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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Fri 09-Sep-16 14:46:14

Guest post: "I didn't feed my daughter as a nutritionist, I fed her as a mother"

Jane Clarke's daughter was severely malnourished when she adopted her - but she says she trusted her instincts, not her training, when feeding her

Jane Clarke will be speaking on pre- and post-natal nutrition at Babyfest on 24 September. For this, plus a host of other expert talks (and plenty of pampering!), snap up your ticket now - just £25 or two for £45

Jane Clarke

Nutritionist

Posted on: Fri 09-Sep-16 14:46:14

(28 comments )

Lead photo

"I held and fed her close, until she started to turn the corner."

When I first met my daughter Maya in India, she was a tiny, five-month-old, beautiful little bundle. Starting out on the adoption path, I didn't know anyone who had adopted a baby - let alone travelled across continents to do so. I expected that I would have to teach myself how to fall in love with her, but the feelings were instantaneous. She was my daughter right from the start.

Even though I was already an aunt and had treated many young children and babies over the years, I really hadn't anticipated how vulnerable I would feel as a new mum. I knew the theory, but when I was thrown into being Maya's sole carer when I brought her home 10 months later, I found the reality to be very different.

Maya was 15 months old and weighed 3.5kgs - the average birth weight in the UK. She was severely malnourished and had rickets, making her legs frail and bent. People often ask me what it was like as a nutritionist to care for her - surely I knew everything there was to know? My answer often takes them by surprise - I didn't feed Maya as a nutritionist, I fed her as her mother. I followed my instincts. I knew that even though society dictated that at 15 months she should be eating solid foods, I needed to go against convention. I bottle-fed her for months until she was strong enough, gut-wise - and confidence-wise, alongside this new mother of hers - to venture into the world of food. I didn't measure the milligrams of calcium and vitamin D going into her tiny body, I just held and fed her close, until she started to turn the corner.

People often ask me what it was like as a nutritionist to care for her - surely I knew everything there was to know?


In our food-centric world it's so easy to feel confused, guilty and frightened about what you should or shouldn’t be feeding your baby. Mothers are made to feel ashamed for choosing not to breastfeed, or for not being able to. As if this wasn’t enough to contend with, many mothers forget or don’t have time to look after themselves - but for the wellbeing of both mother and baby, it’s crucial that mums dedicate some time and attention to themselves. It doesn’t take much; just a few simple things can hold you strong.

Remember that children, be they in your womb, or alongside you as they grow older - Maya is now 13 - take from you. They take the nutrients you give them, but they also absorb your attitude. Setting an example by caring for yourself can be just as important as putting a meal in front of your child. Babies grow up feeling far more secure and strong, if you join them in their journey of nourishing the body.

By Jane Clarke

Twitter: @NourishByJane

IcedVanillaLatte Fri 09-Sep-16 16:19:51

A reminder to all those out there who may not be aware: dietitian is to nutritionist as dentist is to toothyologist.

(Dara O'Briain (apologies for spelling), I think.)

IcedVanillaLatte Fri 09-Sep-16 16:22:35

So why would you call yourself a nutritionist when, according to your Twitter profile, you're a dietitian?

timeforabrewnow Fri 09-Sep-16 17:05:26

Lovely post OP whether or not you're a dietitian or nutritionist. Your daughter thrived, and that's the thing really.

HaPPy8 Fri 09-Sep-16 17:29:53

Jane is a qualified Dietician.

IcedVanillaLatte Fri 09-Sep-16 17:58:54

I did mention that.

Stevefromstevenage Fri 09-Sep-16 18:28:35

Congratulations on your beautiful daughter.

It is very unclear what you are advocating from what has been written. Luckily malnourishment is not widespread in the UK except in extreme situations. It seems you were dealing with a reasonably unique set of circumstances.

Maybe this is aimed at the way BF is mishandled in mainstream public health and media however I think your particular experience is not readily extrapolated to the majority of children or mothers.

Parents using their gut feeling on feeding children is most likely related closely to our modern day childhood obesity epidemic so it certainly does not follow that using your 'instincts' to feed a child(ren) will be appropriate for all families. More often it seems education is necessary.

Odd choice for a Mumsnet guest post or maybe just a poorly written post that tells very little about what this poster is actually advocating.

Dontlaugh Fri 09-Sep-16 18:39:47

Surely the thread title should be changed as a Dietician is not the same as a Nutritionist, and has very different clinical aims.
Otherwise, I really like your post, as a mum of a FTT ( failure to thrive) child, I feel every sentence. Your instinct was shored up by your clinical background, is my own opinion, and led by your mothering instinct. I was missing the clinical bit and so my LO went the tubes route (NG, PEG) but I had started with him breastfeeding - he was simply too ill to gain enough nutrients/weight from that and once patients dip below a certain centile, all bets are off in my experience and it's all hands on deck to make sure the baby gains weight at any cost. My own baby had dropped off the charts due to illness and so he had TPN,
I am happy he is here and healthy now but if I had formula fed from the beginning I do wonder if he'd have fed easier. Should woulda coulda!
But really like this post. There's humanity and compassion in it that's hard to see sometimes with an ill child.

