Feeding with Love & Respect at All Ages by Michelle McHale

Attachment Parenting is often associated with breastfeeding. Those mothers who wish to breastfeed but for whom nature or circumstances have not cooperated should not feel excluded in their ability to develop a lasting bond with their child. While the evidence for breastfeeding is compelling there are many ways a bottle-feeding mother can replicate the advantages of breastfeeding behaviour by practicing ‘bottle nursing’.

Beyond babyhood, the introduction of solid foods requires care and patience as well as a developing trust in the child’s ability to meet their unique needs when given healthy choices.

Why Breastfeed on Cue?

  • It provides the required nutrition for optimal brain development and growth
  • It can help shorten or avoid illness by providing the necessary antibodies to fight infection
  • Breastfeeding on cue ensures the mother’s milk supply remains well regulated
  • Breastfeeding on cue results in less crying from the baby (a hunger cry signals a late stage of hunger)

If you aren’t breastfeeding, what is bottle-nursing, and why do it?

  • It replicates the attachment-model of feeding in warm loving arms
  • It provides eye contact at approximately 11 inches from the mother’s face (a newborn’s range of focus)
  • It allows the feeder to respond to the baby’s subtle cues while feeding
  • It invites the feeder to trust when baby is full even if that means baby doesn’t drink a whole bottle

Introducing solids

Everyone asks when this should happen? Your child will know! Some children with allergies may take longer to want solids. Some children show no interest before they turn 1 (just be sure your nutritional intake is optimum if exclusively breastfeeding). Generally, at some point during the second half of the first year signs of readiness will include:

  • Cutting teeth: An interest in food (this may include grabbing food)
  • Drooling: An ability to hold food independently
  • Sitting up on their own: Increased nursing

Your child is born with the ability to suck, before discovering how to ‘mouth’ foods and then learning how to swallow foods. Many parents advocate baby-led weaning where the child is offered morsels of food and allowed to eat or play with the food as they wish. Vigilance is obviously vital and some raw crunchy foods are best left until later such as raw carrots, nuts and seeds. (Dr Sears suggests age 3 for all of these). If you think your child has reacted badly to a food (gassiness, bloating, vomiting, red anus, diarrhea, runny nose, face rash etc) you may want to keep a food diary and introduce new foods slowly.

Weaning is often used to describe starting solid foods with an assumption that breastmilk is stopped or purposefully decreased at the same time. Traditional use of the word refers only to the reduction and cessation of nursing, which may come many years after introducing solids. Weaning from the breast may come naturally as directed by the child, or a mother may decide to night-wean or actively wean completely at an earlier stage.

Selective eaters

Children become naturally more selective around the age of 2 and ideas to help nurture their enjoyment of food and new flavours include:

  • Combine new foods with familiar foods – research shows children are more likely to try new things alongside familiar tastes
  • Pair a new food with a sweet flavoured food (such as humus or a fruit juice)
  • Research shows that children who are pressured to eat end up eating less healthy food and more snacks
  • Don’t overload the plate but let children serve themselves food and pour their own water
  • Encourage preparation/exploration – this might mean smearing jam on toast themselves
  • Don’t try to introduce new foods when children are feeling poorly
  • Children up to the age of 7-9 are likely to consider one new flavour at a time but not more (older children become more interested in new things with each new flavour introduced)

Children require a different diet to adults! They need more fat (especially omega 3), are less energy-efficient, have milk teeth which are less able to chew really tough and fibrous foods, and are hard-wired to be attracted to high energy foods.

How not to stress about food

  • Eat together – some families light a candle or share stories
  • Set a time limit on how long you want to remain at the table with your reluctant eater (some experts suggest 20-30 minutes)
  • Never use food as a reward or a consequence
  • Don’t worry if your child eats a lot of fish fingers one week and nothing but bananas and peanut butter the next – if you provide healthy choices you can ordinarily trust them to meet their energy needs
  • Model an enjoyment of food and a response to hunger

What to stay on top of

  • Omega 3 in the form of DHA and EPA (breast milk is a good source but many mothers become deficient)
  • Vitamin D3 can be very useful as mothers and babies may not get enough
  • Parenting is stressful on the adrenals! A vitamin B complex for mum can be helpful
  • Calcium and magnesium are often depleted in nursing mothers – a multi-mineral is a useful supplement
  • Organic foods are frequently recommended for children – foods that are highest in pesticide residues, so best to buy organic, are lettuce, apples, soft fruits, celery, spinach and potatoes
  • Avoid MSG and aspartame which are neurotoxins and usually only present in over-processed foods
  • The smaller fish at the bottom of the food chain tend to be less polluted and offer good fats (sardines)

Resources

Books

  • My Child Won’t Eat! by Carlos Gonzalez and published by La Leche League International
  • How Weaning Happens by Diane Bengson and published by La Leche League International

Links 

 Michelle McHale

Michelle McHale

About the Author

Michelle McHale is the mum of 2 girls aged 7 and 5 years and is the founding director of APUK, a writer and speaker. An experienced support group leader herself, Michelle trained with Attachment Parenting International and now manages the thriving APUK community nationwide. She is the creator of the upcoming School of Attachment Parenting offering an online e-course in Positive Discipline as well as a collaborator in the unique ‘Love Parenting Project’ offering pay-it-forward coaching to parents. A keynote speaker at the Mumsnet Bumpfest Conference she is an enthusiastic advocate of Attachment Parenting and self-care.

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