Category Archives: From the Old Blog

A whole-food baby

Munching on a Sadie-sized pear.

Okay, so now that Sadie is nine months old, this isn’t going to sound like the major revelation that it was for us when Sadie was six and a half or seven months old (I can’t quite remember when we had this lightbulb moment). But that’s about when I discovered the concept of baby-led weaning.

Prior to this discovery, I had made and frozen a bunch of baby food purees—squash, green beans, sweet potatoes, peaches, pears. I had this image of Sadie dining on locally-grown produce, picked and processed while in season. We got a little hasty with starting Sadie on solids (she just seemed SO READY), so we stuck with rice and then oat baby cereal, putting the pureed fruits and vegetables on hold. Once she reached six months, we started experimenting with the purees. It was going fairly well, and I’m not even sure what prompted me to Google “baby-led weaning.”

So! The basic principle is that, at or around six months, babies are developmentally ready to learn—not just to eat—but to feed themselves. What an idea! Instead of shoveling mush into Sadie’s mouth, I could give her whole foods (in appropriately-sized pieces, mind you—the definition of which is open for interpretation) and let her figure it out. There’s not a ton of information out there about baby-led weaning, but I’ve read most of what these two sites have to offer.

Basically, I try to feed Sadie some of what we’re eating. Of course, we only feed her the parts that are Sadie-appropriate (so, no fried catfish or anything like that). For example, the other night we had a dish with eggplant, onion, garlic, herbs, tomatoes and green olives. I didn’t want her to have the tomatoes (possibly allergenic—but I’m starting to question all of the allergy rules) or the olives (way too salty), so I just pulled out a few pieces of the eggplant before I added those ingredients. Should have pulled out more—she loved the eggplant! Sometimes our dinner is totally inappropriate, so I’ll do a little something special, like steam up some carrots or give her some toast. And she almost never eats all that I’ve got for her, so I save it for a meal the next day.

A funny aside: when I was first getting started, I kept being so confused when I’d read on the website to cut fruits and vegetables into “chip” shaped pieces. I thought, “How the heck am I supposed to manage that—a chip?!” Well, duh. These ladies are Scottish, and “chip” to them is “French fry” to us. Much easier to cut a bell pepper into a fry-shaped piece than a potato chip-shaped piece. Surely you wouldn’t be as foolish.

Here are some of my thoughts on baby-led weaning.

  • I am by no means a nutritionist. Or a doctor. Or anything other than a mom who reads and writes a lot. Don’t take my word on anything—do your own research!
  • I definitely don’t claim that this is the best or the one right way to teach babies about solid food. It’s just what makes the most sense to me with Sadie. If she weren’t the proactive baby she is, this might have gone horribly.
  • Disclaimers aside, this REALLY clicked with me.
  • I feel like Sadie is truly learning how to eat real foods. Yes, she gags. No, she’s never choked. A couple of times I’ve helped her get a tricky piece of food out of her mouth with her finger, but she’s even learned how to do this for herself. The gagging has taken some patience on my part to get through. Having always seen adults jump out of their seats at the first sign of difficulty and whack the baby on the back or swipe a finger in the mouth, I had to re-train myself a bit. Instead of assuming she’s about to need the Heimlich, whenever she’s having trouble, I just wait her out. And she works it out on her own. Oh, and this is all with just two teeth. She puts those gums to work!
  • I feel like this will help her develop healthy eating attitudes and habits. My job is to present her with healthy food options. Her job is to decide what goes in her mouth. No force feeding (this goes along very well with Attachment Parenting principle two, Feed with Love and Respect). At this point, her nutritional needs are still being met by my breastmilk. Any solids she eats are just for the experience of it. I’m not sure how things might change after her first birthday, when she will need a more complete diet of solid foods, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
  • I suspect this will also help her be a less picky eater. For one thing, she’s already been tasting my diet every time she nurses (so she’s good and ready for Ben and Jerry’s as soon as I let her, I’m sure). Aside from salt, I’m no longer avoiding seasoning the food I give her. There have been very few things she’s fully rejected, so I take this as a decent sign.
  • If there’s a Next Time, I definitely plan on waiting the full six months before introducing any solids and starting with whole solids from the beginning. No mush at all! I’m pretty sure that pureed baby foods came about at a time when the trend was to start your baby on solids at three or four months. And an industry was born. But at six months, many babies can sit unsupported/in a high chair, can pick up smallish objects, can put these objects in their mouths, and can do some chewish movements with their jaws. Sounds like a good case for not spoon-feeding a six-month-old to me!

Yes, I do have a freezer full of purees. Some of them have “expired,” because I made them too far in advance. The fruits have gone over pretty well when spread on a piece of whole wheat toast. And I’ve also started to pre-load a baby spoon for her, which she is then able to stick in her own mouth.

So what has Miss Sadie been eating? Well, she has had (in their non-mushed forms, and in no particular order) squash, zucchini, green beans, carrots, pears, apples, grapes, rice, oats, broccoli, wheat toast, flour tortillas, black beans, avocados, sweet potatoes, lady peas, green peas, chicken, turkey, eggplant, cauliflower, wheat pita, hummus, oat cereal and puffs. Her favorites so far are pears, black beans and green peas. She also really likes cereal. I bought some for her that turned out to be too crunchy for her…the solution? Soak them in breastmilk. She had that for breakfast this morning, and she loved it!

