The snotbot has been unwell recently, and since she hadn’t been weighed in a while I decided to take her to the Health Visitor to see how she was doing. I should have realised that this was at best not a good idea – but hindsight is 20:20 afterall.
It turned out she’d dropped a centile. Not a huge amount and infact when you use the CDC calculator she’d only dropped 8% compared to her last weigh in. I had thought that it was likely that she would have dropped a bit as her appetite had drastically gone down last week following both a cold and upset tummy. But the Health Visitor seemed concerned, and proceeded to say that it was more than she would have expected and then ask how much I’m feeding her.
I proceeded to outline our average feeding schedule (which is about 150ml formula on waking, breakfast of large portion of yoghurt and fruit puree with toast, mid-morning milk of approx 120ml, lunch of about half a jar of baby food and what I think is a large amount of finger food, mid-afternoon milk of about 90mls, dinner being a repeat of lunch, and before bed she gets formula milk which can vary from 30 to 200mls). The health visitor looked concerned, and then told me that a 7 months old she should be taking a whole jar of baby food plus finger food at lunch AND a whole jar of baby food plus finger food plus desert for dinner.
Clearly she felt I wasn’t feeding this baby enough – why else could she have dropped down the centiles when until now she has rigidly stuck to the 80th centile as if you were making the graph up?!? I checked with her, and yes she did mean one of the larger 7-10 month old baby jars and not the ones advertised for smaller babies. I did try to say how much she takes as finger food (as she actually prefers finger food and would rather feed herself but the spoon ends up creating something akin to a Jackson Pollock all over the floor and walls with very little going in her mouth).
The health visitor then wanted to know if she was walking or crawling yet, presumably to make sure that the reason that her weight was dropping wasn’t due to having a baby who is active and therefore will tend to drop weight as they exercise. I tried to explain that my child doesn’t really like crawling and has always tried to stand up, even from a few weeks old and everyone else who has seen her has said she probably won’t crawl, and infact she’s already trying to walk around the living room. Unfortunately she made it sound like it was a problem that my baby was doing neither, and then checked to make sure she could raise her head up in case she had a muscular problem. At this point I felt I was doing a lot of ‘trying to explain’ and justifying my parenting and getting quite a lot of critiquing back.
We left being firmly told to increase my daughter’s food intake to the aforementioned whole jar plus finger food and lunch AND dinner with desert after dinner. And I tried today at lunch. Bless her, I think the snotbot didn’t really understand what was going on (and neither did my husband if I’m honest) as I frantically tried to shove as much baby food into her mouth as possible. And she tried, honestly she actually tried to eat as much as she could. But we got through 2/3rds of a jar plus some sweet potatoes wedges, half a cheese string, banana wafers, rice cake and a bit of Mummy’s pizza before she finally clamped her mouth shut and refused to eat any more. And was then a little bit sick.
All of this got me wondering – how much should she actually be eating? And why is it so hard to find out how much she should be eating and why is all the advice that you get given generally very imprecise?
And I think the answers come down to the fact that every child is different and will therefore have slightly different nutritional requirements. Some children weigh more than others, are more or less active, have a different metabolic rate and eat food which is more or less calorie dense. So the amount that they eat can vary hugely even though they may be the same age or weight – and this is what makes it so difficult to give advice on portion sizes at this age.
Calories wise, I found one website which quoted 100 calories per kg, whilst another said boys aged 7-12 months need 825 to 920 kcal per day, and for girls 765 to 865 kcal per day. This later estimate was supported by Kids and Nutrition which has lots of information about (unsurprisingly) children and their nutritional needs.
After all this, my husband and I sat down and calculated out a rough estimate of how many calories our daughter consumes. And its about 750-800 kcal a day.
With all the worry, I decided to call my usual Health Visitor who told me to stop worrying and said it sounded like I was doing everything right, and that the reason she had dropped off a centile was either because she’d been unwell or was trending down to her normalised weight given her height (as she’s on a much higher centile for weight than for height) – or that it was because a different set of scales were used. She seemed to think that the quantity of food advised to rather large and was probably much more than was needed, and agreed that if a baby eats lots of finger food that she won’t have much space left for puree/mash/jar food. And she promised to come and weight her again herself in 2 weeks time. So I spent the remainder of the afternoon cleaning up the slightly orange-coloured baby spew which was brought up as I’d probably overdone the feeding at lunchtime (and as I’ve learned the hard way this stuff stains something rotten).
Dinner time became a somewhat less fraught than lunch affair – although there was just as many attempts to recreate Jackson Pollock (if only her ‘artworks’ would sell for as much!).