Damn You, “Baby-led Weaning”
|October 14, 2013||Posted by Jennifer under Breastfeeding, Mommyhooddom|
As I sat at T.G.I. Friday’s earlier this evening peacefully feeding my two-year-old macaroni & cheese and grilled chicken breast, I recalled the foray we took into the world of baby-led weaning once upon a time in a land far, far away.
If you haven’t read the book, “Baby-led Weaning” by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, it’s a pretty straight forward concept for how to introduce solid foods.
In a nutshell, the authors say you can offer your baby regular table food and let him feed himself. They say you don’t have to spoon feed your baby pureed baby food.
What!? Feed himself? Regular food?? Get out-a-here.
Blasphemous, I know.
I’ll bet that little nugget of ingenious scientific brilliance has made those authors quite rich because folks like my husband and I literally fought over who was going to push the Amazon One-Click button when we heard about such a concept. We were astounded at the prospect of skipping purees. It’s not that we had anything against baby food. We were just lazy and didn’t want to spoon food him. Oh, and we liked the idea of boosting his confidence and independence by letting him feed himself.
Ha, joke was on us. Big Time!
When the book came, we devoured every last word and waited with pork chops in hand for our little Baby B to reach that magical age of 6 months, when the authors say, is a good time to try introducing solid foods.
I had decreed that Baby B’s first food would be (cue, heavenly chorus music) avocado. We decided to hold off on the pork chop for the time being, just until he got the hang of it, even though the good authors say you can give your child hunks of solid meat to gnaw on. I wasn’t quite comfortable going whole hog into “Baby-led Weaning” on the first day. Har Har. First-time mom jitters, I guess.
The day Baby B turned 6-months-old, I prepared the most beautiful dark green, succulent product of Mexico I could find. It was going to be my baby’s first food and it was a special, honored avocado indeed.
I sliced and diced that heavenly manna into pieces not too big, not too small, but just right for Baby B and presented them to him on his brand new Boon high chair tray. He looked so cute all little but all grown up sitting at the table.
We waited with bated breath. We couldn’t wait to see our exclusively breastfeed baby gobble up that avocado like the good authors said he would.
We waited. And waited. And waited. Meal after meal, day after day… we waited.
(Cue fuzzy lines on your monitor and music that sounds like doodley do, doodley do.)
Three months later, Baby B had yet to swallow a single microscopic molecule of ANYTHING!
Ok, maybe I exaggerate. An atom or two may have gotten in there. But he really didn’t seem the least bit interested in food. On the off-chance he accidentally dropped something on his tongue, it never made it past his hair-trigger and I do mean, hair-trigger GAG REFLEX!
Oh my God, any time a sliver of food made it half-way into his mouth, he would gag like you had just shoved a hair sandwich down his throat. He threw up everything except for plain white yogurt, which would come back up too if anything solid landed on top of it.
Oh yeah, and he choked. I’m sorry good authors, but he did. According to them, babies may on occasion gag, which they say is a natural safety mechanism, but choking is different and less likely in babies who’ve been allowed to experiment with food themselves at an early age, they say. Our Baby B choked. Not to the point of us having to whip him upside down and perform life-saving measures, but still enough to kick my adrenaline into the yellow zone. And that’s so relaxing when you’re actually trying to swallow your own dinner.
Most of the time he just gagged, and spewed, and played, and piddled, and launched, and dropped, and spattered, and spackled, and conditioned his hair. It’s nice. You should see it. It shines.
Every day, we would drag out a veritable buffet of food groups, textures, smells, temperatures, colors and shapes. The less interested he was in eating, the more we shoveled onto his tray, hoping something would appeal to him.
My husband and I had started to doubt the good authors of “Baby-led Weaning.” Ok, we cussed them out loud, daily, while on our hands and knees cleaning up enough chucked food to feed all of Africa. Our baby simply did not want to eat and on the rare occasion when he did accidentally put something in his mouth, it came back out… with gusto.
Suspecting we might have a problem, ahem, my husband and I took Baby B to the pediatrician when he was 9-months-old. She promptly ordered us to Occupational Therapy to work on his oral, sensory, eating whatever disorder. Finally, we were going to get Baby B to eat! I should add that his height and weight were 80-90th percentile, so it wasn’t like he was starving, thanks to good ole breastmilk.
At first, the OT showed us how to stick these plastic thingies in Baby B’s mouth to ‘desensitize it’. Then, she told us to combine crunchy stuff with smooth stuff on this Medieval-looking stick. After about the 4th appointment, she said we should add pepper and garlic to his food. Maybe my cooking just needed more flavor. Thaaaanks.
