Demand Versus Scheduled Feeding - Hot Topic

Posted January 25, 2015

There is a debate raging about newborn feeding needs.  Author Penelope Leach (and nurses in the Calgary Health Area) advises new parents to "feed on demand" which means even when you've feed your baby recently, you feed again if she is fussing or sucking on her hands.  You may find yourself feeding every hour. This advice is especially prevalent if you are breastfeeding.  Bottle fed babies are allowed a little more leeway or at least some experts are somewhat less directive.

But UK author Gina Ford believes babies and parents do best with scheduled feedings.  Not exactly military style, but keeping track of timing between feeds and anticipating when your baby should next be hungry, based on allowing time to digest.

Personally, I lean toward Gina Ford's style.  My reasons are common-sense based, I think, though many will disagree.  It takes approximately 1+ hours for a milk feeding to be digested.  Next comes a much-needed rest for the digestive system and it does this by remaining empty for a short time.  This resting period also allows a sense of hunger to develop and the baby becomes alerted to that hunger and starts to fuss or shout.  Now parent comes with food.  So a nice communication system is set up, giving the baby a small sense of power and control.

Fussing in between feedings - or shortly after the last feeding, very likely signals the need for sleep, rather than another feeding.  At least in many cases.  If parents offer the breast at every fussy time ("on demand")  they may end up missing the sleep cues.  Also, the difficult habit of the baby learning to fall asleep only on the breast or bottle is almost guaranteed, every time we offer yet another feeding to a baby who may be calling for sleep.

My advice over the past 30 years has always remained the same: feed for hunger (not to help baby fall asleep or to stop her fussing).  For the first couple of weeks, feeding every 2 hours does help establish a good milk supply if you are breastfeeding.  Soon after, however, expect your baby to be hungry approximately every 3 hours or so.  Plan to feed after a baby has completed a nap. Put your newborn back to bed after one hour of being awake, which includes feeding time of approximately 20 minutes of cuddling or floor time.  Always put your baby into bed while still awake.  During the day aim for two hours down then one hour up, two hours down, one hour up, etc. through the day. 

My favorite reason for recommending planned feeding times is to keep mothers from becomming exhausted.  The idea of "feeding on demand" can mean feeding endlessly and being attached to the baby 24/7.  Maternal exhaustion ups the possibility of post-partum depression settling in.  A study was just released which implies that "on demand" kids may have higher IQ scores at age 8 than kids whose feeding was scheduled. BUT the study also found that mothers of "on demand" feeders were more grouchy and unhappy.  So the question is...even if you believe in measuring IQ, are 4 points worth an unhappy mom?

If you aren't sure of yourself on this matter, or feel uneasy with my advice t's best to ask your doctor for an opinion. 


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Filed under: Sleep and sleep training, Daily Routines, Feeding and Eating, Newborn Babies


Feeding Honeymoon is Over When Your Child Becomes a Toddler

Posted September 2, 2014

Did you even know you were in a honeymoon phase before your baby became a toddler?  Well, according to Registered Dietition, Nutritionist and Family Therapist Ellyn Satter, parents should be laid back about introducing a baby to solid food.   It's a time for "fun and games," she says.  Some babies enjoy every spoonfull and others may be insulted by the very idea.  Still, she assures us that every baby is learning - regardless of whether much food goes in.  Then, however comes the toddler stage!

In fact, any time from about nine months on, your child may insist emphatically on doing this herself.  She grabs the spoon, tosses it on the floor, closes her mouth and turns her head away!  Most parents still try - against all odds -  with the spoon, afraid the child won't get enough to eat. 

This is the time to turn things over  to the little person who will ultimately be in charge of what goes into her body.  Start putting bits of food on the high chair tray and look away, get busy somewhere else in the kitchen.  Ignore the food on the floor.  Cheerios, grated cheese, grated peeled apple, bits of toast with butter, a piece of banana, and the tiniest, cooked broccoli tree you can pick off - are all good things to put on her tray, from time to time, and then remember to  turn away.  Watching or focusing on a child this age doesn't tend to go well and can lead to behavior issues. 

Don't be put off by gagging.  Lumpy food often causes sensitive eaters to gag at first.  This is not choking, it's only gagging and unless you react, she'll gag less and less as she tries new foods. (If you do react with panic her gagging can become an attention-getting habit.)  Choking, on the other hand, requires a chokable object such as a whole grape, hard candy, a chunk of raw carrot, the stump end of a teething biscuit, etc.

Now I want you to read, in Ellyn Satter's own words, how to handle the pitfalls of early eating, up through preschool.  Newsletter


Kitty Raymond

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Filed under: Feeding and Eating


Putting Gerber Out of Business?

