Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Parental tip: There will be Välling

If you have an infant in Sweden – chances are you have heard of the miraculous Swedish baby food also known as Välling. From around the age of 6 months and above, välling becomes the cornerstone of the Swedish baby's diet.

In the US we are taught that babies receive most of their nutrition until the age of 1 from either breastmilk or formula. But in Sweden, most of the old school nurses (who you meet with instead of peds) will tell you that none of that is really necessary. All a baby needs is a complete diet and lots and lots of välling.

Swedish parents swear by it as well. It is probably one of the things Swedish ex-pats miss the most when living abroad – since Välling does not seem to exist anywhere outside of Scandinavia.

So what is Välling? And why is it the liquid of the vikings?

Surprisingly, Välling does not fulfill many of the standard Swedish rules. Which shows just how important it is, since Swedes are willing to overlook these rules. 1) It is factory produced – you cannot make Välling yourself, you have to buy the processed form. 2) It is a WHITE product – not a dark, GI favorable food (although you can now find fiber enriched välling as well).

According to the nurse we see, Välling is a cereal – similar to feeding your child oatmeal. The main difference is that it is often wheat based. It is slightly thicker than formula, and fed to babies in bottles, often before bedtime. There is also quite a bit of palm oil and canola in most of the forms of välling. Most are also fortified, to supply all of the minerals needed in a balanced diet. And they contain powdered milk.

If we conduct a completely unscientific study and look at Swedes vs. Americans, despite the strange ingredients it appears Välling as a child does not leave you with a lifetime risk for obesity, and other illnesses. There was one study that seemed to show it can give some increase risk for gluten intolerance.

Personally, we haven't tried Välling in our house – but if we don't get some sleep around here soon, that might change.


  1. Ah yes, välling. Very bizarre to me when I learned about it, and yes, only exists in Sweden. It really is quite in opposition to what they tell you in the US!

  2. Yep.

    Just weird to me....and at the same time, everyone stops nursing relatively early as the moms are home to 9months, then the dads go on pappaledig and the babe to food and the bottle. It seems to me if they are that obsessed, just keep nursing....its better for ya.

    Välling is sold as a food in the breakfast section, too, not sure about how it figures into the diet of older folks, but it does.

    30% of Swedes are gluten intolerant, though, so maybe all the early grains do have an effect.

  3. I have seen quite a few Swedish moms get really stressed out about their LO's diet because they aren't told formula/bm can be primary nutrition source for 1 year. They struggle to make sure their kids are eating enough and properly, when the kids just don't seem interested.

    I will continue with BF because it makes things a lot easier for everyone.

  4. I just want to point out that it is 1-3% (not 30%) of Swedes who are gluten intolerant. This is a bit above average in the world, but not by far. It is also important to remember that Sweden is one of few countries in the world where gluten sensitivity tests are being performed on a regular basis, so it is a tricky statistic to rely on.

  5. I am presently on my fist trip to Sweden. As a retired midwife and practicing IBCLC, I notice babies everywhere I go... I watch, I turn to peek in strollers, I peek in baby carriers... This is my observation... These babies feed on demand... The are chubby and happy. They are quiet! And guess what? The older kids, moms and dads are all fit! I see very few overweight kids or adults. This tells me the newborns are getting their needs met! It is a wonderful thing!
    Sure seems like it would be hard to br gluten free... Bread is everywhere. There must be a menu I haven't found!

    1. I am a third generation swede in America. I think I was mislead about valling. Growing up the rice pudding we have at Christmas meal was always called velling. I have been wondering about it because none of the other swede's in our area have never heard of it. Now I just learned from another swede from out of town , valling was a poor mans soup.She said it was water,sugar and flour. Can anyone help me resolve this mystery.

    2. I think the confusion comes from the fact that välling is essentially just "gruel", i.e. thin porridge (which in theory could be made from any grain). Nowadays everyone buys commercial välling but in the past it would have been made from cereal grains at home - the poor would have had very thin gruel made from flour or whatever cheap cereal they could get hold of, whereas those who could afford it probably would have had thicker porridges made with more expensive cereals. Your family's rice pudding was probably your great great grandmother's own version of välling that has been passed down the generations.

    3. Thank's so much for the reply. You have answered a lot of questions I had. We have enjoyed the Swedish Christmas dinner all my life. I want to pass the tradition on to my children and grandchildren with the proper names. Some day I hope to visit my distant realatives in

      Thanks so much for the explanation. It has answered a lot of question's I have had. We have always had the Swedish smorgesbord dinner at Christmas. I am now explaining it to my grandchildren and they seem very interested. Someday I really hope to visit Sweden. Thanks again. Mr. Aronson

  6. I am currently working with a Swedish client who's baby is not sleeping. They are giving him valling before bed and I didn't have a clue what it was. It sounds similar to the old school idea of putting some baby rice in the final bottle of the day to keep the tummy full at night. Clearly not always the cure for sleepless nights!