Sleep and the Young Infant

LLately, I understand, there has been a frisson of activity on a parenting page regarding a blog I wrote in 2014. In the blog about preventing sleep problems in six month olds I quoted from my book “Your Cherished Baby’ and suggested:

Ideally, he should be put down drowsy but awake. If possible there should be minimal fussing after tucking in. Unless it is your choice and the baby’s habit, once down, avoid rocking, cuddling or patting to sleep. And if it is, you have a choice to gradually (step by step, night by night) wean the baby off such input or continue it.


1st wave behaviourism (remove the stimulus and the behaviour will change) has been a technique that has been used with babies for eons. We know that by withdrawing a caring response babies have an innate ability to silence themselves to avoid predators. However we know this ‘extinction’ of the protest cry is unhelpful in the long term as it programmes the baby to believe that her parents are unreliable and life is not necessarily safe. I have laid out this information clearly in my books and blogs.

But what about the ‘gentle persuasion’ methods, as in the quote above?

“When information changes, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”.

What has changed for me is the realisation that exerting any pressure on the baby to sleep longer often makes the situation worse, even in the short term. Babies find it hard to reconcile the fact that during the day the

Solid Data on Solids (3)

FFully breastfed infants start to need other foods at around six months. By then they have run their stores of iron down and also need to supplement the vitamin D in their diet. Also breastmilk (and formula) is relatively low in protein, which is suitable for babies, but the growing infant now needs more.


Back in the day, the often-recommended first food was baby rice. We now recognise that early taste experiences program our babies’ food preferences for later, so processed refined rice flour, which is a world away from real food, and is now no longer recommended. Better to give pureed vegetables, fruit and multi-grained cereal perhaps mixed with milk (breast or formula) to the expectant mouth. As soon as these are accepted the little one can then move on to meat, fish, and eggs and other general foods.

When we introduce a new food, babies are often wary about foods they’ve never seen before. It seems that most families try a refused food about 2-3 times and if it is not accepted they give up. Studies show that it might take 8-15 times before the food is accepted – so it is really worth pursuing if you want to broaden your babies’ palate.

Make sure the food is not too salty. Babies don’t need intense flavour, and it’s not a habit that you should encourage. Also avoid sweet foods (much as they are loved) as too many empty calories is the bane of the ‘Western diet’ which is killing us all from

Solid Data on Solids (2)

Children Eat What They Enjoy, and Enjoy What They Know….



HHumans are omnivores – they’ll eat anything that looks nutritious, and therein lies a problem: they can also poison themselves in many different ways. So evolution came up with a solution. Make the young generally ‘neo-phobic’ (fear of new things’) that is, wary of unfamiliar foods. Another great strategy is to get them to copy their mother and only eat what she eats, as it’s should always be safe.

So we copy our Mum.

When we’re in the womb we swallow the amniotic fluid and learn the tastes of the foods that our mother has just eaten. When we breastfed we share her taste experiences similarly. In this way her food preferences programmes our brains into liking the same foods. Then she introduces us to spoon-foods and this allows us to accept and enjoy those foods as well.

By the end of the first year we should have had a wide experience of good foods that our family eats and likes.

Just as well. At 1 year our evolution says that now we are mobile (when we can toddle off and experiment with eating poisonous berries in the garden) we should eat only what we have already experienced. Our neophobia becomes more powerful to protect us. Toddlers generally don’t like unfamiliar stuff to eat!

The bottom line is to make sure that in the amniotic fluid, in the breastmilk and later on the spoon there is only good quality, healthy foods. In this way we programme our

Solid Data on Solids (1)

The old fashioned ideas (pre-2008) were at six months of age a cautious, slow introduction of spoon-foods, limited variety and the avoidance of allergic foods until the infants were older. Nowadays, based on real information and studies, we know differently.

By |February 19th, 2017|0 Comments

Sun and Bugs

With the return of the warm weather parents have started asking me what to do about their babies regarding insect repellants and sunscreens.


Mosquitoes and midges agree that babies are delicious and will ignore the adults and exclusively hone in on the youngest human with the softest skin. Babies primarily need to be protected from contact with them by avoiding outside exposure in the evenings and sleeping with insect nets over their cots.

The spray-on repellents should not be used at all under 2 months of age and after that, it should not sprayed directly on to the baby’s skin. Use not more than 10% DEET (or picaridin) and spray it on your hands and transfer it from there to the baby’s clothes. Definitely don’t put it on their hands (they might put them in their mouth or rub their eyes) or near rashes or cuts. Also don’t use them in combination with sunscreens as this increases the absorption of DEET through the baby’s skin.

Regarding sun exposure, babies have very little melanin (the natural skin pigment) in their skin for the first few months and hence burn very easily. As UV radiation causes damage to the skin and the dose accumulates over a lifetime, minimise exposure in babies.

For a baby the best sunscreen is a physical barrier. There is no better sunscreen than a tent or light cotton clothes with long sleeves and leg coverings, and a big bonnet.

Also avoiding sunshine in the hottest part of the day when the UV radiation is

Do you have a good baby?

