The Balanced Baby

...food and lifestyle recommendations for the bump and beyond
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Baked Spring Omelette

This baked spring omelette recipe is a great nutritional meal for your baby once they have started weaning. Give it a try. You can add whatever ingredients you have in your fridge that might work to mix it up.

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Baby-led weaning (BLW) has slightly passed me by. I’ve been a purée purist from the start. Since breastfeeding didn’t happen for us, I wanted to ensure Ajax got the best nutrition from four months old. The best way to do that was through a bottle (bone broth) and then spoon. But I can totally understand why some mothers wait a little longer and choose to BLW.

BLW is where babies are offered finger food from the start, slowly progressing to meals that the whole family can eat together. Advocates claim it is a more natural and enjoyable way to wean; and they are probably right!

I make Ajax four or five purées every week. It’s exhausting. It’s also true that baby’s hand-eye coordination is honed through learning to pick up tasty morsels; wrapping little fingers around food, and then delivering it to the mouth is a tricky (and messy) business.

So finally at 7 months, I have upped my finger food game. Although Ajax has been gnawing on carrot and celery sticks for some time, this baked spring omelette is the first proper meal he has fed himself. He loved it – and I got time to do the dishes while he slowly chewed. Give this baked spring omelette a try…

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and sliced into slim coin-sized pieces
  • 100g courgettes, sliced into moons or half moons, depending on their size
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 5 eggs
  • Half a cup of frozen or fresh peas, blanched and then drained
  • Chives, snipped

METHOD

Line your baking tin with unbleached parchment paper (or grease with coconut oil) and pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan and cook the sweet potato for approximately 8 minutes on a very low heat, being careful not to burn it. Add the courgettes and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl and add the blanched peas and chives.

Line the base of your tin with the sweet potato/courgettes and then pour over the egg mixture.

Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Cut the baked spring omelette into squares and serve.

If you are reheating, fry lightly in a pan with a little more coconut oil or bone broth.

Note: Baked eggs will last three days in the fridge (sealed in a glass container). However, I would err on the side of caution with babies and keep it to no more than two.

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The Best Suncream for Babies

The soft folds of your baby’s fleshy thighs might have you reaching for the sunscreen – but read this first. Here’s what you need to know about suncream for babies…

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A growing body of research shows that the majority of sunscreens are potentially harmful. Sunscreens are divided into two camps – physical or chemical. The latter typically contain ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC), along with parabens and perfume.

These chemicals have been shown to travel through the body and, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), can disrupt hormones and have oestrogenic properties. Parabens, which are found in 60 percent of commercially available sunscreens, have been found in breast cancer cells and in the male reproductive system. These chemical preservatives also increase the growth of breast cancer cell lines and decrease testosterone production.

Children are more vulnerable to these toxins since their immune systems are not fully developed. In addition, a child’s skin is more sensitive than an adult’s and absorbs more chemicals. It is paramount when considering suncream for babies to review what is contained in these products.

Are Physical Sunscreens Better?

Physical or mineral sunscreens contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – the latter mineral emerging as one to avoid.

I’ve been shocked to find that some organic brands I love and trust use titanium dioxide in their suncream for babies and children. And, even worse, the nanoparticle version, which penetrates deeper. I won’t name names, but suffice to say claims of ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ are no excuse to avoid reading ingredient lists.

Titanium dioxide was recently classified as being possibly carcinogenic to humans by the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety. The National Institute of Health in Portugal discovered carcinogenic effects of titanium dioxide nano-particles in human gastric cells and Yamagata University in Japan has reported cancer-promoting effects in mouse studies.

We now know that what goes on your skin, goes into your skin (you only need to look at nicotine patches for that) and studies reveal that large concentrations of titanium dioxide are absorbed into the epidermis and dermis.

The Safest Suncream for Babies

Juice Beauty

I discovered Juice Beauty’s mineral sunscreen during my pregnancy and haven’t looked back. Made with certified organic ingredients and containing only zinc oxide as the active ingredient, it made EWG’s 2016 “Best Beach and Sport Sunscreens” and “Best Moisturisers with SPF” lists. In the UK, it’s available through Naturismo.com.

Enriched with aloe vera and sea algae, which promotes younger-looking skin, it also contains vitamins C and E, both of which have been shown to reduce the tendency to burn. This makes it an ideal suncream for babies.

During this run of 30-degree days, I have slathered my son’s little legs in this sunscreen – and the best part? I’m not concerned when he wants to munch on his cream-covered toes… meaning more enjoyment outside for both of us!

