Now, my daughter is 11 months and this post is longggg overdue, but finally posting this. So June 26th 2015, daddy’s here on vacation, and it’s Kyra’s half birthday, six months already!!! Yippie finally got my silver boobs (that’s the award for breastfeeding for 6 months). My little munchkin had been exclusively breastfed for the past 6 months, after overcoming so many obstacles, and had shown all the readiness signs for solids, so it was now time.
According to my endless research, a baby would show signs that he or she is ready for solids around the 6 months mark, but it is not advised to start before baby’s half birthday (WHO, Unicef, AAP, etc. recommendations).
The readiness signs that a baby needs to exhibit are the following:
- Baby can sit up well without assistance
- Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.
- Baby is ready and willing to chew.
- Baby is developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.
- Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.
My Kyra had all these signs at around 5 months 1 week, and even though it was a bitter sweet feeling that she would be needing more than mommy’s milk now, I couldn’t delay introducing solids any further. And so, I decided to start with avocado, since it is a highly nutritious fruit filled with good fat for babies (even though I personally can’t stand it, blekhhh!). Daddy and I sat there waiting for the big event, so did grandma and our 3 dogs Cookie, Rocky and Stella. Phone camera on? Check! Avocado? Check! Eager parents? Check! Baby? Check! Since we hadn’t bought Kyra a highchair yet, and I was too anxious to wait, we used a bath chair on top of a plastic chair, a big plate, and the plastic table on our front porch. I think that whole set up was destined to fail in all cases, cause Kyra couldn’t reach the plate no matter how hard the poor thing tried. So I brought the plate close to her with small pieces of avocado, again a stupid move on my part, cause little did I know, that avocado is a slippery sucker. So, after wasting 5 minutes of video recording on my phone, I consulted a mommy friend who advised to cut them in long half moon strips. And so after numerous attempts it worked, she picked one up!!! I was the proudest mama on earth. My baby picked up food on her own and was bringing it up to her mouth. And then, she got that look on her face…we watched her closely wondering who she was gonna throw it at, but instead she put some in her mouth. Again, she got a weird look on her face. I felt so disappointed thinking all the lecturing I had done on the importance of baby-led weaning to all our family members was in vain, and I would have to spoon feed her instead. My daughter looked like she hated food!!! Dr. Google, my most trusted advisor and closest friend recommended I keep trying to offer foods at mealtimes, so that my baby would view eating as a social activity and might be inclined to imitate us and try some food. And so I did. Some days I forgot to feed her (bad mommy!) cause in my mind she only needed breast milk, other days I would intentionally skip feeding her cause she looked, or smelled like, she had an upset tummy. But I persevered. After avocado, came steamed zucchini, and those she didn’t like at all. They simply had no taste!!! Carrots and sweet potatoes were more of a hit with her, but still she simply tasted the food, played with it, but didn’t really swallow any of it. Since none of us in the family have any allergies, I skipped the 3-day rule (offer the same food for 3 days) and decided the more I exposed her to food, the more inclined she might be to eat. So after about 10 days, I put my apron on, and made her a delicious, salt free chicken drumstick with olive oil, lemon, garlic, and rosemary. And that was when her interest in food began. When I gave her that drumstick, I don’t really know if it was time for her to start chewing, or her teeth were bothering her and it was a tasty teether for her, but she gnawed at that leg like crazy! I was so so happy…I really couldn’t believe it, this Baby Led Weaning thing could actually work!
After that, I decided that she could start eating regular home cooked food, without salt of course.
Because she was breastfed, she had been exposed to a wide variety of tastes, as our milk’s taste (not composition) changes depending on what we eat, and so all of our friends and family think she has a very peculiar taste for her age. She prefers lemony, savory food to sweet, just like mama and some of her favorite foods are beans with lemon, garlic and olive oil, or string beans cooked in tomato sauce, and she absolutely adores spinach with minced meat and lemon. I avoid giving her fried foods or foods with empty calories and no nutritional value, like rice, rice cereal or bread for example, and don’t allow any sugary treats, if I need to sweeten something, I use date syrup as a natural sweetener (as advised by my dear friend & nutrionist Mirna El Sabbagh). I don’t avoid fats completely like olive oil, cooking oil or butter, but cook food with a reasonable amount, cause I believe babies are simply tiny humans, and they, like us need a balance of everything to be healthy and grow properly.
After a couple months of doing baby led weaning, around 8 months, I realized the importance of iron in the diet of a breastfed baby, and started spoon-feeding her occasionally to make sure she got some iron rich foods daily, especially when she would be too distracted playing to eat. So now, even though she doesn’t eat big quantities, she’s doing well for her age, around the 53rd percentile on her weight for height charts (breastfed babies chart) and I’m satisfied. Kyra is a snacker by nature, even with breastfeeding, she nurses a couple minutes several times throughout the day, so giving her one big plate is not really an option, especially that as a baby led weaned baby, she now knows how to say “no” when she’s had enough. Before she could say anything, she would also close her mouth or shake her head when she didn’t want to eat anymore, and removes her bib.
I can’t say she only self feeds or is only spoon-fed, because for us, a mixture of both worked. Starting out with self feeding, so she could control how much she ate and when and what, and now occasionally being spoon-fed, when making a mess is not an option, but I’m glad I didn’t start with spoon feeding first because I think I might have overfed her, or her grandma surely would have lol, and she would be eating mashed or pureed foods instead of experimenting with various textures. The only downside I have to say is the “no” or closing of the mouth, even after just one bite sometimes, so no matter how much I want her to eat something, if she doesn’t want to, she’ll just say NO. But on the other hand, I do like her knowing what she wants and doesn’t want, and I’m proud of her for being this decisive and independent at that age.
So mainly, my experience with baby feeding has been fun and has taught me a lot, mostly being that with babies, nothing is set in stone. If you follow their lead, they will let you know what they want and need, but when mommy knows best, and they need to eat something they don’t like, or a little more than they want to, you can find a way to give it to them without forcing them (like more water or some papaya for constipation, iron rich foods for proper brain development and growth, etc.). So mommies, trust your babies, and give them the opportunity to make some decisions when it comes to food, they will most definitely surprise you and make you laugh, and with time this will help them develop healthy eating habits and proper table manners.