PortiaCastis Fri 09-Sep-16 20:06:54

I'm actually more concerned with the children in this world who have no hope of being fed at all.
I suppose that is a different topic though

CoteDAzur Fri 09-Sep-16 23:45:19

What an odd OP confused

"I didn't feed Maya as a nutritionist, I fed her as her mother."

You couldn't do both because...?

"I didn't measure the milligrams of calcium and vitamin D going into her tiny body, I just held and fed her close, until she started to turn the corner."

Could you not have held her close while you fed her while also paying attention to her Calcium and Vitamin C intake? Surely you should have, while taking care of a severely malnourished child.

I'm not sure I understood your OP, actually. Did you forget (ignore?) your training about optimum nutrition once you had a child? If so, why? confused

J0kersSmile Sat 10-Sep-16 08:04:30

I have your book, it was really interesting and helpful.

WhatsMyNameNow Sat 10-Sep-16 09:13:36

Ima bit confused about this post too. I'd be fascinated to hear about adopting a poorly baby from India but I'm not sure I get the 'I'm a nutritionist but I ignored that when fed my daughter'. It's a bit gushy and meaningless and It wasn't like you were feeding her fruit shoots and macdonalds confused

Ps the photos of your DD on your Twitter account are lovely. smile

Maybe I should stop reading blog posts ....I don't think they are my thing sad

WhatsMyNameNow Sat 10-Sep-16 09:14:01

Ima bit confused about this post too. I'd be fascinated to hear about adopting a poorly baby from India but I'm not sure I get the 'I'm a nutritionist but I ignored that when fed my daughter'. It's a bit gushy and meaningless and It wasn't like you were feeding her fruit shoots and macdonalds confused

Ps the photos of your DD on your Twitter account are lovely. smile

Maybe I should stop reading blog posts ....I don't think they are my thing sad

squizita Sat 10-Sep-16 11:07:52

Laughs at the MN nutrition keyboard warriors (fwiw I'm a bit of obsessive about my DD'S nutrition but there are a lot of MN posters who either border on orthorexia or are keyboard warriors... I've seen talk of weighing portions on healthy children's plates etc on so many threads).
Maybe that is what this post is about.

squizita Sat 10-Sep-16 11:11:23

Cote the problem is people DO that measuring when feeding healthy kids. There is a strata of largely middle class society where the vitamins might be right (on paper ... One kid I know was ill off supplements and too little fat) but the psychological relationship with food is poor: it's a source of stress and like a dangerous puzzle.

PortiaCastis Sat 10-Sep-16 12:00:31

Finding it oddly amusing that there is an ad for vitamins at the top of this page.

Boogers Sat 10-Sep-16 13:31:10

Squizita just playing devil's advocate but a lot of parents weigh their child's food for reasons of necessity, for example T1 diabetes.

NameChangingStranger Sat 10-Sep-16 14:11:52

I have a child who is classed as malnourished. It can be incredibly hard for people to understand especially in the western world.

Add to the mix the keyboard food warriors and it can be a battle. The only thing that keeps me going re food is our amazing dietician who listens/advises and supports us.

I know far too well what feeding for love versus feeding on advice looks like. It sounds like your daughter has made amazing leaps with you by her side. Best of luck to the both of you.

Feefeefs Sat 10-Sep-16 14:16:00

Portiacassis those ads are normally based on your search history not the piece, for example my ad is about fairy detergent

PortiaCastis Sat 10-Sep-16 14:23:36

I know but I haven't searched for vitamins. Mn were advertising Love Honey last weekend and I hadn't searched for that site either.

Amandahugandkisses Sat 10-Sep-16 16:24:58

I'm not sure I understand the OP or the emphasis on feeding as a loving mother vs nutritionist. Surely you do both?
But it's lovely your daughter is thriving.

GiraffesAndButterflies Sat 10-Sep-16 20:00:19

Why is it good that you fed her as a mother? I mean great that it worked out and everything, but if you gave me a tiny malnourished baby with rickets, I'd see myself as irresponsible if I didn't get advice about how to help. Isn't it a crime to leave a child without medical attention?

If of course you had all that medical attention it just wasn't you that gave it, then was that really instinct-led?

OlennasWimple Sun 11-Sep-16 13:07:47

Congratulations on your DD!

I don't fully understand your post, but as an adoptive parent and parent of a preemie I know there are lots of things we do that are out of kilter with mainstream thinking on child development but which is wholly appropriate for an individual child. For example, children who have had an abusive early childhood may need to regress once they find stability, leading to baby like cuddles and bottles for four year olds. Some of this therapeutic parenting can be taught, but some of it is instinctive and we have to have the confidence to listen to our gut rather than what the books - and our peers - are telling us. Is that what you were trying to say??

OlennasWimple Sun 11-Sep-16 13:08:46

(My advert is for nourishing shampoo - I've not searched for that either, but maybe my webcam is onto something...)

Kitsa Sun 11-Sep-16 13:15:59

I'm actually more concerned with the children in this world who have no hope of being fed at all.
I suppose that is a different topic though

Go read about them then? FFS.

Stunning derailing and lack of empathy and engagement from almost all of you here, well done guys!

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