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Healthy Food Delivery for Babies and Toddlers

D Door small copy

Step away from the blender. There are now healthy baby food companies who deliver to your door. Organic? Tick. Free-range? Yep. No added sugar or salt – tick, tick. Affordable? The question is, can you really put a price on putting your feet up at the end of the day, rather than peeling pumpkin while your partner watches Billions? With prices averaging one or two pounds more than packet or pouch food, I’d say healthy food delivery for babies and toddlers is very good value for money.

Here are five fresh, healthy baby food businesses to keep your eye on. For readers in Australia or overseas, stay tuned for more ideas on how to feed your baby with healthy food while on-the-go. 

BelloTaBaby 

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“Superfood for tiny people” is how founder Jade Ireland describes her organic baby and toddler food. The range, all in glass jars or bottles, includes baby smoothies, almond and flax oatmeal porridge, and sweet potato brownie bites – yum! “Currently we cater from seven months, but we are developing the range and expanding to 12 products.”

Instagram: @bellotababy

 

Wild Child Kitchen

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I have been salivating over Wild Child Kitchen’s Instagram account for some time, and even more so when I started thinking about healthy food delivery for babies and toddlers – and when I sampled their wild cod and sweet potato curry (sorry Ajax, Mummy was hungry), it didn’t disappoint. With delicious gluten- and dairy-free meal options, including organic lamb and sultana meatballs, you could keep your child well-fed on different meals for a week.

Founder Natasha says: “We are planning to add some purées (smooth and chunky) over the summer. We do currently provide purées on request from some customers – but this is just done on a bespoke basis at the moment.”

Instagram: @WildChildKitchen

Little Pickle Pots

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Wild Salmon or grass-fed lamb delivered in recyclable card pots… Little Pickle Pots is a dream for busy mothers. The range was created by three mums in South West London:

“Suddenly we were heading back to work and on the days we weren’t working, we couldn’t now keep our babies entertained long enough to actually peel a carrot. So, cooking ended up being a chore to be done at the end of the day, when all we really want to do is relax and unwind.”

Although the range is limited to delivery in south-west London, Bailey and the team hope to have expanded to most of London by the end of this year.

Instagram: @Littlepicklepots

Piccolo Plates

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I just love how many vegetables Piccolo Plates manage to cram into their dishes. Take their delicious cottage pie, topped with celeriac, cauliflower and potato mash. A serious lesson in elevating nursery food. Co-founder Eleanor says: “All of our dishes are recommended for children aged 18 months. All of our dairy products are organic. The meat and chicken are free-range, and vegetables are locally- and seasonally-sourced where possible.”

Instagram: @piccoloplates

Albert Eats

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Vegan baby food from 6 months plus, Albert Eats will be hitting the streets of East London next month. Founder Sarah worked closely with nutritionists to develop her range, which is Soil Association certified organic. “In phase two of the plan, I’d like to introduce meat and fish – and yes, seasonal, wild and 100% organic only for us.”

Instagram: @alberteats

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Wild Salmon with Bone Broth and Broad Beans

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Salmon may well be the definition of a superfood… but only if it’s wild. Farmed fish are crammed into cages, pumped with antibiotics and fed on grain. Even if the salmon is organic, it won’t be swimming hundreds of miles, hurling itself up waterfalls or eating microalgae. Wild salmon is a great ingredient to add into healthy food for babies.

The algae is what gives wild salmon its distinctive red colour and attendant hit of Astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is considered a super antioxidant; it is 10 to 20 times more powerful than beta-carotene, which you find in carrots, sweet potato and beetroot. Instead of microalgae, farmed salmon are fed synthetic astaxanthin made from petrochemicals.

Along with antioxidants, wild salmon is brimming with omega-3 fatty acids, essential for building a baby’s brain before birth. When it comes to healthy food for babies, it is one of the best. In fact, a study published in The Lancet found that the level of fatty-acid DHA in the baby’s umbilical cord predicted their speed of thinking at age 8.* According to the researchers, significant health benefits were seen in children whose mothers consumed three or more servings of seafood a week.

But don’t despair – if nausea in pregnancy put paid to your best intentions around nutrition. Getting seafood into your little one’s diet once they’re born can likewise boost their brain. In a study from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, boys aged 8 to 10 who were given fish oil capsules were found to have increased neural activation – while there was decreased activation found in those not taking the supplements.

My son has been enjoying sardines and salmon from five months of age, including this recipe for spring. I wanted to share it with you to show just how easy it can be to prepare healthy food for babies.

