Why do Babies Really Need Snacks? #InsideBabysBrain

*This is a collaborative post

When the babies started weaning, and we went down the baby led weaning route, we didn’t really think anything of it – it just seemed natural to us and we gave the children ‘finger food’ for all of their meals and snacks.

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But now, Kiddylicious have identified that most conversation about baby and child snacking is focussed on nutrition and appetite. No-one ever really talks about why snacks and finger foods are so great for a baby’s development from a psychological, sensory and physiological perspective. It’s all just about what they’re eating rather than why.

But playing with food and experimenting with flavour and texture helps a baby to develop their five senses, develop muscles and increase hand-eye coordination. The six-month stage is the critical time for all this development and also the time at when most parents will start to introduce solid foods and so, partnering with Dr. Jacqueline Harding, Kiddylicious have produced a downloadable guide and feature film to help parents learn about what their little ones are experiencing and the benefits of snacking with finger foods can have on a baby’s development, such as:

  • Improved head and neck control – this can help babies to safely swallow foods
  • Improved tongue control – this can help babies learn how to chew, swallow and move foods from side to side in their mouth
  • Jaw movement – enabling babies to suck, bite and munch on foods, even without teeth
  • Taste-bud development – allowing them to recognise which flavours they like and dislike (essential for exploration and food acceptance)
  • Hand-eye co-ordination – helping them to learn how to self-feed
  • Practice using all the mouth, lip and jaw muscles – helps oral development and speech

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It’s not surprising, really, that almost half of parents see snacking as a negative food habit – even when talking about healthy snacks – and that they really just focus on meal times. However, the simple process of eating snacks by themselves can be really beneficial for a child, as well as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

This new research from Kiddylicious really reinforces the reasons we loved baby led weaning, and have always been happy to give the children healthy snacks in between meals. One thing we always found so important was to offer the children as much of a variety as possible and Kiddylicious have some great tips for discovering tastes, textures and also simply learning to eat:

  • The more the merrier! Research shows us that children like foods they are familiar with and are regularly exposed to, so that is a great reason to offer plenty of variety to ensure they build a  liking for a variety of foods; try gentle textures and mild flavours at first like our “melt in the mouth” wafers and puffs
  • Experiment with fruits and vegetables – a robust stick of cucumber is great with its cold, slimy texture to soothe sore gums and bananas are always a popular sweet treat
  • Let your baby try out their “pincer grip” as soon as they can. They will start to bring food (and anything they can get their little hands on) up to their mouths.
  • Enjoy the whole experience, it takes a fair bit of practice to perfect self-feeding, and baby won’t always be on target so don’t worry about any mess!

It goes without saying, always be at your baby’s side as they experiment with finger foods – never leave them alone. Also, seek advice from your health visitor and GP about allergies or food intolerance and nutrition as each baby has different individual needs. But, for us, this style worked really well and it’s amazing to hear that there is actually research to now back up why finger foods are such a positive thing for a child’s development.

You can find out more about this great research on the Kiddylicious website and can also download the handy guide – and make sure you watch the fun feature film below:

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10 Reasons I Loved Baby Led Weaning – Two Years On

One of decisions that we made as parents was to do baby led weaning with LP and Little Man. It’s a decision that was easy to make and that I have been glad of ever since. It was part of the reason I started blogging and something I have blogged about regularly since but not since Little Man turned one. So I thought it was time to give a little update on how baby led weaning worked for us.

Little Man is 9 Months Old

Here are 10 reasons why I loved baby led weaning:

It’s free – Baby led weaning fitted so effortlessly into our lives that we didn’t need to buy any extra food for the first few months and we only really bought extra exotic fruit or foods that we didn’t eat usually to see what the children would think of them. We didn’t have to buy any baby food products unless we wanted to.

It’s easy – As with the above, baby led weaning fitted so easily into our lives. The children ate what we ate. We didn’t have to make purees or anything extra for them and the most we did was add cucumber and cucumber sticks to the side of a typical meal. Baby led weaning for us was a lazy choice – but a fantastic one.

Weaning - Plum

It’s convenient – The children didn’t have to eat something special in restaurants and shared our meals from the start until they were both over two – and then started having their own children’s meal. Wherever we went there was something for the children to eat and we didn’t have to pack special food or find some way to heat it up. The children just ate whatever was on offer.

How To Make People Feel Awkward When Out For A Meal with Small Children

It helps children make their own food choices – From the start of baby led weaning we offered the children a choice of foods on one plate – or their high chair tray at the start. They’d have what we were eating – bolognese for example – and so would have bolognese sauce, spaghetti, garlic bread, cheese and then veg sticks in front of them. They could explore the food, play with it and eat it but they had the option to eat which bits they wanted to eat. Even now, two years on, the children like to have the same food options as the adults and eat the things they want to eat. They have really varied tastes and love things like spicy curries, fajitas and stir fry.

