Is it hygienic to pre-chew your baby’s food? What about food pouches? Learn which feeding trends are healthy…or not.

Your child relies on you for all his nutritional needs in the initial years. Indeed, the diet decisions you make for him may have a profound impact on how he develops.

There are many schools of thought as to how you should be feeding your cherub. So, that you make an informed decision on which path to take, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital senior dietitian, Lee Yee Hong, and Nature's Farm senior nutritionist, Yong Wai Chin, offer insights on the latest feeding trends…

1) Pre-chewing your baby’s food
WHAT? It is a common practice among grandparents to blow on your munchkin’s food to cool it or chew it down to size. They do this especially when they are out and don’t have the proper cutlery to perform the task.
THINGS TO NOTE Lee notes that a controversial European research study showed that pre-chewing your child’s food may reduce his or her chances of developing eczema. However, saliva contains tonnes of bacteria, which can leave your little one vulnerable to a wide variety of health risks because of their developing immune system. If you or your folks have been ill or have a communicable disease, avoid pre-masticating junior’s food at all costs.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? As far as possible, refrain from pre-masticating your sweetie’s food for health and hygiene reasons. If you want to cool down the food, Lee suggests that safe way is to stir it well after cooking or heating. Also, make sure to taste and test the food temperature with a different spoon from the one you’re using to feed baby.

To prevent your child from choking, Yong advises that for babies aged 6 to 12 months, you should only offer foods that are similar in texture to porridge. Remove any bony or dry ingredients like ikan bilis, dried scallops or chicken or pork bones. Also don’t offer pits, seeds or tougher cuts of meat or vegetables. Firm pieces of meat or vegetables should be cut into pieces no larger than half an inch.

Saliva contains tonnes of bacteria which can leave your little one vulnerable to a wide variety of health risks because of their developing immune system.

2) Gluten-free diet
WHAT? Gluten is a form of protein found in wheat, rye, barley and other grains. Hence, cutting it out of your mini-me’s diet often means not consuming a wide variety of baked goods, biscuits, noodles or pasta.
THINGS TO NOTE This protein can cause inflammation in the small intestines for celiac disease sufferers. In fact, observing a diet that is not gluten-free may result in serious complications, such as cancer of the small intestines. Therefore, babies with celiac disease should eat arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, flax, potato, rice, rice bran, quinoa, soy and tapioca instead of foods containing gluten.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Don’t restrict your child’s diet, unless he is allergic to gluten or has celiac disease. Lee explains, “Whole grains and wheat-based foods usually have a lot of essential nutrients, such as vitamin B, antioxidants, iron, selenium and magnesium, as well as fibre, which are important to your baby’s overall well-being and growth.” Yong stresses that a diet that’s low in fibre and vitamin B can lead to constipation and vitamin deficiencies.

3) Vegan diet
WHAT? In a vegan or vegetarian diet, a person does not eat meat, fish, poultry and dairy. There are two other kinds of vegan diets: A lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy, while a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet includes dairy, eggs and veggies.
THINGS TO NOTE Yong notes that from a nutritional perspective, it’s not a good idea put your baby on a vegan diet. “A vegan diet is typically low in calories, lacks protein, essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, A and D, calcium and zinc.” A vegan diet can also be “bulky” and high in fibre, so it will likely fill baby’s stomach up quickly, which compromises nutrient absorption. These deficiencies may have a significant impact on your child’s nutrition and growth. So, you may need to supplement your child’s diet with multivitamins which add unnecessary costs.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? If you are keen to try a vegan diet or are moving on to a vegan diet for religious reasons, you should note your munchkin may need to be provided with micronutrient supplements like multivitamins and minerals. Yong shares, “Liquid supplements are a safer and more convenient option for children below the age of 2 as it can be easily added to your child’s food or milk.”


4) Food pouch or jar food diet

WHAT? Food pouches and baby food jars are convenient when you’re out with junior on holiday as you may not have time or the tools to whip up a nutritious meal for him.
THINGS TO NOTE Store-bought baby food items are usually high in sugar. And if fruit is featured, some juice concentrate may have been added to it.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Lee notes, “It is not as bad [to rely on food pouches] when baby is still very much dependent on breast and formula milk in the early stages.” But as baby grows, his nutrient requirements will increase and just relying on a high in sugar food pouch is insufficient — you’ll need to supplement his protein and calories needs from other food sources. Yong urges that you check the nutritional information on the packaging to ensure that the sugar, sodium and fat levels the food pouch contains are within the allowable daily limits.

5) Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)
WHAT? By 6 months, you should be weaning your mini-me gradually and taking the first steps to introducing him to solid foods. Traditionally, the term weaning often means puréeing your baby’s food and spoon feeding him. But for parents who prefer BLW, weaning involves giving baby some fresh fruit and vegetables in soft-cooked, mashed or cut pieces. The idea is to let him explore, pick and choose whichever foods he’ll like to eat without being fed — this can help him further develop his feeding skills.
THINGS TO NOTE Choking is the biggest risk in BLW, since food is served in various sizes, compared to kids who are spoon-fed. However, Lee notes that a study carried out in 2016 found that babies who fed themselves were no more likely to choke than spoon-fed tykes.
Lee advises that you expose your kids repeatedly to a new food, in order to encourage him to try it. Do remember to serve a new food at least eight to 15 times at various meals. Yong points out, “Exposure to a wider variety of foods from a young age also helps to broaden baby’s acceptance of different foods.” So, BLW may help to make your child less of a picky eater.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? Remember that you should only start offering solid food to bubba after 6 months of age. Lee also advises that you look out for other developmental milestones like being able to sit up straight and picking up pieces of food without assistance.

“Parents are also encouraged to eat together with their little one, as your child is always a great imitator.”

In any case, Lee advises that you should always supervise your mini-me’s meals. “Parents are also encouraged to eat together with their little one, as your child is always a great imitator.” You’ll also nurture close bonds and liven up mealtimes. If you’re game to try BLW, Yong has these simple tips:
* Start with small portions and gradually increase it by observing your infant’s responses to the food.
* Avoid giving foods that your child may potentially choke on like fishballs, grapes, cherry tomatoes and other small and round foods.

6) Delayed weaning
WHAT? Some mothers may prefer to breastfeed their little one into age 1 and beyond. Continuing to breastfeed your child comes with the added benefit of burning more calories — about 300 to 500 calories.
THINGS TO NOTE Yong warns that many studies have shown that delaying weaning your child may increase his risk of chronic diseases like diabetes. Iron deficiency is also very common among the babies who are weaned later. Lee explains, “That’s because the mother’s iron stores during pregnancy will likely be used up by about 6 months of age, causing anaemia.” Some studies also report a heightened risk of food allergies in babies who are weaned later than 7 months of age. In addition, junior may also avoid different food textures and trying new types of food.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? You can continue breastfeeding your child, just don’t do it exclusively. Besides breastmilk, start introducing solid foods from 6 months.

Photos: iStock

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