Posted February 9, 2014

Maybe we never even needed the million dollar baby food companies in the first place. A glance through the history of what we call 'baby food' shows that the Gerber company (then called Freemont Canning Company) was launched in 1927.  (It is now a subsiduary of Nestle' Foods.) Mr Gerber's child was sick and the doctor treating the baby suggest Mrs. Gerber try straining food to make it easier to swallow.  That idea led Gerber to create a marketing campaign to convince parents that all babies needed strained food.  Pablum was first designed for sick babies as well, in the 1930s.

As a new mother I remember very well the excitement on the day we decided to give our first daughter her first taste of baby cereal.  Camera was ready, she was 4 months exactly (we followed recommendations of the day, religiously) and we mixed the rice cereal exactly as the box instructed.  Highly successful!  We never even thought there could be another way to start a baby on solid food.  (That daughter was breastfed for 15 months)

Our second daughter, born a few years later, thrived on formula.  Not really thrilled with memories of jarred food, we began what felt like taking the easy way - when she was about 4.5 months - and began staring at our food when we were eating.  For the fun and pleasure, we offered her bits of our food on her tray.  Delighted, she patted them, used her fingers and brought smushed parts up to her mouth to try.  It was the most natural thing in the world for her!  By 5 months she made it very clear that she expected to share our food including tiny dollops of the casserole we were eating, and even pieces of roast beef or chicken which we made stringy for her. No teeth yet, but very strong gums.

I still bought the jars, but only because I was suppsed to.  She always preferred the 'real food' she saw us eating.  It was so much fun seeing her leaning forward in anticipation and then studying the flavors as she held them in her mouth.  Occasionally she would spit out a food she wasn't prepared for, then point toward something she preferred. When she signalled she was full, we weren't even tempted to make her take more just fo "finish up the jar." No jars. No boxes.  And a lot more fun!

Now, come to find out, we were years ahead of our time!  Baby-led Weaning (seems a very odd name) means allowing a baby to be motivated by curiosity and the desire to discover food in a very natural way. 

Ending Note: As with everything connected to babies and parenting, assumptions will be made that once you decide to try this natural non-pureed way to feed, you will need BOOKS ABOUT IT, WEBSITES, FORUMS ...and controversies will inevitably develop.  Every style of feeding babies has followers and detractors, unfortunately. I urge you to try this if you want to and do it your own way. (And, if you just love that Gerber Baby on the jars, go for it!)

Last Ending Note: I always thought 'baby-led weaning' referred to never weaning a baby from the breast until the baby chose to wean.  I am not particularly in favor of this style of weaning as I believe the mother and father should give their baby unquestioned leadership in matters of weaning from the breast.  Apparently the term 'baby-led' has a different meaning on British websites. 

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Filed under: Feeding and Eating, News from Kitty, Research

3 Tips for Your Picky Eater

Posted February 22, 2013

Jamison, age 2, won't eat! His mother has tried everything.  He'll eat white bread, white pasta, the occasional chicken nugget.  His mother is angry and frustrated, and worries that he might not be growing properly.

The following 3 tips for your picky eater will - I hope - help you and Jamison's mother become more relaxed about toddler eating habits.

  1. Pretend you don't care.  This may sound callous, but it's important to realize that toddlers are suspicious when they smell an agenda.  The more a parent pushes - the less the child eats.  You may feel you aren't pushing but if you care or feel anxious or irritated or try different foods frequently, your child will be aware of your goal and will push back for reasons of self-protection.  Put reasonably acceptable food in front of your toddler and either walk away, turn away or busy yourself with your own eating.  Remove the plate and any rejected food without comment when your child is no longer eating.  Never, never ask if she will take one more bit.  We want her to eat from hunger only, not to please a parent.
  2. Consciously create hungry times.  When a mealtime is coming up, withhold snacks for about 2 hours prior.  It takes about 2 hours to digest a previous meal and another hour at least to become hungry again.  Toddlers only need to eat about every 3-4 hours during the day.  Avoid feeding your child small bits of things all through the afternoon in an effort to control behavior.  Then an early dinner and off to bed by 7 PM.  Your best dinner time?  About 7:20 with candlelight!
  3. Do not preoccupy yourself over where your child is on the growth chart unless your child's doctor has raised concerns.  Sometimes public health visits and weigh-ins will leave a parent upset when, in fact, your physician will confirm there is nothing to worry about.  Don't let this happen to you.  Trust that your child will eat an amount that is just right for him at this time.

Cheers to you for having one less thing to worry about!

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Filed under: Feeding and Eating

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