Why are UK Mums obsessed with over-feeding milk to babies

Supernanny’s advice isn’t rocket science but clearly to some mothers it is. I heard today the sentence, “my baby girl is hardly eating anything in the day and she refuses to drop her milk from a bottle and is waking up in the night asking for it”. So what do you do? I ask “Well I give her a bottle and she drinks about 7 oz so clearly needs it”. I ask what happens if she gives the milk to her in a cup and I get the response, “Well she won’t drink it in a cup”. So that means that she doesn’t actually want the milk she just wants to comfort suck on the bottle – get rids of all the bottles and she will either embrace drinking from a cup more readily or drop a milk feed altogether and will then start to have more of an appetite in the day.

My sister-in-law also had the same problem with my niece and this is a woman that has a high-powered job in the city. I just don’t understand why they can’t see that reducing back milk in the night in a bottle will help the child’s appetite in the day and will also wean them off comfort sucking.

Also, what is the obsession with milk in this country? I am convinced that half the eating problems that children develop in this country with fussy eating is because we wean them too late in the UK and seem to think they still need a full bottle of milk a day after they have turned one. My friends who are nannys have observed children as old as 2 and 3 still receiving bottles of milk at bedtime. There is nothing wrong with a bit of warm milk in a cup, but guzzling 7 oz at bedtime in toddlerhood is just asking for trouble. I think this obsession with milk stems from the NHS advising a pure milk diet until the baby is 6 months old. I recall a nurse advising myself and other Mums at a post-natal group meeting “to wean between 4 months and 5 months as, between you me, we are starting to notice problems delaying it until 6 months”. So I did this with my daughter and started weaning her at 4 months and by 6 months she was on solids completely. By the time she turned one, the only milk she had was the occasional drink at the morning with breakfast.  My daughter absolutely loves her food and can’t understand why so many of her friends are so fussy, particularly with hot meals. I did the same approach with my son and, although still only 21 months, he enjoys eating most foods including chilli con carne. I was told by the health visitor that a child needs to see a food they haven’t experienced yet 17 times on their plate before they accept it and then they have to eat it another 17 times before they are happy to have it as part of their diet. Well I haven’t been counting the number of times I have been putting veg and salad on his plate, sometimes he eats it sometimes he doesn’t, but overall he likes his food and doesn’t crave milk in a bloody bottle!

I have advised my friend to just chuck all the bottles away so that the only option is to use the cup and then that removes the temptation to give milk in a bottle. I will have to do the same when it is time for my boy to say goodbye to dummy at bedtime. The rule of thumb of parenting to avoid encouragomg bad habits, is to make a decision and stick to it and be consistent in the message you are communicating to the child. Too often parents default to alternatives, such as offering children other food if they refuse what is in front of them. The parents then wonder why their child is fussy. Of course the child will refuse what is in front of them if they know they are likely to get an option that they prefer because the parent is worried the child will starve to death…crazy! If they are hungry they will eat, if not then not to worry, remove the plate and don’t stress about it but DON’T offer alternatives. They will soon make up for it at their next mealtime when they are bound to have a bigger appetite. 

A few episodes of supernanny demonstrate what I mean by a consistent message – this also applies to bed-time too. I think in many ways parents are their own worse enemies and if they took a step back and assessed the situation logically the solution is clear.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. Please donate to the campaign here.

Thanks for reading.