Looking for a nursery can be a daunting process. It is important you feel comfortable leaving your child there and yet you can only go on other people’s recommendations. Not only should we check Ofsted reports and find out other parents opinions but we also need to ask the right questions when we go to visit. I would suggest you right them down too, if you are anything like me, you won’t remember all of them when you get there.
I have heard people say that they want to start weaning before they go back to work. My answer to this is that if you are not happy for your childcare provider to feed your child and teach them about food then you shouldn’t be using that provider.
Unlike schools nurseries and childminders are not required by law to keep to strict nutritional standards. There are voluntary guidelines developed by the Children’s Food Trust but they are not mandatory.
So here are 10 questions I think you should ask:
- Are they signed up to the voluntary guidelines?
- What is on the menu? – if your child is eating all their food at nursery, they need to have 5 portions of fruit and veg included each day, a portion of oily fish a week, some wholegrain foods, 2-3 portions of dairy and some red meat. There shouldn’t be too much processed food, high sugar foods or high salt foods.
- What do they give the children to drink? Children don’t need juice or squash. Ask the nursery whether they offer these or whether they stick to water – children will want what their peers are having. A portion of milk a day is a great way to get some calcium but toddlers don’t need milk all the time. (the age of the child will determine how much water and how much milk they should have)
- How much water to they encourage the children to drink? Did you know that a 1 year old needs about 1 litre of fluid a day? Good hydration is good for concentration and crucial for good dental health too.
- Do the staff eat with the children? Role model are SO important. Do the staff model eating fish and fruit and veg.
- Are children expected to finish what is on their plates? What happens if they don’t? The current recommendation is to let children say when they have had enough so they can learn to regulate appetite.
- What is offered if the child doesn’t like the food? Children should not be offered a high fat/high salt/high sugar alternative. They can be given choice but within the same food group. Otherwise children hear, you need to eat this nasty thing to have this yummy thing. Ideally you want a nursery which will reward children (with a sticker not a food reward) for trying the food.
- Is food given as a reward for good behaviour? This is not recommended and nurseries should try to use other things as rewards, otherwise food is used to treat – a cycle which can continue into adulthood.
- What are children allowed to take in on their birthday to share with their class? If there are 40 children in a nursery and every birthday comes with sweets and cake, that is a lot of additional sugar. Fruit or a special story to share with the group are a great alternative.
- How much physical activity is encouraged during the day? Children need to be active. They can be active in play as well as sport. Do they have plenty of space to run around, dance, kick a ball?
This is not an exhaustive list. I’d love to hear if you have any other suggested questions.
Having heard headlines about arsenic in baby food products (baby rice, rice cakes and rice based cereals) I have been asked by parents whether they should stop giving their children rice.
Firstly when we think arsenic we think poison. Yes, arsenic is a carcinogen and we shouldn’t have too much of it but this is not a case of poison being added to baby foods. Arsenic is found naturally in the soil where rice is grown and so rice does contain arsenic. Most of this is found in the bran section (which is removed in processing white rice). We have long known this.
Back to the headlines; there is a great breakdown of the research study which prompted the headline here. Critically the study falls down on a number of levels – the very small number of people studied, not stating whether the arsenic levels in the babies’ urine samples were toxic or just raised compared with pre-weaning, and the lack of evidence that it is indeed rice based products which have caused this rise.
There are regulations around how much arsenic is allowed in water and food within the EU, although the latter only came into effect in January 2016, a month before the samples for the study were purchased. There are also already recommendations around rice milk for the under 5s – they should be avoided and an alternative milk used.
So, what do we do with this information? The current evidence shows it is safe for babies and young children to eat rice products (not drink rice milk though). They should be consumed as part of a balanced diet. Baby rice is a useful food in weaning but if weaning at 6 months we should be starting with a variety of foods including meat, fish, dairy foods, eggs, vegetables, fruit and starchy foods. Rice based cereal products are only one of the many suitable cereal products baby can have so you could choose an alternative or chop and change – just make sure it is age appropriate. My personal view on rice cakes – there are far more nutritious snacks to give children, which are not full of air, some of which are also much cheaper. Cubes of cheese, salad sticks and homous, yoghurt, homemade pancakes (with less sugar), plain popcorn, and fruit are a few examples.
I had my second baby 7 weeks ago and have been thinking a lot recently about post pregnancy weight loss. Last time I put on a lot of weight other than the baby weighing in at 73kg at the 6 week check (having been about 55kg before I got pregnant). It took me quite a lot of exercise and watching what I ate to lose the excess. This time I managed to avoid eating to stem the nausea by drinking water instead. This time at the 6 week check I was just 66kg. I have a way to go to loss the excess this time although some of that won’t happen until I stop breastfeeding.
Why am I writing about this?
I think we women can be incredibly hard on ourselves. We can also help ourselves by not eating for 2 when we are pregnant but just eating normally and having healthy snacks if we need something extra. The less weight we put on in pregnancy (and we do need to put on some – dieting is not recommended in pregnancy), the less we have to lose later. That said, we need to make sure we get enough to keep us and our baby healthy and then once it is born enough to produce high quality milk without depleting our bodies.
For more information about diet during pregnancy and when breastfeeding check out http://www.nhs.uk or send me an email email@example.com
I was recently informed by my midwife that I had slightly low iron levels. They were not low enough warrant my taking supplements but I was advised to eat more green vegetables. I was horrified, although not totally surprised by this advice. I would have to eat a lot of green veg to improve my iron levels but health professionals continue to promote green veg as good sources of iron.
We need to get the right messages to pregnant women but with antenatal programmes being cut we rely on good advice from midwives about healthy eating.
With government cuts there seems to be less and less information available for parents from health professionals about all sorts of parenting issues.
Are parents supposed to reply on instinct, the internet, books and word of mouth?
With an obesity epidemic and rickets (vitamin D deficiency in children) on the rise we really shouldn’t be taking such a risk with weaning and toddler diets? Cuts mean we are creating an even greater divide between the well off and the not so well off – depending on whether parents can get the information or not.
If you are a parent reading this, why not check out the Infant and Toddler Forum which has loads of information on feeding babies and the under 5s.
If you would like to do a weaning course and you are in the Manchester area, contact me – firstname.lastname@example.org or 07986 809633. I can run a course for you and a minimum of 4 of your friends in your home. I will do 3 or 4 90 minute sessions on weaning and feeding babies and toddlers.