These tips are curated from our New Mums Virtual Dialogue on 28 March 2020, shared by our expert paediatrician, dietitians, and fellow mothers. If you would like to know more about the panel discussion, here is an article summarising the event, along with a video recording.
1. When should I start to wean my baby (introduce them to solid food)?
It’s up to you to decide. You can start as early as 4 months, but by 6-7 months, the baby should have started weaning. Ultimately, it depends on your preference as there is no set answer to this.
One tip is that if your baby starts to show some interest in adult food, such as trying to point or reach out to the food you eat, it may be time to start weaning too!
2. Should I follow baby led weaning (letting my baby choose what and how much to eat)?
No matter whether you choose to follow, it is okay and your baby would turn out fine regardless. Babies can regulate themselves and still depend on breastmilk for nutrients even during weaning, so it is better to choose based on personal preference.
Some parents prefer to wait until the baby starts to grab things and show interest in adult food, others prefer to start weaning early by spoonfeeding as this is also easier to clean up afterwards. Weaning is only meant to let them adapt to adult food.
3. How much solid food should I feed my baby?
When you first start weaning, it should be around 2-3 tablespoon of solid foods of a single ingredient per meal. If they can’t finish that much, it is fine. Try feeding the baby just before a scheduled breastfeeding too, so that they are relatively hungry (but not too hungry either!).
Perhaps refer to the Health Promotion Board website, but again that is only a guide. There is no exact amount or measurement of any particular food to feed your baby. So long as the food is healthy and suitable, and your baby likes it, just feed it to them. Do whatever it takes to make your life simpler and less stressed.
Once the baby is 1 years old, you can switch over to water or cows’ milk. Not every baby may even like solid food by this age, but just keep trying to introduce it to them.
4. How should I ensure that my baby gets enough nutrition from weaning?
Weaning is simply to introduce babies to adult food, as they still rely on breastmilk for nutrition. Simply feeding them a few tablespoons of weaning food will not cause them to exceed or fall short of their nutrition limit.
5. Should I provide nutrition supplements for my babies?
From both a nutrition and medical point of view, there is no need to do so. It is very rare for babies to require or benefit from vitamins, and it is not recommended in most instances.
6. Should I wake up a baby for feeding?
Absolutely not. There is no need to feed your baby every 3 hours. If your baby is really hungry, they would be crying and screaming and waking up by themselves, not sleeping. Even if they do wake up by themselves, you can decide whether to feed them or let them go back to sleep.
Babies are unable to sleep more than 6 hours continuously in the first year, so it is normal for them to wake up frequently. If you try and feed them every 3 hours, it will just make you anxious, stressed, and restless. Adequate rest for mothers is crucial for breastfeeding, so let the baby sleep.
7. How should I, as a parent, deal with picky eaters?
Most babies are in fact “picky eaters”, as many would narrow their diets by age 1. But simply not eating the food that you are trying to feed your child does not make them a picky eater, as they simply have not been exposed to any adult food their whole lives.
Relax, and continue trying to introduce the new food several times until they accept it, but don’t force them to eat it. If they reject the same food over many days, perhaps try and introduce another food instead.
Get your baby to try as many types of food as possible during weaning, so that they are more accepting to it when they are older. One tip is to not feed them a snack an hour before mealtime, so that they are more hungry and less picky. Alternatively, sneak in the new food with other food.
Sometimes, no matter how much you try, your baby would only eat certain kinds of food. In this case, let your child be a child and don’t panic, but consider consulting a nutritionist as well.
8. Can my baby eat sugary food?
Sugar in fruits are fine as they also provide fibre and better nutrition. Generally, low intakes of salt or sugar is all right, but avoid added sugar, salt or fat in excess. While it does not cause short term problems, it may lead them to develop a preference for sweet things in the long run, which makes it difficult to introduce food that are not sweet.
For the same reason, try to introduce vegetables before fruits as babies are already used to the sweetness of breast milk. If you introduce babies to strong tasting foods, their taste buds will get used to it and they may require such strong tastes as they get older. Hence, perhaps ask for no added salt or sugar when you dine out with your baby.
9. What should I do when my baby just refuses to eat?
Sometimes, your baby may just be having a bad day and this is in fact rather normal behaviour that may occur a few times a week. Do not make a special meal or try to change the feeding pattern. If it is an occasional thing, do not worry at all.
Babies are surprisingly resilient and can self regulate their appetite. Sometimes, they may just refuse to eat as they already had a larger meal prior. There is no need to worry if they may seem to overeat or undereat.
10. Does teething, or anything else, affect my baby’s appetite?
Teething may cause your baby to be more fussy and have sensitive teeth when chewing, since they may not be used to the strange feeling of their teeth growing from their gums. However, it is not something that should cause large problems. If you are concerned, try placing soothing gel on your baby’s teeth.
Another thing to note is that growth starts to slow a lot for babies. While they may need to put on 200 grams/week in the first few months, it may slow to 200 grams/month by 18 months old. Hence, babies can have good and bad days on appetite, even days where they may seem to eat nothing.
11. Should I get stage 2 and 3 infant formula?
While there are some differences, nutritionally it may not matter as much and it should not affect the health of your baby. It is likely more of marketing gimmick, but do switch if you prefer to.
In fact, infant formula are far less prevalent in Western countries. They act as more of a safety net to ensure that all the babys’ nutritional needs are covered, but your focus should be on introducing solid food especially pass 12 months old. Again, no right or wrong answer here.
12. What is a common mistake that first time parents make?
Many parents believe that there is one right way to raise a baby, and that if they fail to follow it, they are a failure as a parent and their baby would suffer for the rest of their lives.
Yes, there are ideals and you can try and meet them, but very few babies live up to them. In reality, you will have to make compromises and you may even have “difficult” babies. Don’t stress, and try it make the best of it. If in doubt, just consult your baby’s paediatrician or dietitian.
Online articles and books can be useful guides, but do not be obssessed if your baby does not reach every single milestone listed there. Even if you make a few minor mistakes here and there, as long as your baby is growing up fine, it is okay!
13. How should mothers deal with post natal blues?
Post natal blues are actually quite common if you are pregnant, so do expect that. Give yourself time to recover, do not try and be perfect or shoulder all the responsibiliteis yourself. Do not expect your partner to read your mind, and ask for help from them or your family if needed.
One reason for this may be that you are disconnected from your usual life, as many mothers feel stuck at home with their babies. To really help to snap out of that low mood, try and do the things you enjoy or are good at. Go for a facial, go for a walk, go back to work; anything to take a break from being a mother once in a while!
Do not feel like the only thing you can do is be a mother, and do not be afraid to take breaks. After all, if you feel good, you are also in a better position to care for your baby. Avoid being too hard on yourself when things do not go right, and talk to your doctor if needed.
Being a mother is not easy, so we sincerely hope that the tips we share would help support mothers throughout Singapore and the world.
If you would like more tips and recipes to feed your baby, do check out our YoRipe cooking app. We wish you the best in your parenting journey!