I spent a couple of hours with my friends from antenatal class yesterday, and talking to them about how their babies are getting on with weaning and with sleeping set me off thinking that maybe Daniel is really hungry and not getting enough solid food.
Now, I know that fundamental to BLW is the thing that it really doesn’t matter how much they do or don’t get down their throats at this stage, and in terms of nutrition, I am not really too worried as Daniel is still drinking a fair amount of breastmilk and we’re also going to start trying a vitamin supplement (a bit more to say on that below). However, he is still waking at least once in the night, often twice, wanting to breastfeed. In contrast, six of the seven other babies in our antenatal group are now sleeping through – many of them for around 12 solid hours a night. (I should say, the babies who are sleeping through are also all having formula milk, either exclusively or for at least a couple of bottles a day. The one other baby who is still waking at night is waking a lot (every 2-3 hours) and is still breastfed).
Now again, I know that the pro-breastfeeding, anti-early weaning lobby would say that night waking at 4-6 months is not necessarily a sign of hunger/readiness for solids. But a one-side breastfeed nearly always settles Daniel and sends him back off to sleep, so I do think that he is waking because he is hungry and needs something to eat. And I’ve also heard via a friend that her health visitor said that babies should be able to sleep through by 7-8 months if they are eating enough during the day, because their tummies are now big enough for their tea to sustain them overnight.
As I’ve mentioned before, all Daniel’s peers from our group are doing the puree plus finger food approach and having chatted to the mums yesterday, I’m sure their babies are all taking in more food at each mealtime than Daniel is. Although he seems to completely ‘get’ mealtimes now, and is getting really good at picking up foods and putting them into his mouth, if it’s a finger food that needs chewing (e.g. toast, little sandwiches, bits of meat, pasta) then most of it usually ends up falling back out, onto the floor, down his bib, into the highchair seat, etc. and when we sweep it all up after the meal, there’s often at least 80% of it left. Far more is actually eaten when it’s loaded spoons of something mushy.
So whilst I still have no desire to spoon-feed him, I did find myself wavering somewhat on the puree issue. Is our little boy going hungry during the day (hence waking at night) because the things we’re offering are just too challenging for him to chew and swallow at this stage? Should I perhaps base our meals around more mushy stuff for the time being, so that he at least has a decent chance of swallowing enough to fill him up? I know ‘food is for fun until one’, but waking twice a night until one won’t be much fun for either of us! I’ve always felt averse to ‘sleep training’, particularly if it’s only to make my own life easier. But if I’m honest, it would be really nice to have some longer stretches of sleep by now. And also, it can’t be that nice for Daniel to be waking up once or twice a night because he’s feeling hungry.
In light of all this, I borrowed a friend’s Annabel Karmel weaning book, and this did have some useful explanations about what nutrients, vitamins and minerals babies need. AK states that she worries about BLW because (alongside choking concerns) “many young babies’ hand-eye coordination is not developed enough for them to be able to rely on feeding themselves [so] they are less likely to eat the variety of foods their bodies need for healthy growth and development”. Watching Daniel these days, I’m confident in his hand-eye co-ordination (though today’s Weetabix performance raises some doubts about his hand-mouth skills!) but I think AK may have a point when it comes to what foods babies can easily chew and swallow at 7 months, and thus whether they can ingest enough volume of food overall to satisfy them.
As I write this, I realise that I’m basically just setting out the two sides of the BLW vs. puree debate, and one side would say ‘just don’t worry about it’ and the other would say ‘well that’s why you puree stuff for them’. I talked it over with Jon last night, and we decided the thing to do is to just have more family meals that involve mushy things, and ones that are rich in filling protein and the necessary minerals, that we can load onto spoons for Daniel. So Bolognese, cheesy sauces, flaked fish, lentil stews, etc. need to feature more prominently on the menu.
And just on the subject of vitamins, I suddenly discovered last week that the Department of Health recommends vitamin supplements for all breastfed babies over six months. Bit surprised that the health visitor never mentioned this! Anyhow, I bought Boots’ own brand of vitamin syrup the other day and Daniel had his first dose on Monday evening. He went on to have a terrible night’s sleep, with what looked like really painful indigestion (he chose to sleep on his front for the first time, which I guess must have soothed his sore tummy?) and an evidently strenuous poo in the middle of the night, which has been unheard of since he was a few weeks old. So, we’re having a couple of days off and then I’ll try them again later in the week to see if that was really the culprit.