Are we in or are we out…?

The two tiny pieces of melon that Daisy consumed on Friday afternoon reappeared the following Sunday evening in her nappy, completely undigested. My conviction to hold off until six months is evidently very weak, as the day after deciding to wait until she’s six months, I shared a bit of my Granny Smith’s with her, while we were hanging out at Jon’s office. She seemed to be loving it – clenching it in her fist and sucking away with great focus and persistence. I held off the following day, and in fact, she seemed to be just as sicky, so maybe it’s just a phase she’s going through, and the fruit has nothing to do with it?

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Be patient mummy…

So, after a few first forays with fruit and veg, I returned to my copy of Gill Rapley’s book to ‘revise’ a little and also, if I’m honest, to search for evidence that it was ok to be starting to introduce Daisy to foods at just over five months old. I actually found the book a bit contradictory, as it really hammers home the ‘wait until six months’ message, but simultaneously promotes the message that a baby who can feed themselves is ready to eat. Daisy is not six months, but she clearly knows what she’s doing when she grips a stick of fruit and puts it to her mouth. I know that everything goes in the mouth at this stage, but not with the prolonged interest that this piece of melon got today!

The Rapley book says there’s no need to worry because babies won’t actually bite, chew or start to swallow until they’re 7-8 months. But today, Daisy really was gumming away at the melon, managed to gnaw/suck off a few small pieces and did swallow them. And there was evidence in her nappy of the tiny amounts of green beans she played with at tea time last night, when we were at my mum’s house.

So, I’ve got a child who presents a bit of a mismatch between Rapley’s two key readiness factors. She’s quite a way off six months (relatively speaking), but she appears very capable of the early stages of self-feeding.

However, following her very focused melon sucking this afternoon, she proceeded to be very sicky throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, so I’m thinking her tummy really isn’t quite ready for this yet and I really should hold off. It’ll take lots more willpower to deny her these explorations, but really it’s only another three weeks or so. Patience mummy!

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Daisy tries apple for a second time…

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Here we go again…

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!

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He’s weaned!

Well, by all formal definitions, Daniel is now weaned. We finished breastfeeding just over a week ago so now he is a fully fledged, all-eating, all-drinking little boy.  Despite the gradual reduction over the past couple of months, the ultimate end of breastfeeding still felt as if it came quite quickly when it did. We’d been down to just a bedtime feed for a couple of weeks, and then there were a couple of evenings when I started to sense that Daniel would have settled down for bed without a breastfeed and was even a bit ‘surprised’ to be offered milk before storytime. So when a friend who lives around the corner offered me a last minute invitation to go and hang out at her house on Friday evening a week ago, I thought we’d have a trial run. I left Jon and Daniel as they were finishing off tea, on the understanding that I’d come back to feed Daniel if he didn’t go quietly after his bath and story. I came home at 11.30pm to a calm and peaceful house, sleeping baby upstairs, Daddy relaxing on the sofa! So, I knew now that it could be done.

I didn’t want the last feed to slip by unmarked though, so I decided I would feed Daniel the next evening and then we’d call it quits. I was quite emotional during that last feed, but other than that, we’ve had no problems making the break. I’ve been physically fine, Daniel hasn’t protested, and now we’re a week down the line and it seems the job is done.

Although that one bedtime feed can only have been making up a tiny fraction of his overall daily sustenance, finally dropping all breastmilk seems to have led to another step up in his appetite. He’s been eating really, really, well over the past week – putting away what you would consider real ‘child portions’ of food at mealtimes, with far less throwing, squishing or messing about (though he’s still very suspicious of a few things, including fresh tomatoes and strawberries, which don’t get anywhere near his mouth!)

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Licking the beaters – a rite of passage!