A couple of months went by without much success. We even broke down and tried purees. No go. Finally, the OT told us to just give him “whatever he’ll eat” and suggested Cheetos Cheese Puffs. No Homo sapiens baby could resist, she said.
I cried all the way home that day. Now, I certainly don’t have anything against Cheetos Cheese Puffs. I can mow a bag with the best of em, but I did not want my baby’s first solid food to be a damn cheese puff. I was already terrified he had some horrible vitamin deficiency brewing anyway from only having breastmilk his entire life.
At his one-year check up, the doctor came in and sure enough, asked us what he was eating.
I thought to myself, “Do they take your kid right here, or do they let you go home to pack him an overnight bag.”
Attempting to divert the doctor’s attention toward all the foods Baby B was being OFFERED every day, I said, “Oh, we give him baked chicken, avocado, lots of avocado, green beans, garlicy stuff, pork chops, pasta, oatmeal, pears, sweet potatoes, peppered turkey…”
“Ok, but what does he EAT?” she scowled.
“Breastmilk, plain yogurt and cheese puffs.”
“Um yeah, we’re going to need to do some blood work.”
Oh this is just great, I thought. We’re killing our baby.
Damn you, “Baby-led Weaning.” If we’d just started with purees, we wouldn’t be in this situation. But no, we’d probably given our child an “aversion to food,” according to the occupational therapist. What is that, like baby anorexia or something? Just wonderful!
Off to the lab we went. It was AW-FUL! If you’ve ever seen your baby poked with a needle, you know how terrible it makes you feel. Oh, and they cry… a lot!
A few days later the pediatrician’s office called and said we needed to “REPEAT THE BLOOD WORK” because some of his values were “OFF” you horrible mother you.
Hysterical doesn’t begin to describe the state that put me in. I basically had my happy, healthy-looking, playful, boobie-loving boy in the – well, I don’t even want to say.
We rushed him to the local children’s hospital where they took like 7 vials of blood this time. It was AW-FUL-and-a-half!
I was absolutely beside myself with worry waiting on the results.
Baby B looked fine, acted fine, slept fine, pooped fine… but there was something sinister brewing in his blood, I just knew it. He had scurvy, rickets, kidney failure, something just terrible.
Oh Dear Lord what kind of a miserable failure of a mother am I, I thought? I couldn’t get my 13-month-old baby to eat and now he was dying!!
When we finally got the results of the blood work, everything was… NORMAL! His Vitamin D level was normal. His iron was normal. His amino acids were normal. His electrolytes were normal and so on and so on. Thank you, Sweet Jesus!
Relieved doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. The nurse said there MIGHT have been an ERROR in processing the first set of blood work. YA THINK!!!
Christmas was just a couple of weeks away and my husband and I decided to chillax on the eating thing until after the holidays. We stopped going to OT. We were still offering Baby B the usual smorgasbord of food plucked straight from the old-fashioned Food Pyramid, but we didn’t beat ourselves up if he didn’t eat any of it. He was perfectly happy with boobie, plain yogurt and the occasional piece of cantaloupe, which he just sucked the juice out of. I had nix-ayed the offering of Cheese Puff-ays after the blood work debacle-ay.
As soon as we got home from visiting family for Christmas, something magical happened: Fifteen-month-old Baby B started chewing, and can you believe it- SWALLOWING food!
I didn’t believe my eyes at first. But then I realized that the tonnage of food on the floor was less than the tonnage of food I was offering Baby B. Just a little less, but it was progress!
By the time he turned 16-months-old, he was actually eating solid food on a somewhat reliably consistent basis! Without gagging! Without choking!!
When I look back on it now, I think Baby B just wasn’t ready to eat solid food at 6 months or 7 months or 8 months or 12 months or even 14 months. But he was ready at 15 months. I mean what do I know, I’m just his MOTHER!
I know this, the next time I pick up the latest and greatest book on how to get my baby/toddler/preschooler/elementary age child to “fill in the blank,” I’m going to take it with a grain of salt.
What the good authors of “Baby-led Weaning” failed to impress upon me is that some babies, maybe only one in a million, aren’t going to eat until they get good and ready no matter how you slice it, chop it, grill it, pound it, filet it, stomp it… Alicia Silverstone it. They just aren’t. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it!
Hmm, I’m beginning to think this is just how kids work. Fascinating.
I’m curious: have you had feeding “challenges” with your wee one? What worked, what didn’t?