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Children’s sleep & nutrition: top tips from the WellVine experts!

Last week, WellVine co-hosted a health and wellness event for mums and mums-to-be with &Breathe postnatal. At the event, two of our health professionals Katharina (WellVine Child Nutritionist) and Maryanne (WellVine Children’s Sleep Consultant) gave expert advice and answered attendees’ questions on children’s nutrition and sleep.

We’ve pulled together some tips and advice from the event for those that couldn’t make it.

Top Tips: Children’s Nutrition

Q: My child is a fussy eater, how can I get him to try new things?

Katharina’s top tip: “Let one meal a day slide”

Introducing an unfamiliar food into your child’s diet can take between 20-30 attempts, maybe more if your child is a fussy eater. This can get very frustrating and tiring for both you and your child, especially when you’ve spent a lot of time preparing food. Often mums find themselves debating whether they should let their child go hungry or prepare another food that their child likes. Kat’s advice is to try using lunchtime as your meal to introduce new things. If you give your child a meal they like for breakfast and dinner, you can then try to introduce something new at lunch and if unsuccessful, you can let that meal “slide”, and revert back to something you know they will eat; so your child will still be exposed to new foods and you will be reassured that he/she won’t go hungry.

Q: I want to try introducing new foods into my daughter’s diet but I find it so emotionally draining, so usually I just give her what she wants. Is there any way to make it easier?

Katharina’s top tip: “Take the emotion out of the food”

Kat advised that the best thing you can do is to take the emotion out of the food and not to be too hard on yourself! Try introducing foods that you’ve not had to prepare or require very little effort to prepare, so have little emotional attachment to the food itself. For example, if you are preparing a meal for yourself, simply put a bit of that on your little one’s plate for him/her to try; the same can be done when the family is out for a meal. This takes away the emotional investment in the food as you’ve not prepared it, while still giving your little one an opportunity to try something new.

Mum-to-mum nutrition tip: “In our house, everyone has to try absolutely everything, even if it’s just a small bite. It’s a good rule to have from the get-go!”

Q: I want to introduce fish into my child’s diet, how do you suggest I do it?

Kat’s top tip: “Try something easy, like mackerel in tomato sauce”

Finding a way to present fish to your child that doesn’t look so unfamiliar often works well. And if you haven’t prepared it, you are less emotionally invested in the food. Kat recommended trying mackerel in tomato sauce from a tin and putting a little on your child’s plate alongside other foods they are familiar with. The tomato sauce usually helps disguise the fish and although there is a little sugar in it, the mackerel is packed full with omega oils so makes it a great fish to start with. Be careful to check for bones before serving though!

If you’d like to get expert advice on tackling tricky scenarios with your child’s eating habits, please do book an appointment with Katharina anytime.

Top tips: Children’s sleep

Q: Why isn’t my baby sleeping?

Maryanne’s top tip: “Consistency is key”

Maryanne advised that there are a number of reasons that your baby may not be sleeping. However, she advised looking into the four following areas as a starting point, as these are the most common causes:

  1. Sleep windows: working out the optimum time to put your child to sleep is very important because if you baby goes to bed too late it can affect their cortisol levels (e.g they will get a rush of cortisol due to the stress of going to sleep late). An increase in cortisol can impact how your baby settles and increase wake ups during the night.
  2. Daily routine: what happens during the day is also key, especially the timing and length of naps as it will have an impact on your baby sleep at night. It is important to shape your baby’s day with patterns and sleep times to ensure they sleep well at night.
  3. Sleep associations: This can be anything that your child relies on to help them get to sleep (e.g patting, rocking etc.). If your baby develops a sleep association, they will struggle to get to sleep without it and if they wake up during the night they will become reliant on this to help them get back to sleep. If they wake up and it’s not there, they will struggle to get back to sleep without the association so it is important that your baby is put to sleep in the same environment as much as possible. It is then less confusing and they are more confident to fall back to sleep.
  4. Consistency: Consistency is key! Whilst you might be tempted to try every trick in the book to get your baby to sleep, this lack of consistency will actually cause more sleep problems. Commit to trying a certain routine and see if it works over a prolonged period of time. If you aren’t sure what routine to try, Maryanne or one of our other WellVine’s expert sleep consultants will be able to help

Q: My baby isn’t sleeping at night, should I shorten his nap times?

Maryanne’s Top Tip: “Never shorten nap time in the hope of a better night’s sleep!”

Maryanne advised that if your baby sleeps better in the day, they will sleep better at night. What happens during the day up (e.g. timing and length of naps) sets up your baby for the evening. If your baby sleeps better during the day, they will often be less restless and sleep better at night. Many people thinking that shortening nap time will help to guarantee a better nights sleep but it’s actually the opposite, it often makes babies less likely to get a good night’s sleep due to the stress of being woken up early from their naps during the day.

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'It takes a village to raise a child' - a simple truth that all parents understand. And at WellVine, we are bringing that village to you. A network of doctors and other top quality health professionals, available via video call, when you need them.