To blog or not to blog? Well, the reasons against are mainly to do with keeping my life more simple and not compulsively adding regular commitments to my ‘to do list’ that keep me up late at night when I should be sleeping, and keep my mind distracted from being present with my two children when I’m thinking towards them during the day. However, I do feel inclined to at least have a go at blogging again this time around, partly out of genuine interest in how it works out when you’re doing it a second time (and particularly because my circle of mums this time contains far more peers who are planning to BLW as well), partly in case my two-instalment story gives it the ‘unique selling point’ potential to become a bestseller 😉 and also (ok, this one was a stretch just to swing the argument the way I wanted), to keep my hand in at regular writing, so I don’t lose the knack for when I go back to work.
So, here it goes…
Well, our little Daisy will be five months old tomorrow. From early days, hands emerged as a big interest of hers. She ‘found them’ early on, and moved her hands and fingers around in various and quite delicate ways (reminiscent of her paternal grandmother, I thought) seeming fascinated by working out what they could do. At four-and-a-half months, she was already very dextrous, deliberately grasping, passing things from hand to hand, and having really good hand to mouth coordination. So much so that I started giving her weaning spoons and empty beakers to play with. She knew exactly what to do with them and soon could get the spoon into her mouth with great accuracy. Sign of Readiness No.1 ticked off.
She also showed a great interest in what was going on at mealtimes. By 4.5 months, she was reaching out for any plates or cups within her reach when sat on a knee at the table, and she really stared at people around her as they ate and drank. She would look so keen to experience the food, leaning towards it and sticking her tongue in and out, practically smacking her lips at times! This seemed to be earlier than I remember Daniel showing an interest in food. But, I reasoned, Daisy had observed many more mealtimes by this point, as we now have family meals once or twice a day, which she was present at, whereas with Daniel, we tended to eat while he was sleeping, or there would just be one of us with him, eating our meal in front of the TV or whilst reading the paper, invariably sitting on the living room floor. So, Daisy is much more accustom to the proper mealtime format. Interest in participating in mealtimes and reaching for food: Sign of Readiness #2.
With all this evident interest, I realised it was going to take me quite a lot of willpower to wait for the magic milestone of six months. I’d come pretty close to just giving her a lick of my ice cream on a couple of occasions during the recent early summer heatwave! But Daisy is really not sitting unaided yet. She’s pretty sturdy, but if you let go of her, she topples in seconds. So – not attained Sign of Readiness #3 – and this was the major factor making me hold back, tempting as it was to give her something to explore. I also asked myself, why rush? Why start off on a process that, while undoubtedly fun, is a whole new world of effort for the parent(s) that could happily wait another 5-6 weeks or more.
However, despite all this sensible self-talk, I gave in to temptation on Monday 23rd June, one week before Daisy turned five months. We were having shepherd’s pie with plain boiled green beans. I’d made a few too many green beans and they were just sitting there in the pan, and I looked at Jon and said “Shall we give her one?” and he said “Yeah”. So we did! She seemed very pleased with this, grasped it in her fist and put it straight to her mouth. She kind of licked it, and part of it definitely went into her mouth, but none of it stayed in. It mainly snapped off and fell onto the floor as she pushed it against her lips. We gave her a couple more, one of which fell to the floor whole, and the other again breaking into a few bits.
I reasoned that, at five months (or near enough) she was smack in the middle of the start date that would have been recommended just a few years ago (4m), and the current guideline (6m), and some people would be starting pureed solids at 4 months, so there was nothing drastically wrong with letting her have a few tastes, as long as we didn’t do anything dangerous texture wise. I really wasn’t expecting her to swallow anything at this point. However, after the green bean adventure, I wondered if I’d opened a can of worms and we were going to start ‘properly’. My instinct was to call this a one-off for the time being, but I did wonder what would happen the next evening, when I was planning to make steamed broccoli…
The next day was our post-natal yoga class and I mentioned in our ‘How was your week?’ catch up that Daisy had had her first taste of food the night before. Both the class instructor another mum in the group referred to the BLW advice that the surest sign of readiness is if the baby reaches out for food and puts it to her mouth. Well, Daisy would certainly be doing that given half a chance! She’d actually almost got a bite of Dan’s sandwich the day before too, when we were having a picnic and I turned my back for a minute, only to find her with half a peanut butter roll in her hand! (I think they were in cahoots, as I’d told Dan he had to finish it before he had any more crisps).
So, Tuesday teatime, I was deciding how much broccoli to steam, and ended up chucking in a couple of ‘trees’ extra to requirements for Daisy! But when it came to serving up, I’d backtracked again and decided I was rushing things and should just forget about it for another month. But then at the end of the meal, there were several leftover peas in the dish, and I was curious to see how her pincer grip is coming on, so I first put a few peas on the table – and then let her loose on the whole dish! She really seemed interested in feeling them (her pincer grip isn’t up to much yet, it turns out), batting them around the table and swishing her hand around the ones in the dish. But there was no hand to mouth action tonight.
Wednesday she didn’t get involved in teatime (I think she might actually have been asleep) but on Thursday I was at another of our baby groups and I again mentioned the ‘are-we-aren’t-we weaning’ question and I was quite surprised by the group leader’s response. I’d explained that we’d had a couple of early explorations but that since Daisy wasn’t sitting unaided, I was thinking it best to hold off a while. But the group leader (who is all about watching and waiting and not rushing the child to attain any developmental stages before they come to it naturally) said that she actually has some reservations about BLW because of the emphasis on sitting unaided. She explained that many babies won’t do this until 7-8 months, and it’s fine to begin weaning with the child sitting in your lap, held upright in the crook of your arm, and it can be a nice nurturing position in which to feed, either BLW or traditional style. So, a notch on the side of carrying on with the early introductions perhaps?
We didn’t offer Daisy anything else until Saturday evening, when Dan (who, 10 minutes after getting down from the tea table, announced he was hungry… sigh) was sharing a cut up apple with Jon. When Daisy caught sight of it, she again looked really interested, so I pinched a piece for her to play with. To my surprise, Dan got really annoyed with this – who’d have thought the first sign of sibling rivalry would arise over 1/8 of an apple! Anyway, Daisy managed to hold it really well in her fist, and seemed fascinated and rather delighted with this tasty morsel! She really licked and sucked at it, and I could tell in her face she was thinking “Ooh, this has FLAVOUR!!” She stuck with it for maybe 5 minutes (with me helping her to re-grasp it when it fell out of her hand) and I only took it off her when she started to get frustrated and tired – it was past her usual bedtime by now. She was in probably the least advisable position when tasting her apple – lying flat on her back on the floor. But I was watching her very closely and would have intervened if it looked like she was actually going to manage to bite off any of the apple. So, I considered the apple to be a great success. But I’m still not sure whether this is to be seen as a(nother) ‘one off’. My instinct is still telling me to wait until six months, but like a bad dieter, we seem to be having frequent exceptions and keep on falling off the wagon!
Daisy was a very sicky baby for her first couple of months, and although we didn’t see a doctor at the time and I’d put it down to ‘flow’ issues (I have a very powerful led-down!), with hindsight, I think she did have a pretty standard case of reflux. This makes me think that, being sensible, we should give her the full six months for her digestive system to mature before we give her anything that she’s likely to actually swallow. So there’ll be no steamed veg or porridge sticks for at least another few weeks. However, if there’s another apple being shared in the meantime, I think it’ll only be fair to let her lick a slice or two!