Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Which is more controversial Coke or breastmilk?

I pretty much try to avoid writing about anything too controversial on this blog, or anywhere else for that matter, but there are two debates which I can't help but follow: how old is too old to breastfeed and whether it's ok to give kids soft drink. 

For the record, I'm a hopeless breastfeeder and haven't made it past 6 months and I have never offered my kids soft drink (although it is not a banned substance in our household or anything).  That said, I am supportive of people breastfeeding for as long as they think it is working for them and their kid/s and really don't think there is anything wrong if other people give their kids the occasional soft drink - both are totally personal decisions which everyone can work out for themselves without me throwing my two cents in.

So the thing that gets me about how these debates play out is how much more controversy there is around people, like Mayim Bayalik that choose to breastfeed their kid to until they're 4, as opposed to the widespread practice of giving kids soft drink which some experts say needs a health warning and is even  accused of contributing to obesity the death of a 30 year old mum of eight.

I'm just surprised that it is considered more weird for a four year old to drink breastmilk than Coke.  I say more power to the breastfeeders (and less power to Coca-cola and Kochie).

Monday, December 31, 2012

A little new years resolution

I've made a couple of new years resolutions for myself but I also thought I'd make a little one for the whole family and it has a bit of background.  A while back I read a book called Good Health for the 21st Century by Dr Carole Hungerford.  It's a complex read with a lot of arguments for having a more diverse diet and that's what I'm keen to do in 2013. 

The example that really hit a nerve for me was around how heavily Australian diets centre around wheat and dairy.  The book noted that a normal day in an Aussie diet might be weetbix and milk for breakfast, a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch and a margarita pizza for dinner.  While this would be a pretty unusual day for me, there would definitely be days where Leo's diet would look a bit like that.

So in 2013 I'm going to try and include at least one new/exotic/different/seasonal fruit or vegetable in the weekly shop.  I'm also going to write some more exciting resolutions (I really won't spend all year obsessing about what the kids are eating).  I hope you have a happy and healthy 2013!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Now salt can make your kids fat too!

Just wanted to post a quick link to an article that I saw this morning that adds salt to the list of things that make your kids fat.  Once I read it, it's a pretty logical finding saying that the more salt a kid consumes, the more sugary drinks they have as well (not a huge surprise).

I've mentioned before that I originally hoped that I would be the sort of parent who never lies to their kids.  I was just going to lay out the real arguments for and against things and trust the kid's intelligence.  I still stand by this for a lot of things but I also regularly lie about little things in order to get things done (i.e. Kmart isn't open today, we don't have any ice-cream, it's too late to read a fourth story). 

The very best lie I have ever told is that soft drink tastes like beer.  Now anytime someone offers Leo a softy, he looks a bit horrified and says no thankyou.  I know this is not the sort of advice that is going to work for everyone but I reckon anything that you can do to convince your kids that they don't need some forms of sugar is a bonus because you certainly can't convince them that ice-cream isn't wonderful... 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sugar, sugar, sugar

I went to a kids party today and had my usual guilt-intensive session of watching Leo eat a whole plate of disgraceful fatty junk (frankfurts, sausage rolls and chips), followed by lollies and cake, all topped off with more lollies to take home.  Geez Louise!

One of the other parents standing near me said that she had heard a nutritionist on the radio say that it might be best to let kids gorge on the lolly bag all in one go - this way they may not absorb all the sugar whereas if you mete it out over a number of days, they will definitely take it all on.  Interesting theory although this is surely an example of nutrition Chinese whispers (like the one where if a kid eats some kiwi fruit, banana and strawberries that has all the vitamins they need for the day).

So I tried to get at any research/sciency info that can tell you how much sugar a body can absorb in a sitting - although obviously the first answer would be that it depends on a range of factors like the person's size and metabolism.  Maybe I didn't search well (I tried quite a few phrases and terms) but I really just came up with a lot of nutrition related posts and discussion threads where people mentioned 'research' but didn't reference anything I could chase up.  There was some stuff that explained that the fibre content of food affects how much sugar will be absorbed but that's not really relevant when you're talking lollies.

Bottom line - I think that the technique that we've been using might be better at helping Leo not to absorb the sugar.  Put the lolly bag on a high shelf where only his dad can see them.  They magically disappear by the end of the week and Leo forgets about them.  Now there is just the question about how to keep Gaz's sugar intake down...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Are those Frenchies better at food than us?

This week I strangely came across two bits of info which led me to wonder, what is the deal with the French?  The first was this hugely interesting article by Karen Le Billon, who blogs at French Kids Eat Everything.  She is an American lady who lived in France and has observed this amazing phenomenon which leads to French school kids eating carrot salad and radishes and cherry clafoutis - I wish!

Here is the post where she ponders on why France has the lowest child obesity rates in the developed world.  She notes that the French don't know more about nutrition than Americans but that they do tend to take a totally different approach to food (less anxious).  For example, the French are more likely to associate food with pleasure than Americans who associate food with health.  The French spend twice as much time eating than Americans but their kids are three times less likely to be fat!

Admittedly, it's a bit hard to find a take home message from the article but it seems that one of the things that is entrenched in French culture, and importantly French schools, is that kids should try everything.  They don't have to like it, they just have to try it.  There is even a tasting curriculum in schools which culminates in a certificate at Grade 4.