It’s relaxed – From the start of baby led weaning we didn’t have to worry about how much they were eating, whether they’d eaten the right food groups or whether they were going to open their mouth for the next spoon of food. We put food in front of them and they ate it in their own time. Some meals were a success, others weren’t but we reminded ourselves constantly that food is fun until they’re one and by that point they were both eating a good meal three times a day. Before the age of one they still get all the nutrients they need from milk so food intake isn’t an issue.

Review: Ella's Kitchen New First Tastes and Weaning Guide!

It’s social – Baby led weaning lets children eat at the same time as their parents, without anyone’s food going cold. They can sit at the table with grown ups or other children and can participate fully in meals times – making happy noises and practising their sounds whilst eating. Baby led weaning helps children to learn about the social side of meal times and ever since LP has started weaning we have eaten together as a family as much as possible.

Meals Out - The Ordinary Moments

It’s a talking point – Whether we are at a friend’s house or out at a restaurant or cafe, people always comment on how well the children eat and have done since they were tiny. People are always amazed at seeing small babies eating proper food and it brings out curiosity in everyone. I used to love introducing strangers to the wonder of baby led weaning.

It made us laugh – LP and Little Man had a new taste face that they’d make each time they tried something new. It was the sweetest, cutest and funniest thing we had ever seen. As well as that, babies have their own techniques of getting food to their mouths and often Little Man’s hand movements would have us in hysterics. Baby led weaning is a funny business!

Review: Ikea Antilop Highchair

It was never boring – Cooking new things for the children to try, buying new exotic fruit or going to a posh restaurant when the children were a year old. Baby led weaning was never boring and helped us all to have new experiences. It was great seeing their reactions to different foods, working out their preferences and using those to try new things. It was an exciting time.

It was fun – Everyone knows that baby led weaning is messy but that doesn’t stop it being fun. The children loved exploring new foods and we loved watching their reactions. Once we’d got over the initial shock of just how messy it was we found it to be a really enjoyable experience – and the mess thankfully got less over time too! The children loved learning about food and we enjoyed it too.

Review: Ikea Antilop Highchair

If you want more tips or advice on baby led weaning check out our Top 10: Baby Led Weaning Tips post – it has my best advice for anyone looking to start baby led weaning.

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Review: Ikea Antilop Highchair

Before anyone asks, I haven’t been paid to write this review, I bought the highchair myself and I love it. Why am I reviewing it? No-one seems to believe the Ikea Antilop is as amazing as it is. No-one gives the Antilop a chance and yet as soon as anyone uses an Antilop they never look back. I would like people to stop spending huge amounts of money on highchairs and buy one that is incredibly good value and long lasting instead.

Antilop

The Ikea Antilop highchair comes as a seat unit, four push in legs, a removeable tray and waist belt. It’s really simple to put together and take apart again – to stick in the car to take somewhere or for storage. The removeable tray and seat unit are each made of one moulded piece of plastic so no difficult nooks and crannies to clean. Both wipe down easily and the whole seat unit even fits on the bottom rack in a dishwasher – This has been useful at times when we’ve given LP and LM particularly staining food – tomato based sauces for example. We have also been known to hose down the seat unit outside in the summer and leave it in the sun to dry – You cannot get an easier to clean highchair.

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The waist strap on the highchair has been fine to keep our two children in place although when LP was small she needed extra padding around her as she was so dinky and the proportions of the Antilop make it suitable well into toddlerhood. Ikea do sell a cushion to pad out the Antilop    but after using it briefly we started to stick a cushion behind her and it worked just as well! LM is a lot more robust as a baby and is happy sitting in the Antilop without any padding.

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The only slight downside to the Ikea Antilop is that it doesn’t fold flat but the legs do come off for ease of storage. It can also be used without the tray and pushed right up to the table. The Antilop is a hugely versatile highchair that does exactly what you need from a highchair – Somewhere for your child to sit and eat safely and something that is easy to clean. It doesn’t have any gimmicks – no storage compartments, no removeable tray compartments, no recline features, doesn’t turn into a bouncer, doesn’t seat a newborn non eating baby and doesn’t last a baby until adulthood. But to be honest, what do you need a highchair for?

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Buy the Ikea Antilop. If you don’t you’ll end up buying a highchair with padding and before your child is a year old you’ll be cursing the food stuck in the cushioned seat for the third time that day and hundredth time that week. You’ll wonder why you bought a highchair that all food sticks in the gaps of, that has padding which is wipe clean only and not machine washable or that you have to machine wash every single week to keep it clean. If by this point you haven’t given in and bought an Ikea Antilop anyway then you have more perseverance than most!

