Everything you need to know about picky eating and open cups
(... and I'm doing a give-away too! )
People I have worked with will know that I am always banging on about the merits of the open cup. I often meet parents of toddlers with eating problems who still drink from a bottle with a teat. This is really common - it's extremely easy to get stuck with a habit that is comforting to your child, especially if it's part of your bedtime routine. Making transitions like this ( for example, ditching dummies / pacifiers) takes time and energy that are in short supply for most parents.
There are several reasons why bottle use after 12 months is unhelpful - most notably links to obesity and dental problems. An American study found that almost a quarter of children still being given a bedtime bottle at the age of two were obese. A recent Public Health England study found that giving children squash and fruit juice in baby bottles is leading to frighteningly high levels of tooth decay.
Parenting consultant Jenny Neville of Mama Knows Best says:
"It is thought that extending the sucking habits associated with bottle-feeding into toddlerhood can have a detrimental impact on a child’s oral anatomy and function.
At around 12 months I suggest phasing out bottles and giving all drinks, except breastfeeds, in a cup to reduce the chance of problems occurring"
So what has this got to do with picky eating?
The fusion of feeling full and comfort is appropriate in small babies ; when babies drink formula from a bottle, their brain activity changes and they become calmer and sleepier. Interestingly, there is no change when a baby sucks a dummy / pacifier. We can presume, therefore, that these neurological changes are to do with the combination of sucking and becoming fuller.
This conflation of feeding and comfort is appropriate in babies ; it is an integral part of bonding. For toddlers, however, their motivation to take on calories needs to become physiological (driven by their body) not emotional. Many picky eaters choose to eat or not eat for emotional reasons, like to exert a bit of control or elicit an emotional reaction from a parent. A large part of addressing picky eating is about taking emotions out of the equation.
2. Where's my baby gone?
It's very tempting to see children as babies even though they are growing up apace - the baby months fly by and it can be hard to accept that your little one is not so little anymore. Often, parents puree and mash foods much later than necessary, or they give bottles because they enjoy the feeling of nursing a little baby and don't want to loose that.
With feeding, however, there are windows of opportunity that can slam shut when you're not looking. If you are exclusively still feeding your child smooth purees after 12 months, they are likely to reject food with lumps. If you are still giving them a bottle at two, they may not want to learn to drink from a cup. Once battles and rejection of what you are offering begin, feeding gets emotional - both from the child and parent's point of view - and fussy eating becomes much more likely.
3. I'm not hungry.
The main reason that milk from bottles over the age of 12 months contributes to picky eating is the affect it has on appetite. A full child will reject food just like a full adult. The NHS recommends that children between one and three get 350 mg of Calcium/day. This would be provided by about half a pint of milk (approx 300 ml) and that's without taking into consideration the other dairy products in a child's diet.
An standard bottle contains 260 ml so if you imagine the milk/dairy a child will have had throughout the day in the form of milk with cereal, yoghurt, cheese etc, they are likely to be exceeding the dairy their body needs. Children tend to drink more from bottles than cups as it is so easy and comforting ; they need to be filling up on a healthy, varied diet, not excess milk that their body doesn't need.
In order to eat well, children need to be appropriately hungry at meal and snack times. Excessively filling up on milk will suppress appetite - this often leads to picky eating which can in turn lead to parents offering more bottles out of anxiety about a child's nutritional intake.
Jenny Neville suggests that the best time to introduce a baby to drinking from a cup is at 6 months alongside the introduction of solids. She says
"This gives baby a chance to explore, experiment and become familiar with a cup and teaches them to associate a cup with drinking"
And now the exciting bit...
I have a set of babycups to give away to one lucky winner as well as a free copy of my book.
All you need to do to be entered into the draw is go to my 'contact me' page, type 'WIN!' in the subject box and leave me a one sentence comment about why you'd like to win. I will pick the winner at random on Monday 11th May.
Please note, this is NOT a sponsored post - I am recommending Babycups simply because I think they're a great product.
11/05/15 : We have a winner! Cogratulations Marie Faherty-Gear - I'll be in touch by email to get your address and your prizes will be winging their way to you soon!