Wednesday, 9 May 2012
This week: starting solids
This post was initially entitled, 'weaning' but then I discovered that in the US weaning means giving up breastfeeding and has nothing to do with introducing solids. For those readers from the US, I will be using 'weaning' in this post in the British sense: introducing solids :-).
I am about 4 weeks into weaning with my daughter and thought I would share a few thoughts and observations with you. Second time round you expect everything to come easily and naturally but I was surprised how I'd forgotten things and felt like it was new territory all over again.
Things I'd forgotten about weaning:
The mess! Having a three old who eats very nicely and rarely makes much of a mess at mealtimes, it had completely slipped my mind how food gets everywhere when you're feeding a baby. My daughter, surrounding areas and my clothes are frequently splattered with some kind of puree these days!
What time of day to introduce solids. This doesn't really matter of course but I found myself wondering when I should first introduce a 'meal'. Consulting a book or two, advice was along the lines of when they are hungry but not too hungry, when they are not too tired and overall, late morning seemed a popular recommendation. As it turns out, I ended up ignoring the advice and going with early afternoon when my daughter always seemed particularly hungry.
How quickly or not to progress. Again, I consulted a couple of books/websites to remind me and found conflicting information. One said to leave it three days after introducing one food and before starting another in case of any allergic reactions, but others said that was not necessary and to try new foods as and when. I took it slowly for the first couple of weeks but then increased the meals per day and new foods steadily onwards.
General thoughts on weaning:
Go with the flow. No two babies are alike so regardless of what you read or what is recommended you really need to follow your own baby's reactions and your own intuition. If your baby seems hesitant and you are wondering if you started weaning a bit early, consider taking a break and resuming after a week or just taking it very gradually. Alternatively, if your baby really takes to everything you give him/her and seems to enjoy 'eating' and you feel confident trying new foods or increasing the amount, do just that.
Your own confidence plays a big part in the process. Take baby led weaning for example, I know mums who have given a finger of food to their child but as they seemed to 'choke' (more likely the commonly referred to 'gag') they felt a little scared of the method and decided to go back to purees. Those who embace the baby led weaning way, clearly have every confidence in their child self-feeding and for them that's simply the way they are going to do it. I confess, I don't have the time or inclination to read up on baby led weaning and although I do think it sounds great and makes sense as a way to feed a baby, I'm sticking with the puree route that I feel more comfortable with.
Be flexible. Whilst I'm aiming for three meals a day with my daughter, it will sometimes be only two. I know if she is overtired she won't eat and I'm not going to keep her up for a mealtime that has disaster written all over it! At this early stage babies are still getting their main sustinence and calories from milk so a missed mini meal isn't going to make an impact. Likewise, it helps to be relaxed about meal times and if feeding a little earlier or later than your usual time seems sensible, then trust your instinct. Routines and meal times get easier and more regular as your child grows but when no two days are the same, it makes sense to be flexible.
Keep milk and mealtimes separate. I read in a few places that you shouldn't try giving solids to a child who is really hungry and better to take the edge off their appetite with some milk first. I disagree. Feeding a baby milk and either giving them less than usual or taking the bottle away from them before it's finished is not going to go down well with a hungry baby. Also, how much milk takes the edge off their appetite without filling them up? Such things are hard to measure. Ultimately, mealtimes will be substantial and will be providing all the calories, nutrients and dietary requirements your child needs. I therefore think there's nothing wrong with serving solids at a time your child might be hungry as it gets them used to satisfying their appetite in other ways. You can still fit in the same amount of milk feeds until such time as you need to reduce the amount of milk they consume.
Obviously, I am no expert in weaning and the above is simply my own thoughts on the subject. As with all parenting responsibilities, it's about finding out what works for you and your child. I welcome any of your own observations or experiences in the comments!