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All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

Daily Telegraph - Stop You're Killing Us!

And not so much softly as with a brutal thwack.  My eyes are bleeding this week after seeing not one, but two lots of dire material hitting the Daily Telegraph. It's beyond painful reading, so much so I briefly pondered whether perhaps flu had rendered any of their journalists who are able to string a half decent story together incapable; or if perhaps some morale boosting team bonding jaunt had left the offices empty?  I hear you can get good deals on a twin room at this time of year...

But Anna White's offerings are cringe worthy, even for the Telegraph.  Think car crash.

Her first offering entitled "The witches of breast milk need to back off" (seriously, hello Mr Editor!)

Let's forget content for a moment and pretend the piece isn't an excuse for someone to unload their personal baggage in print, the article is messier than leaving your 2 year old unsupervised with a tub of Sudocrem!  Perhaps Anna needs to debrief her own experiences before she can rationally and coherently attempt eloquence when covering infant feeding?

To be honest, I'd rather forget the content for more than a moment; permanent deletion "Men in Black" style would be better.  I found it uncomfortable reading, as Anna's emotionally charged attack picked out midwives, health visitors and nurses as "witches".  One Facebook reader suggested the piece needed an Armadillo style re-write, but to be honest I just didn't have the heart.

When I read the piece, I see a mother who tried to breastfeed and like so many was failed.  Who writes about a Health Visitor waving a magic wand and lifting the guilt fog, whilst not recognising the guilt dripping from her own words.  Who clings to the "potential fairy tale" that Joan Wolf might just be right, and that formula is absolutely nearly as good as breastmilk.  Surely anyone who loves their baby and didn't succeed would feel the same?

Only someone emotive about infant feeding writes an article as provocative as this, resorting to playground name calling and not so thinly veiled insults.  Those who work with mothers who haven't breastfed for as long as they planned,or who have been that mother, know that feelings often remain long after the relief of being told it's fine to formula feed has passed.

Her next article however "Is baby-led-weaning a load of mush?", takes terrible journalism to a whole new level.  One can't actually use this piece to weigh up the pros and cons of introducing solids this way, because Anna clearly has done absolutely no research into either the concept or how it's done.

Anna says:
"Picture this family scene...mid-afternoon Mum tweets tonight's set menu, offering her kids a choice of main course and pudding. A reply pops up on Facebook "Cottage pie please Mum but make that with lamb not beef, drop the carrots, and I'll have the gravy on the side." As ridiculous as that sounds is it but 10 years down the line from a six-month-old selecting tea from a platter of finely chopped foods. From the child's earliest culinary memory he is dictating the dish du jour."
"Baby-led-weaning means letting your little one choose food themselves - a term coined by former health visitor and mid-wife Gill Rapley." 
That's right Anna, every meal time mothers everywhere gather their child up, take them to the fridge and let the babies self select.  The youngest know to point and grunt at desired items, whilst the older ones competently sign the exact ingredients required for a three course meal.  Honest.
"From his throne-like high chair oh bibbed-one chooses his food, reaches for it and feeds himself."
His throne like high chair?  (has Anna been snooping on the Beckhams I wonder?).  The irony in implying there is something "precious" about a child reaching for, and feeding himself (as apposed to his mother mushing it to save him chewing, then popping it in his mouth to save him feeding himself too) clearly lost on this writer.

Apparently mums are divided on the issue, which is interesting as whilst I read lots from people who have done one thing or another; it's hardly the stuff of explosive discussions.  As Gill Rapley herself points out, long before she coined the phrase "Baby Led Weaning", mothers had for centuries been introducing solids this way.

A rather flaky "against" argument develops:
"On one side of the table: what if your child, who has no concept of solids or how they taste, doesn't like any of the components of your evening meal? Forget the hassle of purée, you now have the faff of preparing dinner for two and a finger food buffet for one - a toddler tasting menu."
I think I actually snorted my coffee at this paragraph.  If the child has no concept or solids or how they taste, how can they at that point dislike anything?  They can't until it's offered.  Then they may (believe it or not)  dislike whatever puree is offered, just as they may dislike your meal.  Does Anna keep a selection of "absolutely zero effort" purees on hand?

Because here's the thing Anna, pureed baby food doesn't magically appear when you turn the blender on.  Nope, you have to spend time lovingly creating a meal, squishing it up and then dividing into weeny portions to freeze.  If he doesn't like it?  You have the hassle of making more.  If he throws it across the kitchen several nights in a row, let's see how quick you're claiming self feeding infants are "dictating the dish du jour".

Again the irony seems to woosh right over Anna's head.

When babies are starting solids at their own pace, the answer to what if they don't like dinner is: "So what?". Nutritionally babies don't need to eat every time food is on offer, milk is their main form of nutrition in the first year.  Solid foods are initially for taste and texture.  If they don't like dinner, perhaps they will like breakfast, or lunch; or perhaps they will (if not truly ready) wipe it about the table, gnaw the edge before abandoning it down the side of their seat.  If it's something you were making anyway it's no big deal.