“Do you have a good baby?” Says the sweet-faced old lady to you in the shopping centre.

Just to be clear, this is code for “Does your baby sleep for long periods of time and not feed too often or at inconvenient times?”

How to answer? She means well, so perhaps “Yes, she is. She cries when she is hungry and sleeps when she is tired” is a bit abrupt.

Instead how about giving her a short enlightening lecture?

Here are the critical points:

  • Babies are just foetuses who are outside the womb. In comparison to other mammal babies, they are remarkably immature. Hence they need constant protection, care, food and love without reference to the time of day.
  • Trying to teach them to alter their behaviour in the first months is a waste of time. They do not have to ‘learn’ to sleep alone in a cot, or settle themselves. Babies can’t ‘manipulate’ their parents.
  • The other side of this same coin is they cannot be spoilt. There is no such thing as excessive caring behaviour from a parent. Caring for your baby to keep her contented will never create ‘a rod for your back’.
  • Babies regulate their appetite spontaneously by feeding on demand. In the breastfed this produces the correct volume of milk for the babies’ metabolism. It also helps them feel secure and loved, and prevents later eating disorders and obesity.
  • Generations past were brought up to believe that enforcing routines, rather than responding to their babies needs, produced quieter, better-disciplined children. This belief has been now

Mouth to Mouth

I was bewildered by all the Internet chatter about the picture of Victoria Beckham kissing her children on the mouth. The horror and the outrage!

That same day I was discussing feeding babies spoon foods, and a mother wondered what they did before blenders. Good question, because these two things are connected.

Transitional feeding seems to be necessary for humans from around six months of age. It is a time when breastfeeding doesn’t yield enough iron or protein to maintain optimal growth in babies.

In many animals the mother prepares soft foods by chewing it herself and then transferring it into the baby’s mouth. It’s called pre-mastication.

This mouth-to-mouth feeding occurs in many animals right up to primates. It was prevalent in the human in the past, and still is in some of the developing world (and occasionally Hollywood1).

It is also called ‘kiss-feeding’ and has been suggested that it is the origin of kissing people we love, though with the vast number of sensitive nerve ending on the lips I suspect we would have discovered it anyway…

But pre-mastication of food has advantages to little humans not just because of the access to a broader range of foods, but it also seems to boost their immunity. By contact with the different germs and proteins from their mother’s mouth, their immune system develops a wider variety of useful antibodies. This effect, and a decrease in the incidence of food allergies, has also been described in those babies whose mothers clean their dummies, not by formally sterilizing them,

A Conversation about Childcare.

II had an interesting conversation with a friend a few days ago.

He sighed “We are having such trouble getting our little girl into childcare – there are so few places available. We are feeling so stressed and guilty that she might not get the early education and sociability that she needs?”

Time for a reality check.

  • Humans are amongst the most social species on the planet. We have been honed by countless generations of ancestors who selected themselves to reproduce by their ability to socialise. It doesn’t need to be trained into us. It’s inherent.
  • In our first couple of years we need to learn security and confidence with our parents (especially mother) and loved ones. We learn love from the people around us who love and interact with us. Strangers don’t count.
  • This ‘emotional intelligence’ is the bedrock of our personality and underpins our ability to learn. It’s how we learn how to learn.
  • Cognitive functions like learning colours, numbers and how to label objects are of secondary importance.
  • Children do not play with each other or benefit from their company until three years old. Until then, they steal each other’s toys and walk on each other. Other kids are just objects.

So childcare is not a necessity and it’s certainly not advantageous, unless the home is bereft of stimulation and devoid of love.

If childcare is needed to allow the mother to work, it’s fine (but choose the best you can, with the best child/carer ratio). But let’s not pretend that it’s recommended to make a better

Travelling with a Toddler: It’s not all bad.

UUp at the crack of dawn to try and get the timing of the baby’s nap to coincide with the plane taking off. But she, like a pet dog, knows there is something big afoot. She would rather walk around than eat breakfast.

At Sydney Airport: First send in handsome son-in-law to check-in counter. We get a big smile from airline lady and get assigned seats with lots of extra empty seats around us. Cool! Then when we hit the queue for border control with the little one in the lead, a nice official tickles her chin and hurries us through, bypassing the crowds.

Having a toddler seems to be a major advantage so far…

We take off on time and settle in. Clearly no one in the American Academy of Pediatrics has ever flown with a toddler. ‘No screens until Two’ indeed! Hah! Peppa Pig keeps her nice and quiet.

Two hours in the air, a breastfeed and we get a 2-hour nap (she never naps for 2 hours!), her parents watch movies. This is so easy! (Note to self: download app of the white noise of Boeing 777 for the future).

Then she’s awake and wants to walk up and down the aisle, and up and down, and up and down. Then she reads a book about Sophie, watches videos of herself, and is found sucking on a small bottle of hand steriliser, alcohol-based. She seems very cheerful. Hmm.

Another feed, another several books and she is put in her carrier and at 7.29pm falls

By |February 16th, 2016|0 Comments
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