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. 

How long should my baby’s mealtime last?

Baby’s mealtimes can be a stressful part of the day, but it can also be lots of fun and a chance to share some learning with your baby. 

How long does my baby need to eat a meal? 

It’s important your baby has time to experiment with their food, to squish and squeeze, as well as taste everything they want to. Do not rush them through their meals, or force them to sit at the table for longer than they need.

If you get impatient waiting for them to finish their food, perhaps try eating together so you are occupied with your own meal, and some of the pressure is removed from your baby’s eating pattern. 

At 6-9 months 10-15 minutes is enough for most babies to sit in one place. For most babies 20 minutes would be the maximum they can sit happily in one place. 

Signs your baby has had enough food

If you’re spoon feeding:

  • Your baby will no longer open their mouth
  • They may turn their head away from the spoon
  • Push the plate or spoon away

If you’re feeding with finger foods:

  • Throw the food on the floor
  • Play with the food, and no longer feed themselves

NEVER force feed your baby

It’s really important to respect your baby’s decision not to eat any more at any given meal. We all go through times when our appetite is reduced, and this is especially true for babies.

Try not to worry if your baby eats less for a week or so, as long as they are happy in themselves and everything else seems normal, trust your little human being to know when they are hungry, and when they are full.

We run regular Baby Nutrition & Weaning classes where you can ask Anna, our registered Nutritional Therapist any questions to do with your baby’s diet, mealtimes or weaning support. Private group classes are also available at your home with a group of friends. Ask us for details. 

Does my baby need follow on milk?

If your baby is around 6 months you might wonder if you need a follow on milk which you see advertised. Anna, our Baby Weaning expert explains why it’s not necessary. 

Should I change my baby to a follow on milk?

There are several follow on formula milks available in supermarkets so you may be wondering whether you need to make a change to your baby’s feeding. Here is the low down….

If you’re formula feeding before 6 months

Basically if you have a formula which your baby is happy to drink, there is no reason to make a change once you hit 6 months. Follow on milks normally have higher levels on protein and some vitamins and minerals but since your baby will be eating from 6 months they will start to get nutrients from solid food. It is better to get your baby used to solid food rather than rely on nutrients from milk.

Follow on milk is only created because there are strict advertising restrictions on newborn formula products. This means the companies needed to create a follow on milk which they are able to advertise so you get familiar with the brand name.

If you’re breastfeeding

There is no need to switch to formula once you get to 6 months if you’re happy to continue feeding your baby breastmilk. It’s the best, most nutritionally complete food for babies.

What about hungry baby formulas?

Some formulas are advertised to parents of hungry babies.  These brands generally contain more casein (protein in the cows milk) than whey, and casein is harder for babies to digest.

There is no evidence that babies settle better or sleep longer when fed this type of formula and it may cause digestive issues for your baby.

Want to know more about starting solid foods with your baby? Come to our next Baby Nutrition & Weaning class – it’s run by Anna, our registered Nutritional Therapist and it’s packed with information so you feel confident to start weaning your baby on solid foods.


Why is my child a fussy eater? 7 reasons your child may be a food refuser

Anna, our registered Nutritional Therapist, looks at some reasons for fussy eating in children. Anna works with children and women in Bristol or via Skype. 

There may be aspects of your child’s diet which can influence their attitude to food, or there might be things to consider about your expectations and attitudes. Here are some potential reasons for you to consider why they may be a fussy eater. If you’d like a 1:1 consultation for your diet or for your child please let us know and set up a free 15 minute appointment

  1. Nutrient deficiency – zinc

When our bodies are low in zinc, it affects the appetite and taste buds. Imagine if food tastes very bland to a child a meal time isn’t very appealing. Your child may have lost their appetite if they aren’t getting enough zinc in the diet.

How you can help:

Including zinc rich foods in the diet can help to address this, or if very low taking a supplement may help. (Do not take zinc for long periods of time as it can interfere with other minerals). Zinc rich foods are in seafood, red meat, green leafy veg, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, brown rice, lentils, pulses, wholegrains, eggs).

  1. Nutrient deficiency – iron

A lack of iron in the diet can lead to fatigue and low appetite. It can also lead to feelings of nausea which could put your child off their food.

How you can help:

Iron can be found in red meat, fish, green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, pulses (e.g. lentils, chickpeas, beans), wholemeal bread, sweet potato and dried fruits. If your child doesn’t eat any of these foods consider a supplement

  1. Unbalanced gut microflora – gut disbiosis

We need the bugs in our gut to help us digest food, so if the balance gets upset you may find that bowel function is altered or appetite changes. Taking antibiotics can wipe out large numbers of good bacteria, so can times of stress for your child (e.g. starting a new nursery, change in routine, or starting school) as well as eating a diet high in processed foods.

How you can help:

Consider a probiotic supplement. Food based probiotics are sauerkraut, kefir (fermented milk, or water) but as these are all ‘an acquired taste’ your child with a limited palate may not accept these new foods! Probiotics can be added to cold food or drink and are pretty tasteless.

  1. Food intolerance

If your child refuses to eat certain foods it’s possible their body is telling them it doesn’t feel right when they eat this type of meal.

How you can help:

Complete a diet diary to look at what your child eats over a week, and track any other symptoms they have. Consider seeing a nutritional therapist to review your child’s diet and manage any food sensitives. Do not cut out food groups without considering how to replace the nutrients from other sources.

  1. Constipation

If your child is very full they will not feel like adding to their blocked up intestines. We should all pass a bowel movement at least once a day, ideally 2-3 times. They may need more fibre if they struggle on the toilet regularly. Consider a probiotic as well to correct the balance of bacteria.

