breastfeeding your baby needs their own supplementation. 

For more specific dietary advice please contact Anna for an appointment  to start feeling great. 

massaging a baby's feet

How to get to know your newborn

In the first few days and months after your baby’s birth you may feel you don’t know how to handle your new member of the family. It can be overwhelming to feel the responsibility for another person and have no manual. Be kind to yourself during this period. Newborn babies are adjusting to the world while you are adjusting to becoming a parent. 

Everything can feel fragile and new. Try not to worry about the bigger picture, or planning too far into the future, just concentrate on getting to know your baby.. This will come with time, no-one should expect you to know what they want straight away or how they like to be held, you will figure this out together.

What the baby experts say

When people quote the baby ‘experts’ and what they tell you to do, we say to new mums that no-one knows your baby like you do. But actually even you don’t know everything straight away, parenting is a process of getting to know this new little bundle, and for them to get to know you back. It’s ok for you not to have all the answers.

It’s not a one size fits all with newborn babies. There are general things that all babies like and need. You will, over time, figure out their favourite holding positions, songs and how to comfort them. It’s a process of getting to know them.

How to get to know your newborn

  • Stay in your pajamas after the birth for at least 4 days. Rest as much as possible, feed lying down if you need to, keeping safe with the guidelines for shared beds.
  • Put off any non urgent jobs (e.g. vacuuming, tidying up, waiting on other people.)
  • Stay warm as possible with as much skin to skin as you can. Newborn babies have better regulation of their heart rate, blood pressure and temperature when they are close to you. 
  • Refuse any visitors and don’t feel bad about offending anyone who might be excited to come and visit. If the visit means more work for you then consider if they can wait for a few weeks.
  • Ask for help with cooking, cleaning, taking dog for walk and anything else that is offered from friends or family. If you don’t have anyone to help close by consider our Mother’s Help 


Six Tips For Settling Your Child Into School

When your young child doesn’t want to go to school it can cause stress for the whole family. Here are our top tips of things to try when drop off times get emotional.

1) Talk to them

Sounds simply right. We don’t mean ‘whats the matter’ and ‘why don’t you want to go in’ These questions are too big for an already confused child to answer. Nothing effective is ever a quick fix in parenting, these things may take some time to come out. Ask them some seemingly random questions like ‘who did you sit next to at lunch today’, ‘ who made you laugh today’ ‘ who is the loudest in your class’, or ‘ who is the child the teacher is always asking to sit still’.

Get a really good feel for how THEY feel their day is going. Once you build the dialogue and trust you can find out all sorts of stuff about what is happening.

2) Buy your child some ‘worry dolls’ 

If they are finding it hard to open up to you then perhaps they will talk to their worry dolls. The idea is they tell the dolls their worries and it helps them disappear.

3) Don’t get emotional

By all means sob your heart out around the corner, but if a child picks up that you are scared and anxious they sometimes they feel that too. Project confidence. You can say things like ‘ The teachers are here to look after you, if there is anything you want to talk about during the day, tell your teacher’

4) Talk to the teacher

Teachers should be empathetic that some children are finding it hard. They generally have plenty of strategies to try; jobs in class room, a buddy etc. This is your child, ensure you get the support you both need from the school.

5) Love bomb

Essentially if your child is unhappy about going to school due to the separation from you. Sometimes this will show at other times too, if you go out before their bedtime or leave them at the weekends. Perhaps your child is missing you. Love Bombing is all about spending quality 1-1 time with your child, on their terms, really making them know how much you love them, unconditionally.

6) Take time at bedtime to connect.

Linking in some of the points above, children often won’t open up to you until they feel connected to you. If you rush home from work, giving them the 3rd degree about their day then they probably won’t tell you. How many times have you heard ‘don’t know’ ‘can’t remember’ when you ask how their day has been. Bedtime is a great time to open up. Talk about other stuff over dinner, let them have a relaxing bath stories, then allow an additional 15 mins or so to chat. Obviously don’t force anything, but at the least you can just gently say ‘ you know, you can tell me anything, you can trust me, I love you’.

Give it time and repeat all of the above. It WILL happen and one day they will be skipping into school and enjoying it. 

How do you feel when your baby is crying?

It’s really important for baby’s brain development that you respond to your baby when they need you. If your baby is crying they are trying to tell you something. The only way he has to let you know he needs something is crying, so babies do cry a lot!

It can really trigger our internal anxiety to hear our baby cry (not to mention your boobs!) He needs to know you love him and he’s important. Babies cannot be spoiled with too many cuddles and human attention or contact. 

However, if you need the toilet, or you need to make a cup of tea it won’t damage him to leave him for a minute whilst you attend to your basic needs as well. 

Don’t leave your baby crying

We’re NOT talking about leaving your baby to cry for an extended period. There is a growing body of research about how leaving babies to cry can negatively impact their brain development.

BUT it’s ok if you can’t instantly respond to them when they express they need you. They will learn it was maybe scary or sad to be without you, but it is a good development for them to realise you always return with love. 

First babies are the only ones who get an instant parent after all, siblings who come along always have to wait for a few moments whilst you wipe bottoms, mop up spilled water, console a grazed knee or provide a snack to allow you to feed in peace for a few moments.

Look after yourself

Looking after your basic human needs (like ensuring you’ve got some water to drink and a snack whilst your feeding, or going to the toilet) is very important at a time when your life has turned upside down, and motherhood has hit you full on!

So, don’t feel guilty to take a few moments to stock up on snacks and a drink before you breastfeed, or go and have a wee when you need it. Just give your baby lots of cuddles on your return and talk to him about it as you reconnect.