Kathy from Nurturing Hands is a baby whisperer based in Sydney.
I experience so much worry and doubt as a new parent. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions on breastfeeding, solids and daytime naps – all the things that are bugging me at the moment. Bub is just over five months old. She also threw in some amazing words of wisdom.
Bub is pretty chubby and we do demand feeding. Is it true a breastfeeding baby can not be overfeed?
A breast fed infant will never be overfed as they simply drink what they need. Breast milk is a beautiful rich high fat milk that is believed to protect from obesity amongst so many other medical conditions later in life.
Why is there so much conflicting advice about when to start solids? One point of view says wait until six months. The other says start after four but before six months. Then there are people who say you will just know! What do you recommend?
Unfortunately there will always be conflicting advice regarding infants, simply because all infants and parents are unique individuals, what works for one may simply not suit or work for another. It is good to have options and work out what suits you and your bub.
The recommendation on solid introduction has changed over the past few years because of the rise in food allergy in Australia. Australia now has the world’s highest rate of allergies!
Thirty years ago we advised exclusively breastfeeding for first six months, then slowly introduce one new food every 3-4 days, no egg before nine months and no peanut until two years.
It was then acknowledged that withholding oral foods may be a contributing factor in the rise in food allergies, so the recommendation was changed in the last decade to introduce solids ‘around’ five months, whilst continuing the protection through breastfeeding, when infants show signs of readiness (such as disappearance of tongue thrust, looking and reaching out for food when witnessing people eat along oral gestures.)
Recently ASCIA (Australasia Society of Clinical Immunology & Allergy) recommended it’s best to commence solids earlier again, to after four but before six months (whilst continuing to breastfeed if possible), along with introduction of high allergy foods before 6-9 months (such as eggs, peanuts etc that were previously withheld). Unfortunately the public health system has not changed its guidelines to this current recommendation and so that’s why there is so much conflicting advice on the when to introduce solids!
My advice is to follow ASCIA guidelines of offering solids somewhere between 4-6 months according to your individual infant’s cues/ signs of readiness.
An easy way to see if they are ready for solids is to sit bub either in a high chair or on your lap when you are eating offering suitable foods such as a banana, soft ripe pear, avocado, toast, steamed veggie, strip of meat etc, give them a big enough piece so they can hold, explore, chew and suck on it. Always supervise your infant whilst doing this for risk of gagging or choking. You can do this anytime. Once they show oral readiness by chewing and enjoying these foods then begin to introduce organic rice cereal (important because of the iron fortification), steamed mashed veggies and fruit once a day to begin (this allows their gut to adjust to digesting food). Milk is considered to be the priority before six months and is advised to be given first with solids about an hour after.
Some days daytime naps are a real struggle, particularly in the afternoon. I think I know all the tired signs, and I will put Bub down to sleep following my normal routine. She can self settle but sometimes she just lies in her cot babbling (not crying) forever. One day it was for two hours, after many nappy checks and re-swaddling etc I just gave up and got her back up. What am I doing wrong? Am I trying to put her to sleep too early? Is it ok to give up or will this do damage in the long term?
This can be the nature of change now that your baby is over five months old. She is slowly transitioning to dropping to two day naps at around six months or so. At five months I normally suggest that the time up between naps is approx 2.5 hours responding to the signs of tiredness. At six months the up time lengthens to about three hours.
We suggest to unswaddle once the startle reflex goes around four months and once infants are rolling, to comply with SIDS guidelines and so infants can begin the ‘art of self settling’ using their hands and fingers to soothe and suck.
The days you are having difficulties try to reflect. Is she tired enough? How long was she up for before sleep? Do you need to wind her down more using more quiet play before sleeps?
If not successful get her up and go for walk that way you both get some time out to relax and revive and try again next time. You certainly will not damage her by getting her up, remember infants are pretty resilient….it’s their mums that may not be!
Kathy’s General Awesome Advice for Anxious Mums
When we become parents we simply need the emotional support and guidance of our village to help us out in the ‘not so good’ moments and guide us to find ‘our way’.
Sleep deprivation and or sleep disruption can often impact on our coping abilities (let’s face it we all do better with a good night sleep), combine this whilst juggling the daily demands of a young infant whilst breastfeeding (say no more)….
Adjusting to this new role can often trigger anxiety and uncertainty of whether you are an ‘ok mum’ or whether you are ‘good enough’. It’s no wonder really, why it takes time to adjust to this new role called parenting and yet we and society implies that it is easy, natural and such a breeze. Parents often feel bad, ashamed, or ‘not good enough’ if they dare to vocalise that they are not coping so well.
Be assured you are an ‘ok mum’ and you are ‘good enough’ simply because you care about your baby and want the very best for them. It is important to trust, develop and nurture your intuition and skill set. Sometimes you may not always get it ‘right’ the first time, but most of the time you will find your way over time. That is what we as professionals now promote the ‘good enough’ parent.
You will make mistakes, this is how we learn and grow. With support and guidance the ups and downs of parenting teaches us and our children resilience that is critical in life.
There simply is no ‘right ’or ‘wrong’ as there are many different ways to parent and you simply must follow what feels ok for you, if things are working perhaps avoid changing them until there are no longer working. If in doubt I always say check it out, by talking through any concerns questions with a professional you trust.
Thank you so much for your advice Kathy, I really appreciate it. I hope it benefits other new mums out there.