Leo, our 4-year-old, is absolutely hopeless at trying anything that he is not sure about and it often drives me nuts.  So I have totally done something that I swore I never would (again) and started one of those sticker charts.  Every time he tries a new food, he gets a star sticker and when he gets 10 stickers he can have a Lego minifigure (bribery anyone?) 

I used to look at people who did this stuff and think I would never be so lame but it totally works and Leo has already tried a mushroom, a strawberry and a prune. 

The other Frenchy fact for the week is that they have the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the developed world.  I've got no idea why that is so it must be a blog for another day!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What's the point of weighing young kids?

I've been pondering the value of weighing young kids (babies and toddlers) for a while now and the issue was raised again in the Age this week (I couldn't find the link but oddly the enough they ran a similar article in January) which argued for school children to be routinely weighed.  It seems there may be some justification for this age gruop in terms of getting better data Australia wide, and potentially for older kids where you really want to address obesity issues but I'm not convinced of the value at the individual level for really young kids and especially for babies.  This is the cohort that is currently routinely weighed and the data used to plot them on a percentile chart.  However, babies come in all shapes and sizes and there is not much that parents can do about it.

My thoughts were initially provoked by a routine check at the maternal and child health nurse which found that our 8 month old had dropped from the 75th percentile in weight to the 25th.  This worried the nurse which ultimately worried me.  It took me a long time to work through the fact that he had been sick and vomiting for a couple of weeks but ultimately that he is happy and progressing well in all other ways.

This made me wonder what value the weighing process had added?  It made me worry and it triggered a discussion about how he was doing fine.  But if he hadn't been doing fine (i.e. if he'd been lethargic or unresponsive or inactive) wouldn't that have been the discussion anyway regardless of his weight?  If you've got a seriously underweight baby, wouldn't you have noticed that too?

The other thing that made me think it was pointless was that the nurse had basically no advice on what to do in response - i.e. how to bulk up a baby - or whether this is a possible thing to do.  She suggested giving him custard and maybe more meat but it turns out he isn't keen on either of these things.  So even if weighing babies identifies a 'problem' there is nothing that can really be done for it.

While I know that it is unlikely that maternal child health nurses will stop weighing little kids at their regular checks, I think it is important that we parents don't buy into it too much.  Some babies and toddlers will be in the lower percentiles and some will be in the higher percentiles and that's ok.  If you're doing all the regular things (breastfeeding or bottle feeding, starting your baby on mashy solids) and your baby is doing all the regular things (being responsive and active and happy at least some of the time), then there is really nothing to worry about...although we all undoubtedly find things to worry about regardless.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Babyfeeding - the post game summary

Baby number two is now seven months and it seemed about time to stop expressing milk.  Well, that's not strictly true - in my head I'd imagined that I'd probably keep milk-making for a good year or so in line with all sorts of health recommendations.  In reality, now that I'm back at work a couple of days a week, the logistics got a bit tricky and I was finding that I really needed the hour or so of time spent pumping to do all the other things that life requires (washing, cooking, entertaining small people, even occasionally exercising or god forbid spending some time with Mr Williams). 

So now that it's all over I've found myself reflecting on (and discussing with other interested people) how you feed babies in the first few months and I've noticed some things.

Firstly, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't with breastfeeding.  Feeding babies is pretty hard no matter how you go about it.  If it's all happening naturally, you're pretty much glued to the baby and if it wakes in the night, it's you who is going to sort it out.  If you express, you're stuck using time to make the milk and then put it into the baby, and you need to have access to power source in a private space a lot of the time.  And if you're using formula or mix feeding you have to deal with all the guilt and judgement (as I've written about before), not to mention the time-consuming cleaning and sterilising involved. 

So secondly, the grass will always seem greener on the other side. Because there is a downside no matter how you feed, there is a terrible tendency to assume that if things were going differently, things would be easier.  If you're breastfeeding, you probably wish someone else could do the overnight feed at least sometimes.  If you're bottle feeding, you probably wish someone would pay the exorbitant cost of formula at least sometimes.  On the upside, that means there are good aspects no matter what you're doing (breastfeeding can be cheap and bottle feeding can give you some sleep).

Thirdly, there is nothing worse that you can do than judge someone for their choices around feeding (or any aspect of parenting really).  Absolutely everyone has a story about the aunt/colleague/frenemy who said "you just didn't put him on the breast enough when he was born" or "that's an expensive way to feed a baby" or "she looks like she's been grazing on the green pastures".  Even when it's a throw away line to you, those comments stay with people for a really, really long time and can really effect someone's state of mind.

Finally, it's not all bad!!  While I've may have highlighted the negatives, the first few weeks and months can actually be an awesome time.  The baby is little and will stare into your eyes while the milk goes in, you get cuddles all the time, their heads smell good apparently (I've never got into baby-sniffing but some people swear by it), and they can pull some really funny faces.  So it's really just a matter of holding onto this stuff at 3am when the baby pukes all over you and himself and the floor...

Anyways, I hope that my feeding experiences may someday help others as they navigate some of the harder moments.  I haven't written about the practicalities of stopping feeding (which is surprisingly hard to get detailed info on beyond, drop one feed a week) so please feel free to get in touch if you ever want to discuss.  Best of luck to anyone currently in the process of feeding a small baby!