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The Ikea Antilop is £16 including the tray. Buy it, try it and I promise you’ll love it. If you don’t, it’s only £16! Better that than spending £100 on a highchair you buy when your child is 3 months old to find out when they actually start eating you hate every single feature of the highchair.

If you can’t get to Ikea then you are able to buy online with Ikea for a hefty delivery change or even from Amazon with inflated prices.

Disclosure: I bought the highchair, I wrote the review. As always, this review is my own honest opinion.

Weaning Adventures from Little Pink Teacup – Guest Post

This week is the final installment in my Baby Led Weaning series and it comes from Clare over at Little Pink Teacup. Clare has to be one of my closest blogging chums and as we have fairly similar aged children I can relate a lot of what she blogs about. Go and look at her blog or find her on Twitter too @Belledidyoutell.

I am the proud weaner (is that a word? Microsoft says no…) of two babies and I wear my invisible mummy badge with pride because as any mama (or papa) knows, it ain’t as easy as it looks in them picture books!

My eldest, Moo (now three and a half), weaned early. She suffered from a very severe type of reflux that caused her to fit when it struck. It was upsetting and traumatic so as soon as she hit that four month mark I was there, armed with a Bumbo, heat-sensitive spoon and home-made apple puree!

She took to it like a duck to water and yummed it up. I was so glad when her reflux died out into nothingness. My husband’s cousin had not long had a baby and she had done all the things that at the time were considered ‘new-agey’ and ‘hipsterish’ like hypnobirthing, water birthing and baby led weaning. I remember being pregnant and she’d pop over from Jersey and rave for hours about pregnancy yoga, birth plans and the dreaded weaning. To be honest, I thought the idea of baby led weaning was all a bit hippy-ish…

…until she hit six months and would physically wrestle the spoon of my lovingly-hand-prepared purée combos out of my hands. She was SO over being spoon fed now that she had figured out how to get her hand to her mouth and out again. So I did a spot of research and tentatively tested the waters with some carrot fingers.

We never looked back.

So naturally, when my second rolled around to the weaning stage I already had a very clear idea that baby-led was the way forward. Ha ha. He had other ideas. I tried him with foods at five and a half months as milk just didn’t seem to be enough. He wasn’t interested in either finger food or ‘mush’.

Three weeks later he finally started eating…but he wasn’t interested in feeding himself, he very much wanted the spoon treatment and would just ignore anything grab-able that I would place on his tray. I spent two tortuous weeks spoon-feeding that little monster, and if anyone thinks that traditional weaning is the ‘lazy’ way or the ‘safe’ way, I challenge you to pop round and take a look at the butternut squash stains in my carpet and hear about the backache I got from eating my (cold) dinners sat on the floor beside the Bumbo (my skinny Minnie children couldn’t sit in high chairs for ages).

Suddenly, one day he started to make grabs for the spoon, he’d snatch it and stuff it in his mouth (occasionally getting the right end, too)! Prising that thing off of him to re-load it with yet more brightly-coloured, fresh, home-blitzed gloopiness was like a battle that usually resulted in one or both of us crying.

Once again we started with baby carrots at dinnertime and it was the beginning of yet another beautiful relationship with BLW! At the moment I tend to help him with breakfast (baby porridge/muesli or yogurt) but lunch and dinner are baby led with our top favourites being clementines, carrots, parsnips and banana!

I’m really lucky to have two children who love their food and my best advice I could give for anyone just starting out on weaning would be to just not give up. Just keep trying, no baby will let themselves starve and the temptation to explore will grip them sooner or later!

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Thanks to Clare from such a lovely post – It’s great to hear from someone that has tried different weaning methods and found a way that worked in the end.

If you’d like to read more posts about Baby Led Weaning then you can see the full guest post series and more here.

The Battles and Joys of Having a Baby – Guest Post

This week’s Baby Led Weaning post comes from Suzie who can be found over at The Xenca Way – and she has a blog too! Suzie talks about her experiences of having her little boy, Harry. Suzie has even included the first video in the whole baby led weaning series – Thanks Suzie!

Harry is now nearly 7 months old and our whole feeding programme has been under criticism from my other half’s family. The battles have been with them not Harry who is a happy healthy little boy.

The first source of contention with the outlaws has been our decision to exclusively breastfeed from day 1. Harry has never had a bottle or formula. I am not anti-formula, it has its place for mums who can’t nurse for whatever reason (of which I know there are many) but for us, the free boobtender option has worked, and despite initial difficulties worked well.

The second source of contention has been the decision to use BLW (baby led weaning). From birth my mother in law has been desperate to feed Harry, whether it be a bottle or puree and I have refused – point blank refused, I have faced criticism about building a rod for my own back, to depriving my baby of normal foods, and to be honest it has driven me potty, but I am so glad I didn’t back down and wasn’t swayed in my opinion as BLW has been amazing.

