Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Food for Thought

I am not especially comfortable with babies. I love my own kids from day 1 but I find the baby stage really stressful (surprise, surprise). I hate trying to second guess all the time. I think that one of my happiest moments in mothering was the day that Pk announced to me, "Mommy, my teeth hurt. I need Advil". It really bothers me when something is wrong and I don't know what it is. I immediately leap to extremes - "my milk supply must have dropped off and baby is starving," "he must have an ear infection", or, the most common one, "obviously I am doing things wrong, if I had it right he/she wouldn't be crying."

I think the thing that I find hardest is the fact that I don't know what the right answers are. There are many people who purport to have the "right" answers but given the fact that those people are often directly in contradiction to each other, there isn't much security in that. I tend to straddle the line between mainstream and crunchy and that isn't a comfortable place to be. I do some/partial/delayed vaxxing, I cosleep but not entirely by choice, I do some babywearing but I do use a stroller and there is some t.v. watching in this house. There is no black and white and I would really like there to be.

In my case, one of the most stressful things has been introducing solids. With both kids, it has been stressful and worrying and downright frustrating. The hardest part is that nobody seems to have the definitely right answer.

With Pk, I was all set to be mainstream. At about 5 months, I started feeding her breastmilk on a spoon to get her ready for cereal. I mean, come on, cereal was supposed to get her sleeping, right? I anxiously awaited the day we started cereal, she was going to eat and sleep. Right???
Not so much. She refused the cereal. She. Would. Not. Eat. I panicked. She needed the iron in the cereal, it was urgent, right? How was I supposed to get iron into a kid who wouldn't eat? We fought and it got ugly. She would not eat anything pureed. I didn't know what to do. Finally, after about a month of flat-out refusal, I emailed my doctor something along the lines of, "I don't want to be nursing this kid at 15 years old. What do I do?" She suggested giving her dry toast and Cheerios. I did, she fed herself and we were off to the races. I stumbled across something called Baby Led Weaning and we dabbled in it and she ate.

When the time to introduce Baby Bean to solids approached, I found myself getting nervous. I tried to convince myself that he was a different kid and things wouldn't be so stressful. I had decided to forgo the infant cereal after considerable research that indicated that the iron was very poorly absorbed and actually interfered with absorption of breastmilk iron and that the cereal itself had no nutritional value, it was just a vehicle for iron. I came up with a plan for introducing homemade cereals, fruit and veg. And, again, Baby Bean totally refused to eat. I was ready to rip my hair out.

You would think that I would just confidently BLW him again. That would be too easy. I wanted to go that way and I started to give him sticks of food to suck. He was in heaven. He loved banana, canteloup, ripe pears, carrots and most especially, cucumber. I wasn't sure how to go about introducing the other foods, though. Where was I going to get the iron for him? I was a bit nervous about meats for some reason. I mentioned all of this to my doctor and she was fairly blase and suggested buying a pediatric iron supplement. That seemed like a good idea. I went and bought the stuff and felt o.k. about it until I read the box - 1. it needed to be given with water or juice, which he doesn't take and 2. it "may cause discolouration of the teeth that can be removed by brushing with baking soda." Right, I really want to brush his teeth with baking soda.

It seemed like a good idea to call the public health information line in our area. That was when I truly went into a panic. I explained the situation and the nurse on the other end of the phone was less than helpful. I was going to kill my baby by choking him and he was going to have brain damage from not eating the cereal. She had no suggestions to solve my problem, she just tried to terrify me. I came off the phone trying not to cry. I truly didn't know what to do.

Enter Gill Rapley. I googled Baby Led Weaning and ordered the book. I now feel totally confident in the route that we have decided to follow and finally, I feel like I have encountered someone who "gets" my situation. My child is not strange for refusing to eat mush and to have stuff pushing into his mouth without knowing what it is. He is learning as he eats, learning about taste, touch, texture and developing his motor skills. She clearly addresses the concerns about choking and what I have seen from Baby Bean follows exactly what she says will happen. I won't lie, it also made me feel better that the handouts from Public Health clearly outline the great importance of introducing finger foods at 8 months to avoid texture problems down the road so truly, my venture off the beaten track is really only about a month and a half long.

Mealtimes have gone from being a struggle to being fun. I don't do things purely the way she outlines it - Baby Bean isn't yet eating off our plates but the food that he is eating very closely resembles ours, just minus sauces and served in slightly different sizes. He eats melon, bananas, carrots, cucumber, broccoli and pears. Best of all, he is eating chicken and turkey for iron and I plan to introduce beef tomorrow. He is having a blast and I don't have to fight. The best part is that Gill is right, while it seems at first like he isn't actually eating anything since so much is left behind or comes back out of his mouth, his diaper is proving that some food is getting in. I consider this a win-win situation - no texture issues down the road, no store-bought baby food (I don't judge anyone who uses it, I just don't like all that I see on the label - I couldn't find any fruit other than prunes that didn't have preservatives) and it travels well.

Cross your fingers for me that it continues to go well. With his terrible, Terrible, TERRIBLE sleeping these days thanks to teething, I am just not up to another fight.


  1. They are all different, and designed to make us crazy, that's for sure. Pumpkinpie did everything just as she was "supposed" to, while The Bun was way more into finger foods and never really was into purees and only now has gotten into dipping, but never really ate baby food the way his big sister did. Not like he's starved, obviously...!

  2. wow, we have a lot in common. I am not fond of the baby stage neither... they are a LOT of work. And babyfood... ick. I make my own, but I hate doing it, and after months of it with my daughter, I vowed to get my son on foods we eat at mealtime much earlier vs trying to make two meals, essentially. I HATE deciding what to eat, so deciding twice isn't fun. That said, I have made him babyfood in the freezer... but I use that to supplement stuff we feed ourselves now. Today he had noodle soup (no, not the boxed kind) for the first time. Didn't eat much, but it's something.

    I haven't tried the fruit/veggie sticks yet, but that looks like a good idea! I think we'll give that a shot. I'll have to buy some pears...