Monday, 20 October 2014

The First Foods Fiasco

I love food. A lot. And I don't always like 'good' or gourmet food. I just like food. My relationship with food isn't an unhealthy one. (My health is suffering more due to my relationship with exercise. We're not really getting along.) I don't binge anymore than most fertile women who experience monthly emotional upheavals or slightly worn out stay-at-home mums who grab the easiest thing between sleep times and are starving by ten pm. But I do very much like to eat. If you have read Eat Pray Love (I haven't seen the movie) I now crazily desire to return to Italy with a pants size up packed in my suitcase. I think you get the picture. I'm an eater.

So when my daughter was not gulping down enormous amounts of blitzed pumpkin the moment I placed the spoon before her lips, I was stumped.

Photo credit, F. Voisin-Demery

Yes, I did attempt solids at four and a half months which is the earlier side of the spectrum. But surely my child was going to go for whatever was placed in front of her. I mean she has my food adoring genes inside her. And, goodness, if the way she breast fed was anything to go by, real food would be just heavenly. 

But it wasn't.

However, I persisted. It takes ten to fifteen tries before their taste buds become accustomed to a new food, apparently. Once a day we tried. I sung for her to open her mouth with interest and shot that spoon inside, scraping the contents behind her top gum and eagerly anticipating a grin of delight. It looked like I had just fed her pureed Warhead (that's an extremely sour lolly for those who aren't familiar). And the MESS. Pumpkin in her hair, eyes, all over her bib and onesie, the chair and me. Quite humorous to watch... the first week.  

I tried, my husband tried, my mum tried, my friend tried. At best three or four baby spoonfuls could be manipulated into her mouth and, hopefully, end up in her stomach. Rice cereal, pumpkin, apple, pear, sweet potato, carrot, banana, avocado and a bunch of heinz jars. We coerced eating with anything we could. I followed books, apps, websites and friends' advice. I was so over solids. My freezer was full and most of the defrosted ice cubes of various shades were being washed down the sink anyway.

By five and half months I decided to do real pieces of food and try the Baby Led Weaning way of things. Overall, I quite like this approach. The splat mat covered the floor near our dining table, the highchair and tray were ready and I chopped and steamed and served a wonderful variety of foods. And what did she like best? Toast. Plain, dry, wholemeal toast. She didn't just like it. She LOVED it. Broccoli smeared over her forehead, mashed banana squelched between her fingers and blueberries were pushed around her tray leaving purple slug marks but toast always made a beeline for her chompers. 

Photo credit,
So at six and seven months, my darling girl was carbo-loading to her extraordinary delight. In the meantime, I have been told that her iron and folate stores are dropping from birth and I NEED to get meat into her. So I cooked and pureed and froze gourmet baby food. I mean these recipes featured bay leaves and cinnamon. She barely eats a mashed banana and my baby is going to get bay leaf infused delicacies. Did she take a bar of my chicken casserole or lentil puree? No way. Where's my toast? 

Aside: An important milestone in our solids journey (because this has been a soul searching and trying experience) has been the realisation that babies won't always give up their milk. I was forever under the impression that babies ate solids and then as they filled up on real food they would reject milk. Oh no, no, no! (Well, maybe this is the truth for some). Babies LOVE their milk. My bub would happily only be breastfeeding even now at eight months if I let her. I had to change the feeds for her. If we fed at 5:30 AM and went back to sleep, we ate real food at 8AM not another feed. We ate real food at lunch time and then had milk after. We had milk at bedtime but, shock horror, there would be no more milk at night! This was harder for me than it was for her. Skip two feeds and the bosoms will not be merciful. Luckily, this horrid feeling of rocks strapped to my chest reminiscent of my first month of motherhood only lasted a few days. At this point I cannot rave highly enough of my Early Childhood Nurse at the local Baby Clinic (Community Health Centre). Always ready to answer my questions, she gently assured me that it was OK to stop feeding my baby seven or eight times a day when they really only needed four or five feeds.... Cue heavy sense of mummy guilt and failure.  

Where was I, that's right, toast. And so the toast bribery began. Everything was served next to toast. Try this carrot and you can have toast next. Try this scrambled egg then you can have toast. Bit by bit, eventually, slowly and cautiously those little pursed lips began to open and accept a bit more. And then we found yoghurt. Amazing, wonderful yoghurt! And shortly after yoghurt we were eating our veggies, and those frozen gourmet baby foods (salmon and leek pasta anyone?) and just this week we started shaking with excitement at porridge. I'm now breathing and thankful that less and less food is being rinsed down the sink. We're there. At eight months, we're finally there. 

Next time (because the scarring has not set in too far yet, I'm still optimistic about repeating this whole baby thing) I won't bother until later. Unless, of course, my child is forcing my spoon of chilli con carne into their mouth at four months. I will probably try more whole foods and puree basics for longer instead of those fandangled meals. I have learnt that your child will be who they are so don't expect anything based on you or what you were like. I now know that the decision to start solids ends up being a time consuming one and there's nothing you can do about that. Just like getting into the car used to be easy, getting dinner used to be easy. Now it all takes that little bit more effort with a plus one. 

Rant over. 

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