As for the food allergy situation, there is a lot of conflicting information out there on this. Even within my own family. We talked to Sadie’s pediatrician about this at her appointment the other day, and she said that the current guidelines are suggesting that waiting until a year to expose babies to potentially allergenic foods probably doesn’t prevent—and possibly even causes—the increased likelihood of an allergy. Since neither Trevor nor I (nor our siblings) have any food allergies, I think we’re going to relax a bit further on some of the foods we’ve been waiting to introduce (dairy products, citrus fruits, berries, egg yolks, pork, etc.). We will still wait for peanuts and egg whites, because apparently the reactions to those can be pretty ugly. Honey, of course, but because of botulism, not allergies. We haven’t exactly been by-the-book about the four-day rule, but I think I will stick to that when we introduce these foods.

How have you handled introducing solids to your wee ones?

BRAT

Bananas, RICE, Applesauce, Toast. These are the foods you feed your baby when she has diarrhea. So, why is rice cereal the recommended first food for babies? Heck if I know. But let me tell you, we’ve got one BLOCKED UP baby on our hands, and it is not pleasant. I feel so bad for the little one, and I’m worried that I made a foolish decision to start her on solids before 6 months. She just seemed so ready, from a behavioral standpoint (sitting well, watching us eat and fussing about it, etc.). We’ve had a rough few days (it took me a while to register that this was, indeed, her problem), and last night was horrible. I ended up sleeping with her on my chest on the couch like when she was a newborn. And she was oh so restless. We’ve given her small amounts of diluted prune juice, as well as some peach puree at dinner last night–I know, breaking the one-new-food-at-a-time rule. She’s had some poopy diapers today, but she’s still pretty miserable about it.

These pictures are from last night, hoping the peaches would help (they didn’t). Right now I’m feeding her some Gerber prunes (not what I thought I’d be feeding her at this stage, but at least she likes it). Here’s to hoping tonight goes well, and that tomorrow we have a strain-free day.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I’m sorry if it seems like this blog has taken a turn for the dismal. I promise, there’ll be more cheery posts and pictures of Sadie in the near future. It’s just that I’m in a bit of a funk lately. Sadie’s sleep had gotten pretty nice–she was giving us a solid 4 (sometimes 5 or even 6) hour stretch and only waking up to nurse twice before morning (usually waking up a third time in between those two, but being easily settled without nursing). Then, we had a couple of really rough nights. I think it’s a gas issue, but I don’t really know how to tell for sure. The past few nights we’ve given her gripe water at her “bedtime” nursing, and it’s helped some. But she’s back to waking up three times a night–effectively every two hours–wanting to nurse. Part of me wonders if she’s waking up more because she’s in the bassinet, but it actually seems like she falls back to sleep more easily in the bassinet than she does in our bed, which is why I’ve been putting her in there after nursing her. Well, that, and I also sleep a bit better without her in bed (there, I said it).

Her naps during the day are getting out of whack, too. It seems like she has a hard time sleeping longer than 45 minutes at a time (we’re going on 58 minutes now, and I’m probably pushing my luck). Just last week, though, she could almost always be counted on to go down for two two-hour naps a day. I think this might have to do with change, too. She’s getting close to being too big for the bassinet, so I’ve been putting her down for naps in the crib during the day. That way, when she really can’t sleep in the bassinet at night, it won’t freak her out to be put down in the crib at night. Not sure if it’ll work, but it makes sense to me.

I really wanted co-sleeping to work out for us. I never would have thought that I’d be the problem. I figured it would be Trevor, because of being nervous with her there or something. I’m a much pickier sleeper than I knew, and I can’t seem to find a comfortable position to sleep in with Sadie in the bed. I think it might be different if we had a bigger bed, but our bedroom simply isn’t big enough for a bigger bed. When we do co-sleep, I seem to get such poor sleep that I get absurdly frustrated when she wakes up to nurse.

The other thing I’m struggling with is the nursing itself. I sooo wanted to looove breastfeeding. It’s not that I hate it, and I’m DEFINITELY sticking with it, it’s just that it’s STILL not the blissfully pleasant experience I expected it to be. Of course, I was mentally prepared for their to be rough times, but I figured things would get nicer as we got better at it. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe we don’t have the latching thing down as well as I think we do. Maybe it’s because of her tongue-tie (though I took her to a doctor about it yesterday and was told it’s not bad enough to clip it presently). Maybe it’s the forceful let-down. All I know is that there is generally frustration on both ends of the deal, and that makes me so sad. As in lump in throat, tearing up right now. And it doesn’t help that she’s lately been nursing what seems like all the freaking time. Maybe my supply is decreasing (though I can’t imagine why it would), so she’s not getting enough at each feeding, so she has to feed more frequently. I don’t really know how to tell…

These are just the two things I’d really counted on being some of my favorite parts of mothering her. It’s so disappointing to have it be otherwise. To keep this post from being utterly dismal, some of my favorite parts are: how alert Sadie is, how engaged she is, how much she’s “talking” to us, how delighted she is at things, bath time, and carrying her in the sling.

In other news, I received my official letter stating that I am now a Licensed Master Social Worker. Pretty exciting stuff. And I’m doing my best to find a job. Do you know of any? In case I haven’t already told you this, I’m looking for a part-time job that will pay enough for me to stay home some with Sadie. I’d take a social work job, I’d take a writing gig, I’d really do just about anything. There are some jobs I’m applying for, but I’ve never ever gotten a job without having some sort of inside connection (even a summer job at American Eagle).

And here are some random pictures of our furry companions, to brighten my mood:

It actually looked like a kitty crime scene when I walked into Sadie's room.
It actually looked like a kitty crime scene when I walked into Sadie's room.

Willow with her hilarious summer cut.  She looks like a bat-lamb.
Willow with her hilarious summer cut. She looks like a bat-lamb.

Nari after being Furminated.  And she's STILL shedding a ton!
Nari after being Furminated. And she's STILL shedding a ton!