For those who don’t know, rather than shovel puree mash into your baby’s mouth whether or not they want or need it from three months building up through various stages of lumpiness, and ice cube trays, cooking special little meals and spending hours portioning into the freezer (which might be your thing, and fab I am pleased for you; but to be honest I am far too busy (read lazy) to get into that and too frugal (read cheap skate) to buy jars from the supermarkets – have you seen the price of them and the sugar content?!) you just let them eat what you eat…

Waits for stunned silence….

Yep, exactly what you eat, with a few tweaks, cut out the salt when cooking and avoid things like honey but after that pretty much anything goes.

I explained this to my mother in law, and I sadly didn’t get stunning silence, but instead a tirade of how I was neglecting my baby with his first experiences of food. I politely and calmly explained that the breast-aurant was enough for Harry until 6 months and that food was for play until age 1, not substance and hoped eventually she would get it.

Fast forward and Harry hit six months, whilst my other mummy friends were complaining about the amount of time spent in the kitchen and warming ice cube trays up (though I did feel for the mum who lost her entire freezer stock with the power outages recently in Shropshire) I smiled to myself and waited. The HV fully supported our decision to wait as Harry was healthy and at 17 weeks 19lb 2 oz.

The mother in law at this point was apoplectic as friends with babies younger than Harry were eating jars of mush, and having met a friend of mine in the pub and watched how much he ate compared to Harry I was getting some serious ear-ache! But I still resisted.

Six months arrived – the magic day February 24th was here, we had seen the DVD on Baby Led Weaning via the HV bought the book and had attended first aid courses just in case. We had spent mealtimes over the last few weeks with Harry watching us from his high chair whilst we ate. The excitement was mounting and I put some of my salad on his plastic plate and waited tentatively…

Well none of it was swallowed though some went in his mouth, a fair bit went on the floor (which pleased the cats) and the bowl ended up on his head (note to self – just use tray in future) but the mealtime was stress free, it was calm, it was fun, and we ate our tea without too much issue. It took every ounce of my willpower not to pick the food up for him and hold it, but our first adventure taught me some valuable lessons.

The next meal time we tried toast, with cooled soup on the edges (homemade veg) cut into fingers, which disintegrated – so we went and toasted more and cut it into quarters. Harry loved this, he picked it up put it in his mouth and sucked the soup off, and I think actually swallowed some, again, stress free and no issues.

BLW Toast

What we weren’t prepared for was the tummy aches he had that night, we rang the HV and she said, wait a week and try again, and we did, this time success, no pain, and instead of worrying about how much Harry has or hasn’t eaten we ensure he has plenty of boob, after all that’s his main source of food until age 1, and see what he would like.

We tend not to offer food at every meal, but wait now for the cues that he would like something (like pinching it off our plates), if asleep we do not wake him for meals, and let him be. The whole process is so relaxed and no demented aeroplanes and shovelling in to be seen.

BLw jelly

We have discovered he loves celery much to my amusement as the other half hates it, cooked carrot, raw pear, raw apple, peppers raw and cooked, toast, and veg soup. The best thing is that we can take him anywhere and he eats what we eat. We went to the pub for lunch, they have a “Tapas” menu for children (chunks of bread, cheese, cucumber, carrot, fruit, 3 items for £1.20) and we got our meals and Harrys Tapas, and he was happy and content right the way through.

I love that we do not have to think about warming jars, feeding Harry before we eat, preparing ice cube trays or mixing bottles and throwing them out after 2 hours?!? (It’s all alien to me). We can go out on a whim and not have to rush back home to a puree snack, or find an open supermarket, as Harry simply eats what we have, and do you know the best bit? We have a convert……, my Mum in Law was spotted giving Harry chunks of white fish to eat himself the other day…….. At that point I really did smile. Though I do need to ensure that the packs of buttons, rusks, and rich tea biscuits don’t find their way into his hands anytime soon!

A huge thank you to Donna for encouraging me to write this post, hope you enjoy the pictures and the clips of Harry exploring food. If you decide to go along the baby led weaning route, I can recommend the Baby Led Weaning Book. I would also recommend a plastic table cloth for the floor under the highchair unless you have wooden floors (or a dog) and a highchair you can fully wash with no nooks and crannies – we love the Happy snack by Chicco.

Please note – My rants above about formula and puree are personal to me –Sometimes you don’t have a choice – for mums whose babies are milk intolerant or not gaining weight and I promise this isn’t a criticism of you, if your baby needs puree or formula and you have been advised medically to do it, please do; and don’t be offended by the above, it is just my views x

Thanks so much Suzie for this great post – I’m really glad I gave you the nudge to write it 🙂 It looks like Harry loves Baby Led Weaning just as much as we do and it’s great to hear that your Mother In Law is a convert!

If you’d like to read more posts about Baby Led Weaning then you can see the full guest post series and more here.