Feeding with love is an incredibly challenging yet important part of our parenting adventure. My husband has a ridiculous number of food allergies, as a toddler I had tons of allergies and my daughter is at risk for allergies. Early in my pregnancy, I came to the decision I would delay solids for our daughter, Arbor, to give her a better chance at avoiding the allergy issue. To me, this was feeding with love. Arbor is exclusively breastfed, which is a great victory to me because she spent her first ten days of life in the NICU. We had some challenges getting started with our breastfeeding relationship so our success has meant the world to me. I had great support and managed to avoid formula, thanks to the great ICN staff and lactation team at Duke. This was also feeding with love.
Now I have a happy and healthy five-month-old who nurses like a champ. Our nursing relationship is one of the single most important parts of our family dynamic. However, we’re getting to the age where most babies start solids. I was really hoping to avoid this until she was a year old. Some people have told me that’s utterly ridiculous while other moms have shared their experience with delaying. Arbor is at the age and developmental phase where she is gaining an interest in food. She’s started grabbing at our plates, has attempted to snatch food from our bowls and follows our every motion as food is moved from fork to mouth. She can now sit independently, has lost the tongue-thrust reflex when her lips are touched and can grab her toys, bring them to her mouth and chew like there’s no tomorrow. Developmentally she’s exactly where she should be in order to begin experiencing solid foods. I’ve been sticking to my guns about waiting until a year though.
This weekend we had a total game-changer. While my husband was snacking on a bowl of oatmeal, Arbor began her usual visual analysis of this whole “eating” thing Daddy was doing. Then she started chewing her mouth along with him and imitated his motions. She began grunting and leaning in towards him, all but begging for a bite. She grew increasingly frustrated that Daddy was not sharing that marvelous goop with her and I felt like we were being mean for upsetting her. I asked him to go eat in another room so she wouldn’t be as mad, so he hid behind a giant pillow where she wouldn’t see hIs food. I offered her the breast in case she was just hungry… she had no interest. She wanted Daddy’s oatmeal. Fortunately, out of sight, out of mind works for little babies. This frustration didn’t last long but it did open up the weaning discussion for Izzy and me.
We weighed out the pros and cons of both options… but it’s definitely not an easy decision to make. I almost went to the store that instant to pick up some avocados for her to try but Izzy reminded me that it’s only another three weeks until she hits the six-month mark. She might really need those three weeks to let her gut finish closing. After that date, we will keep good wholesome foods on hand that can be her starter foods when she is expressing a deep interest in starting solid food. We believe in baby-led weaning, so it’s important to us to allow Arbor to initiate the process, within reason. This too is feeding with love.
It’s my job as her mother to protect her and I take this role very seriously. It’s equally important that I not get so hung up on my individual goals for her that I’m preventing her from a normal, healthy and even fun part of her growth and development. I’m incredibly excited to see how she reacts to her first taste of flavorful food and am allowing that excitement to be greater than my fear of allergies. So we are preparing to lovingly usher in the next era of our parenting journey. Time to stock up on drop cloths and fresh veggies!