SMA® Nutrition released research at its Mums of Today Event recently, which says that 93% of mums are unaware that on average babies are consuming too much protein during their early development. We spoke to dietician Aveen Bannon about the importance of the right nutrition during a child’s early life, and how to make sure that your baby is receiving the optimal amount of protein that he or she needs.
“The main thing is to ensure your baby is growing at an optimal rate, that they are sleeping well, that they are well health-wise and that they have energy at appropriate times,” says straight-talking Bannon. “Another important thing is for parents to understand babies’ different cries; when they cry, they are not always hungry.”
Weaning, cautions Bannon, is one of the most important parts of a baby’s nutritional journey. “Mums should be confident that when it comes to weaning babies, they require smaller portions than we do and if they do not appear to want to eat, do not keep offering them food. Their tummies are tiny and can only take small amounts, which is why it is important to ensure they eat nutritious snacks and meals.“
Healthcare professionals should be a parent’s first port of call when it comes to concerns about their baby’s diet and overall wellbeing, according to the dietician and Mum. “In terms of when to take steps and speak to your healthcare professional regarding your babies diet, if a baby is gaining weight at too fast or too slow a rate, this is a key sign that you may need to change their diet. Weight gain may be associated with a baby consuming too much of a particular nutrient, which can include protein. Also, parents should be aware that if their baby is constipated, one of the most common causes for constipation in babies is consuming too much milk.”
A rock of common sense, the true measure of a healthy family, says Bannon, is one which is not locked into the idea of ‘good food’ and ‘bad food’. “People need to look at their diet as whole and see how each food they consume and how different food fits in with their overall diet for the day.
From a young age, always encourage children to have colour in each meal to promote good fruit and vegetable intake. Include as many different nutrients as possible including carbohydrate, protein and fat. By including a variety of nutrients, your family has a better chance of reaching their nutritional needs. Remember for children, snacks can make up to a third of their calorie intake in day, therefore the quality of the snacks are hugely important.”
SMA® Nutrition is calling on Irish mums to be aware that during a baby’s early development, they require the right quality and quantity of protein to help them to grow at a steady rate.
Aveen’s Top Tips For Increasing Protein
“From my experience as a dietician, when it comes to weaning I frequently come across two types of parents-those who overfeed their infant with protein and those who don’t introduce enough of a variety of foods during the weaning phase and therefore, are not offering their infants protein rich foods. It is important to get the balance right. Babies have small tummies and they can only consume so much. They do need to be introduced to protein rich foods but in very small amounts. The key thing is to ensure they receive the optimal amounts, so small portions, spread out across-each meal over the course of a day. Protein foods include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, beans & pulses. Portion sizes should gradually increase as they get older, grow and develop. In terms of the entire family, each individual will have different protein requirements depending on their age and lifestyle.”
Free Nutritional Resources Available To Parents
-Food Safety Authority of Ireland portion size guide for pre-school children: https://www.fsai.ie/publications_infant_feeding/
-SMA Careline provides free information 24 7 to parents in Ireland: www.smababy.ie/sma-careline/.
-The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute website: https://www.indi.ie/fact-sheets/fact-sheets-on-nutrition-for-babies-children.html.