Feeding Solids With Love

by Carlene on October 8, 2012

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Vegetable stand

flickr/comprock

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!

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Carlene (3 Posts)


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Steffie October 8, 2012 at 8:33 am

You might try fingertip tastes. Stick a finger in the oatmeal, or sweet potatoes, or soup, or swipe up some of the stroganoff sauce or whatever it is on your plate. Offer it to her. Let her taste it, roll it around on her tongue. Gives her something to think about. We did this for a few weeks, to let the little Hawk get used to the idea that food will taste and feel different in his little mouth. Sometimes, as we got closer to letting him have food, we let him have several tastes. Not enough to seriously disrupt the system, nor really enough to satisfy that urge to actually eat, but it was enough to get him firmly interested in eating when I mashed a purple yam and finally offered him a spoonful.

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tami October 8, 2012 at 8:35 am

i love how you have listened to your gut and not your “personal goals” in this case. i think that is so much of what being a good parent is all about! :)

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Carlene October 8, 2012 at 10:13 am

Thanks so much for the suggestion. Since writinf this post, Arbor has turned 6 months old and eats avacado, sweet potatoes and carrots. I like to let her mash her own food and give her manageable sticks and chunks that she can hold on to. She’s not swallowing much but is really enjoying the newness of it all. So far, no allergic reactions. :)

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Nina October 8, 2012 at 8:01 pm

We, too, practice baby-led weaning (even at 16 months). My DD started solids right at 5 months old. We always had her join us at the table to eat so she would be part of the experience. Then, three days in a row, I was carrying her in one arm and my plate in the other and before I knew what happened, she had grabbed a handful of eggs and gravy and shoved it in her mouth. At that point, I knew she was ready. She could sit independently, had lost her tongue-thrust, and apparently REALLY wanted to eat! Her first food was avocado and she loved it! She still loves to eat all kinds of new and interesting foods (no beige food here!) and I, too, am glad that I didn’t follow the “rule book” and start her at 4 months like some recommended – she was so not ready then!

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