Wild Salmon with Bone Broth and Broad Beans

Makes 6 Portions

Ingredients

250ml chicken bone broth

2 x wild salmon steaks (available from Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Ocado)

16 broad beans pods

1 small courgette

4 mint leaves

Method

Bring the broth to the boil, then add the salmon steaks. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Leave to cool before removing the skins from the salmon. Purée the salmon steaks with approximately 1/4 cup of the broth. Scoop into six silicone portions and freeze.

Pop the beans out of their pods and roughly chop the courgette. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the broad beans, placing the courgette in a steamer on top. Boil/steam for 5 minutes, or until soft. Blend with the mint leaves. Freeze into ice cubes and serve both purées together.

Tip: If using a blender with a plastic container, allow both mixtures to cool completely before blending to avoid BPA.

Reference: Hibbeln JR, Davis JM, Steer C, Emmett P, Rogers I, Williams C, Golding J (2007), Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopment outcomes in childhood (ALSPAC study): an observational cohort study. The Lancet 369; 578–84.

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Think Twice About Baby Rice

Baby Rice

If you’ve already started weaning on baby rice, don’t freak out. It’s the most common first food, so you’re not alone. In fact, the majority of conventional parenting websites and books recommend starting with baby rice – including the NHS website.

Having fed my son Holle with organic goat formula for the first three months (breastfeeding didn’t happen for me), it made sense to move on to Holle organic baby rice when he was 4 months. Fortunately, Ajax wasn’t interested and, shortly after, I came across research persuading me to look for better options.

Why skip baby rice?

“Babies developmentally do not have the enzymes to break down the starch complex in baby rice and baby cereal,” says Chevonne Clasen, a naturopathic medicine physician. “You are putting a huge stress on their digestive system and therefore, their immune system.”

Since 70% of our immune system is in our gut, when you upset a baby’s fragile digestive tract, it can compromise every aspect of their health. Breast milk is made up of protein and fat, so look for foods rich in these macros instead.

But the carb content isn’t the only reason to avoid baby rice. Arsenic is the other glaring problem with rice. This heavy metal can wreak havoc on the body, particularly the lungs, skin, kidneys and liver. Although low levels in food will not affect the average person, when you are talking about a tiny baby, we need to be careful.

“Babies that have been tested when they’ve eaten high amounts of rice cereal have high arsenic levels,” says Clasen. “I’ve seen it clinically.”

Studies show there is a significant amount of arsenic in many rice products and that arsenic levels in the blood directly increase with greater rice consumption. Along with rice cereal, you might want to keep gluten-free breads to a minimum (the majority are made with rice), along with portable snack foods. It’s also worth being aware that numerous pesticides contain arsenic – another reason to choose organic, especially when weaning.

The bland flavour of baby rice supposedly makes it the ideal first food. However, Dr Lucy Cooke, a psychologist and researcher who works with Great Ormond Street Hospital, would disagree. She advocates introducing a variety of flavours and daily changes (rather than introducing one food every four days) from the beginning.

But what if your son/daughter scrunches their nose at more bold flavours? Beetroot purée? Mashed avocado? Liver and bone broth? (These are just some of the first foods Ajax was given).

“We have to persuade mums to ignore the face,” says Cooke in First Bite by food writer Bee Wilson. From four to seven months, there is a window when humans are extraordinarily receptive to flavour, according to studies. But if you delay introducing food till later, you might miss this golden opportunity. A 2014 study found that when babies were introduced to a single vegetable at six months – pea purée – they ate significantly less of it than babies who were introduced to a range of foods at four months.

So what should you give your bub for breakfast?

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A mini bottle of bone broth (60 ml) is the perfect way to seal a baby’s immature gut. After that, a soft-cooked egg yolk is a healthy choice. Full of omega-3 fatty acids and choline for brain and nervous system development, it’s easy to digest and easy to make. Ajax smiled the instant I first spooned it in.

I’ll be sharing more breakfast ideas in future posts and on Instagram, so stay tuned.

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Birth was easy, breastfeeding was hard

Photo from VictoriaPenafiel.com

Photo from VictoriaPenafiel.com

When you are pregnant, preparing for the birth can be all consuming. It was for me anyway.

I attended prenatal yoga and did 15 squats daily to prepare my pelvis for an easy arrival. I drank raspberry leaf tea,  listened to hypnobirthing and even endured the unpleasantness of perineal massage. And it seemed to pay off – or maybe I was just lucky. Ajax arrived like a lightening bolt and was delivered within 2 hours 20 minutes of my waters breaking. No stitches, no drugs.

I felt smug… until God decided to deliver me some humble pie.

