How to Cut Through all the Conflicting Advice About Feeding Baby

Do you feel like you're a natural at parenting?  Or do you often feel overwhelmed by conflicting advice and the sheer volume of tears, nappies and responsibility?  (N.B. The tears may not always be the baby's!)

For most people, being a parent is the best thing that will ever happen to them, but it doesn't come without its problems too.  In the past couple of decades, parenting has become a huge industry complete with a multitude of products, an immense wall of advice and opinion, and huge pressure for parents, especially women, to be perfect.

Unfortunately, perfect doesn't mean the kind of natural parenting that our species has practiced for decades, but a new tech-heavy, consumer-led parenting that means having the right buggy, the most a la mode products, and a constant barrage of advice.

A recent study by the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) found that 70% of parents feel under pressure, with more than 60% feeling anxious, guilty and judged.  Issues that arise most often are around work (when/if to go back), feeding and sleep.

Is it any wonder that, while most parents report finding parenting more rewarding than they expected, the majority are still concerned about the pressure they are under?

Conflicting advice from health professionals and assorted experts is one of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety, and never more so than around feeding.  Indeed, the challenges of feeding baby in their first year can leave some parents feeling extremely stressed.

More than a third of parents reported feeling very anxious around the issue of weaning baby on to solid foods, in particular.

Modern technology means that parents can find support online on social media, in forums and on websites.  This can be reassuring.  However, parents can often feel more pressurised and stressed by the sheer volume of advice they are receiving, and many often feel judged because their baby is not making 'sufficient' progress.

Paediatric dietitian Judy More suggests that what parents really need is not more and more advice but simple guidelines that help to support their own confidence to listen to and follow their natural instincts.  After all, you know your baby best.

To provide support for parents following their baby's feeding journey through their first year, an amazing but sometimes challenging time, the ITF have developed a guide to feeding babies in their first year.

The Ten Steps for Feeding Babies (0-12 months) is a new resource which offers new parents practical tips, positive support, and simple, sound advice for parents and carers to cater for babies’ nutritional milestones through the first year of life.  The aim is to help babies develop key feeding skills and to form a positive relationship with food that will stay with them for life.

I love the simplicity of the guide which takes baby from breastfeeding, the most essential start for life, through to their first tastes of food.

One of the best aspects of this simple guide is that it encourages parents to listen to their baby - how much milk do they want?  Not the length of time or amount in a bottle that some outside source prescribes.  The same goes for food, offer baby choices and watch and listen to what they want - no more cajoling or pushing in 'just a few more spoonfuls'.

Trusting our babies, and children, and trusting our instincts offers the best start for healthy eating, and a healthy relationship with food for years to come.  This resource - and a hefty dose of self-belief - is just what new parents need.

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