Thursday, April 5, 2012

Starting Solids!

I promised a post about introducing solid foods, and here it is!

GI turned six months on March 5. I had been anxiously awaiting that day for several weeks, planning how we would introduce solids, what he should eat first, how we would balance nursing and eating. I should have known after three kids that things come together fairly naturally if you let them. I did know, after three kids, that there were many different ways to introduce solids, and many different theories about what is best. The only things I can see that anyone seems to agree on these days is that you should wait until the baby is six months old.

With NJ, we followed our pediatrician's advice and started solid foods at four months. We did rice cereal mixed with formula for a week or so to get him used to the spoon and see how he did. We then started on pureed vegetables and fruits, like sweet potato, squash, peas, banana, pears, and apples. We did one simple food at a time, starting a new food every three to four days, and slowly built up to the "stage 2" foods and mixtures by the time he was six months. From then on, he had at least one or two meals of solid foods per day in addition to his bottles. We went ever-so-slowly and carefully, and I was afraid to give him finger foods because I was sure he would choke. I did eventually start giving him finger foods, like Gerber's fantastic Puffs, Cheerios, pasta, and bits of bread. It was a long time before he was just eating regular food with the rest of us.

With SB, we were more experienced and less nervous about the whole thing. And a good thing we were, because SB wanted nothing to do with purees. We started at six months, attempting to give him rice cereal mixed with breastmilk. He didn't like it. I found it was way more trouble to prepare food for him and to figure out what to give him than it was to just nurse him when he was hungry. It's likely that if we had pushed it more, he would have gotten the idea and eaten more solids sooner. I'm not saying we should have, just that I was too lazy. He nursed a lot well into the second half of his first year. It wasn't until after he was a year old that he was actually replacing breastfeedings with solid foods. He would eat bits and pieces of solid foods, crackers, pasta, peas, Puffs, cereal, melon, and so on, but he wouldn't be satisfied until he'd nursed.

So with GI, I thought it might be nice to do a combination. Maybe he could have purees sometimes and finger foods other times, so that we'd have options. I wanted the freedom of being away from him for more than two hours without worrying if he was getting hungry, so I thought if my husband or a babysitter could give him a meal of a puree, that would help. So we started with rice cereal mixed with breastmilk, which he found yucky, of course. I then tried mixing rice cereal with purees instead, which he actually sort of took to. He was very interested in the spoon. I tried to make it a point to give him some puree at least once a day, but he didn't eat much of it. He kept trying to steal food off my plate. So I finally just started giving him bits and pieces of whatever we were eating - bread, a pea, cereal, etc. I stay away from anything too acidic - citrus, tomatoes - or things babies really shouldn't have, like honey, and I don't want him to have dairy yet, but almost anything else, I'll let him try. He had a bit of avocado today, and a few peas. Some days, he gets some tortilla or bread. My friend's son had a big birthday party the other day, and there were roasted vegetables, so GI got some scraped-out bits of squash and zucchini and a little carrot and a banana. Whatever seems soft and small enough for the toothless little guy to manage, I'll let him try. He seems to enjoy it, but he only takes a few bites before he starts refusing.

There is research to suggest that babies who are allowed to go at their own pace with finger foods are less picky and healthier eaters as they grow up. It seems that being fed purees means that the baby doesn't have control over what he eats, how much he eats, and he doesn't learn to differentiate foods by texture, shape, and color, since it's all just liquified. I'm not sure how much I agree with this, but it's interesting to think about. That's why I figured a combination of finger foods and purees might be the way to go this time. I'm not going to force-feed anything, and if he doesn't want something, he doesn't want it. He's still going to mostly nurse for a while. He's seven months old today, and I'm hoping to continue to slowly increase his solids intake.

I did try leaving him with a babysitter last week. I gave her about half a jar of squash puree mixed with a some rice cereal for texture, and he ate almost all of it for her. He'll eat solids for other people more than for me, which makes sense, since when he's with me, he just wants to nurse. I did find that he still practically leaped into my arms when I got home. It seemed like even though he wasn't necessarily terribly hungry, he didn't feel satisfied until he could nurse. It's kind of nice to be pounced upon like that. Makes you feel needed.

The process of introducing solid foods can be referred to as weaning, in the sense that you are slowly replacing breastfeedings (or bottle feedings) with other foods. By one year, babies can be taking in at least half of their caloric needs from solid foods, maybe more. It depends on your kid, of course. Some babies just aren't that interested in solids at 12 months, and that's okay too. Obviously, at some point, they're going to have to subsist solely on solids, but it doesn't have to be at one year, or even at two. Your breastmilk is still supplying vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, and sugars, along with anti-inflammatory agents, antibacterial and antifungal substances, stem cells, and all the other things that make breastmilk so great.

And the realization will come, at some point after starting solids, that if you plan to replace nursing with solids, you'll actually have to prepare food for your baby instead of just sitting down and nursing! I'm realizing that I'll now have to cook for three kids, not just two. Why rush that?

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