It hadn’t even occurred to me that breastfeeding would be hard. I was fed a soft-focused version of nursing that involved bonding and smiles and easy attachment.

But it didn’t happen like that.

After 6 weeks of pumping, 4 lactation experts, 3 different types of nipple shields, and Ajax still not latching I gave up. It turned out my son had a double tongue tie issue, which the fist operation hadn’t resolved.

As a nutritional health coach, you can imagine how devastating this was.

We all know that breastfeeding provides maximum nutrition for the baby. I should know; five years ago I wrote an article on the subject. Including the following:

‘Infants breast fed for more than six months may be 5-9 IQ points smarter than formula fed infants. Another study, which appeared in the journal Pediatrics found prematurely born babies fed natural breast milk, performed better on tests of cognitive development than formula fed infants. The researchers found that the more the babies suckled – the higher their scores.

Aside from the cognitive benefits, babies weaned on pure, unadulterated human milk also have stronger immune systems, heavier body weights, and better overall health than those weaned on formula milk. And if you think that part breast-feeding will cut it; think again. A study of 1000 babies found those exclusively breast fed for six months had significantly fewer ear infections, respiratory infections and thrush- than those who were either partly breast fed or fed formula.’

With all these studies ringing in my ears every time I made my son a bottle, I started to lose the plot. I refused to feed him in public; I found it humiliating, I imagined judgemental voices in every pub/cafe and couldn’t bear the thought of what the powder was doing to his gut flora.

When the plumber said to me ‘you know that breastfeeding is really the best ‘ it was the final straw. The only way I finally managed to move past the guilt, was to make my own formula. You can find the recipe here.

Although I would have loved nothing more than to nurse my baby I am grateful for what the experience has taught me.

Books can provide a guide but the ultimate teacher will be our own book of life. I am now more humble and compassionate and will never again judge another mother for the choices she makes.

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Bone Broth for Mother and Baby

Homemade bone broth with mushrooms and greens - the ultimate cure-all. My husband was feeling fluey on Sunday so I gave him a bowl of this and he woke up Monday with the cough gone. He says it was a good night's sleep.... I maintain it was the broth 🍵

 

During my pregnancy I made a batch of bone broth every week to add to soups, bolognaise and sauces. It elevates every dinner, making the most slap-dash dish taste delicious,  even if you only have 10 minutes.

From a nutritional point of view, bone broth is rich in glycine which is ‘conditionally essential’ during pregnancy. Why?  When you are with child, your demand for glycine outstrips the amount your body naturally makes. Therefore more of this amino acid must be obtained from food. It’s  required for protein synthesis in the foetus, and is almost certainly a limiting factor for foetal growth.

Seal the Gut, Bust Cellulite

Broths are also well-known gut-healers – and for babies ‘gut-sealers.’ Babies naturally have a ‘leaky’ gut until their digestive tract matures. The gelatin in bone broth will help speed up this sealing process, giving infants a robust stomach and immune system.

Finally, you can help protect your body from stress and toxins by adding this simple brew to your diet. Many substances, including environmental toxins and food preservatives are processed through the body’s glycine pathway, so getting more of this essential amino acid will help keep you clean. Glycine can also help regulate blood sugar, boost energy and fight fatigue – as well as improve sleep quality according to the Japanese Society of Sleep Research.

Final word… it can also help bust cellulite thanks to being rich in bioavailable collagen. See ya later mum bum.

Bone Broth, The Perfect First Food

So back to the bub, when is the right time to introduce bone broth?

I began just prior to 4 months. I wanted to feed Ajax bone broth for a week, to prepare his digestive system for solids. I’d like to say that he loved bone broth from the start, but the truth is, it took a little getting used too. After he refused the first 80ml bottle, I tried again, this time with 50 ml and 30ml of homemade goat formula – see separate blog.

Now, at 7 months, he loves! He grabs the bottle with both hands and really goes for it.

bone broth

Adding broth to pureed vegetables is another easy way to slip in the superfood. I started by adding approximately 70ml to Ajax first foods – sweet potato, pumpkin and beetroot which are easy to digest.

For me, making broth is an absolute must-do each week. All you need is a chicken, stock pot and 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar – see recipe here.I tend to freeze half the brew in ice-cubes for baby and keep the rest in the fridge for me.

My favourite mid-week broth-meal is Salmon Miso Raman. Simply add buckwheat noodles, miso, ginger, onions, and a wild salmon steak… and you have a speedy bowl of goodness for when you are bone tired.

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to the Balanced Baby

The Balanced Baby brings you food and lifestyle recommendations for the bump and beyond from nutritional health coach and journalist, Laura Bond.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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