Anna ploughs on regardless.
"There is something rather medieval (and messy) about a feeding style where the little critic lobs rejected courses over his shoulder. This early selection process gives children the freedom to turn their noses up at food making it difficult to later on enforce such rules as no greens, no pudding. Staple values end up in the bin once you hand over control on a plate."
Firstly, are we seriously suggesting puree weaned babies don't turn their noses up at foods?  Don't clamp their mouth shut and twist their little heads fiercely side to side?  Don't manage to grab the dish and tip it on their heads?  I have photo evidence proving otherwise!

Food is a fantastic sensory experience for babies, think of all the smells, tastes, textures.  How much pressure before something squishes or slides out of your hand?  As Gill herself says, parents spend a fortune on sensory toys - whilst the best toy of all is right their under their noses.

To have a parent controlling the food, the spoon and what's on it deprives them of this experience.  It also makes it easy to overeat which can lead to constipation.
"But for mums who are more budget eatery than fine dining there is limited time and money to provide a tapas style supper, much of which may end up on the wall."
A tapas style supper?  Did Anna actually even Google Baby Led Weaning before attempting this article?  I don't understand how serving up an extra portion of your meal is "tapas style", well unless of course you're having tapas anyway!  How does a meal cost any more served whole rather than blending?

"Diet-related anxiety on the part of the parent, albeit their own intake or that of the child, can allow the toddler to use food as emotional blackmail."

I absolutely agree anxiety around eating should be avoided.  Mothers who used baby-led weaning were found to be less anxious about feeding and less controlling than “spoon-feeding” mothers.(1)

As for emotional blackmail, I think the thing is that a healthy appetite isn't the only thing that can be shaped by a parent's attitude.  Perhaps reconsidering strategies like "no greens, no puddings", might help.

Anna concludes:
"My four-month-old twin girl is already a particular feeder - the type of teat, temperature and position can determine how much milk she deems to drink, and as a premature baby it's a volume game. Allowing her breaks, remaining calm and playing while feeding, works for us."
Which despite all Anna's comments above sounds like responsive parenting.  To the trained ear I suspect whatever makes her daughter fussy with the bottle, is likely the root cause of their breastfeeding problems too.
"So when it comes to serving up the solids to twins with potentially differing tastes I intend to practice the technique, you'll get what you're given, in the hope it limits mealtime chaos."
Excellent, Baby Led Weaning all the way then Anna?

1.  Brown A, Lee M. An exploration of experiences of mothers following a baby-led weaning style: developmental readiness for complementary foods. Matern Child Nutr. Nov 28 2011.

6 comments:

  1. Wow! I feel a mixture of sympathy and understanding.

    Understated (AKA denial) guilt about being unable to provide maternal nourishment and unable to cope with the swarming maternal - professional battle.

    Setting herself up for battles of the hidden kind and wondering why the twins only eat seven food items!

    Volume not quality's the key. Isn't it?

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  2. Is she a journalist? Because if she is she either missed the lessons on research before writing an article or her brain has been affected by childbirth. These are just opinion articles that, to my mind have no value. I just hope that the readers of the DT will ignore them. I imagine she has a lot of issues surrounding her childbirth and breast feeding and now she got it all out of her chest. I hope that insulting midwives, nurses, health visitors and those who are in favour of BLW, including Gill Rapley has served her as a bit of therapy. I hope it was worth it Anna!

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  3. I think it's just that she's never fed an infant. She thinks that with purees she will control the variety of foods and the amount eaten. She doesn't yet know that you can't and shouldn't force a baby to eat. Even spoon fed babies will turn their heads and spit out what they don't want.

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  4. has she even watched a baby self feed? or a baby spit out the scooped-up-from-mouth-cos-he-spat-it-out-for-thirteenth-time pureed mush? force fed friend has just overcome 38years of living on crap because of force feeding causing psychological issues!

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  5. I have 3 children, each of whom Re completely different feeders. My eldest was exclusively breastfed til 7 months when she stopped herself and we fed her via spoon from 6 months, under instructions from the health visitor. Now 8, she eats like a sparrow! My son had health issues and we were told he needed special formula at 4 months, and also to be weaned onto solids. Again, we spoon fed due to his age and it was a nightmare! He would scream as soon as he saw his bowl and spoon. From 6 months he was self feeding but the damage was done. He is 3 now and food is a major issue.
    My youngest is 12 months and we have put all of our previous experiences to good use! We are still breastfeeding and she has been self feeding since 6 months. She eats almost anything and now i finally understand baby led weaning!
    I wonder how this writer will feel once her babies actually start on solids?! Might be interesting reading!

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