How you can help:

Ensure your child is eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. If they won’t eat these think about ways to sneakily increase the fibre (vegetables in cakes, smoothies, soups, hidden veg pasta souce) Look at the ERIC website for more information about constipation.  Consider a probiotic as well to correct the balance of bacteria.

  1. Control

Children need to feel some control over their lives, and this need starts to grow and expand as they do. They need some control over what they wear, their activities and their food. Sometimes our little ones have very limited control over their environment, routine or even play, so the one thing they can do is refuse food to show some control over their own body.

How you can help:

Allow your child some choice within healthy limits. Provide a choice of food at each mealtime, perhaps with one thing you know they like and some other new items. If you can, get them to join in food preparation so they can help choose veg at the supermarket. Depending on their age perhaps they can help you chop soft veg as you cook. Ask them whether they want carrots or broccoli for dinner tonight, would they prefer a banana or orange for pudding?

  1. Wanting to be grown up

Children may want to show how they are separate from you as their care givers as they get older. They may decide they no longer eat meat, or they don’t like a routine family favourite pudding. This is a normal part of growing up to help them separate from you and allows their growing independence.

How you can help:

Try not to take it personally if your child no longer shares the same food attitudes as you, and see this stage as a normal part of their development.

If you’d like a 1:1 consultation for your diet or for your child please let us know and set up a free 15 minute appointment

Baby Circle

Baby brain

‘Baby brain’ is what we say mothers get when they are tired, forgetful can’t cope with the fast pace of society. It’s seen as a negative thing, perhaps because we live in a society where the values of science, maths and logic are valued above everything else. We can choose to see this period of our lives where we are experiencing such a huge change in a positive way too, you are gaining so many new aspects to your personal development.

What is baby brain?

The oxytocin released when you have a child changes the structure and chemistry of your brain. You are physically different. Whilst many of the physical changes can be seen, there are also these chemical changes in the brain.

Through this surge in oxytocin mothers in their postpartum period have heightened senses. They are better at reading non-verbal signs and show better empathy – all very important for new mums to help connect with and protect their newborn.

Blame it on the baby brain

Don’t allow the cultural messages telling you ‘baby brain’ is a bad thing make you feel you’ve lost something, you have gained a great deal too!

Lots of mothers find after having a baby they have changed priorities; things that were important before no longer seem so essential. This can be very disorientating, and some mums feel a bit lost, and they don’t know who they are anymore. Your brain is actually different which can be disorientating. This is on top of having to learn new skills to care for your baby.

Developing as a mother

As a mother, you have to embrace a whole new set of strengths, and perhaps let go of some aspects of yourself that you have always valued. It doesn’t mean you can’t go back to that high powered job, or enjoy scientific work, but just accepting some new strengths into yourself, and valuing this time in your life.

How to support yourself as a mother

With all this going on you need to find a way to look after yourself so you can look after your baby.

When you have a time of depletion and feel you need some nurturing, a simple checklist can become your reminder, whether it’s a cuppa with a friend, a massage or reading a book. Take minute now to write down some nurturing things, places, or people that help you.  It’s important to keep yourself filled up. Have a think about what really makes you tick, what you could not do without, what builds you up and helps you feel whole again. 

If you’d like a holistic treatment to support yourself contact us for an appointment with Lindsay or Jane. email info@the-gentle-touch.com or via the contact page


Is your child too clean? The role of bacteria in children’s gut health

Tips on how to influence and support your children’s gut health by our registered nutritional therapist Anna. Anna works with families including children to identify the optimal diet for individual health. 

Are you always using antibacterial handwash, sanitising your children’s hands at the park or bleaching away the bacteria in your kitchen? You might be thinking it’s the only way to fight off infections and keep your children safe.

Hygiene hypothesis

However, more studies are now linking the way we clean ourselves (sometimes a little obsessively) and the rise in childhood conditions such as asthma, eczema, food allergies and hay fever. The ‘hygiene hypothesis’ means our children are growing up in an overly sanitised world today and they are too clean. Without small challenges to the immune system during early childhood, the immune system doesn’t learn to respond to antigens. This means it may go into overdrive when it meets gluten, peanuts or pollen.

The best way to help your child’s immune system is to let them get a bit more dirty. This means playing in the dirt, cuddling the dog, exploring the garden. It will help if you allow these small challenges to the immune system to be part of their life.

When we use antibacterial handwash or bleach our kitchen surfaces we kill off ALL the bacteria, good and bad. 95% of the world’s bacteria are not harmful to us. Removing all the bugs leaves room for the most pathogenic (bad) bugs to quickly take hold. We only need to reduce bacteria in our cleaning, not remove it all completely. Washing up with hot soapy water is sufficient. 

When you definitely DO need the anti-bacterial support

If you’re dealing with a sickness bug, or poo (child’s or animals) then it is definitely worth ensuring your hands are super clean.  Hand sanitiser, hot washing cycle in the machine and anti-bacterial spray are all useful in this instance.

Diversity in gut bacteria is important

The diversity of bugs in our gut is what keeps us healthy. We need lots of different types of bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites to keep us healthy and our immune system strong. Diversity of microbes comes from eating a varied diet, rich in fibre, lots of vegetables and plenty of time in nature playing freely.

How to get help for your family

If you or your children have allergies, asthma or eczema do get in touch to see how Anna could support your family through nutritional therapy. Addressing the diet and any underlying gut issues can have huge impact on these common conditions. Anna offers a free 15 minute consultation – email to book a slot to speak to her – info@the-gentle-touch.com