He’s also continuing to develop preferences and becoming clearer at asking/indicating what he would like to eat. Although I present him with a range of different things at breakfast times (i.e. different things on different days), he has a firm preference for mini weetabix, and every morning will point at them on the shelf and say “bee-bee-bits”. It does sound very like a baby-talk attempt at the word weetabix, but I won’t overstate his linguistic skills – he makes the same sound several times a day when requesting various non-food items, so it’s probably just coincidence that his “I want…” noise sounds like a breakfast cereal brand!

We had bit of a milestone occasion today – went out for lunch with some friends and for the first time, we ordered Daniel his own food, not just sharing from our plates! So his first real restaurant meal was a huge ‘herby Scotch Egg’ from the tapas menu at Melton’s Too restaurant in York, which he munched down with great enthusiasm. The friends who we were with have a nephew who is four months older than Daniel, and were very impressed by Daniel’s fork skills (which are coming on in leaps and bounds) and general table manners by contrast. Although I’m still reserving judgement about whether BLW really gives the child a developmental advantage when it comes to self-feeding, I must admit that it was very nice to be told and I felt very proud of my little boy 🙂

I’ve decided this will be my final blog post. I started to write so that I could record and share our experiences of weaning, and we’re now at the point where Daniel is officially weaned, so rather than continuing with an ongoing blog about his general eating habits, I think I will stop here. There will be further stages and developments, but my two fundamental interests in terms of following a BLW approach were not to spoon feed and not to puree, and I’m pretty sure we’re well past either of those now, so I’ll leave the blogging on toddler-led eating, food fads and challenging table manners to other writers! One that I would recommend to my handful of dedicated followers 😉 is Science of Mom. She’s really interesting to read, and has recently been writing about her two-year-old’s eating habits.

So, final thoughts. Would I do it again? Definitely. Even if Daniel turns into the fussiest eater in the world, and even if he’s no better with a knife and fork than any of his traditionally-weaned peers by the time he’s three years old, I think it was well worth it for all the hours I didn’t spend pureeing vegetables and mincing meats, which we were able to spend doing more fun things together, and for all of the exciting and sociable family mealtimes we’ve had as he’s explored, learned, squished and smeared his way towards solid foods.

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Thank you for reading!!

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Not again!

What’s going on?! Just had a repeat performance of the gag and vomit, this time set off by some fibrous courgette, it seems. Daniel didn’t seem so shocked by it this time as he did the other day, but I’m hoping he’s not about to make a habit of it. He is getting his first back teeth at the moment, so maybe it’s got something to do with working out what size of morsel he can and can’t manage to chew and swallow with these new tools…

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Mealtimes at nursery – all going well!

Daniel has been doing full days at nursery for almost three weeks now (he goes three days per week) and it appears they dine like kings! They get a snack at 9.30am, a two-course lunch (savoury and pudding) at 11.30am and another snack at 3.00pm. The day’s menu is displayed on the noticeboard in the nursery and when we pick him up, we also get a daily report of what and how much Daniel has eaten. Morning snacks so far have included things like fruit scones, cheese scones, scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes and porridge. Lunches have been chilli and rice, curry with rice and naan, fishfingers, beans and chips, macaroni cheese with puddings of chocolate crispy cakes, pineapple upside-down cake, fruit with yoghurt or jelly. Afternoon snacks have included crackers with cheese and fruit, sausage rolls and veg pasties.

With the exception of one random off-day when he didn’t seem to want anything, the reports are that Daniel has been eating well at lunch and afternoon snack time, enjoying most or all of what he’s being offered. Morning snack often comes hot on the heels of breakfast as he doesn’t arrive until about 9am so it’s hit and miss whether he’s hungry yet by 9.30am, but often he does eat some of what’s on offer at nursery.

I’d been a bit hesitant to ask the nursery staff about how mealtimes work and how his self feeding is going, as I didn’t want to appear interfering or neurotic, or to suggest that I didn’t trust them with the BLW approach. However, this week I plucked up the courage to ask the nursery leader a couple of gently (tactically!) phrased questions about how Daniel is getting on with cutlery and she gave me a really nice response.

She said that Daniel is doing really well with his cutlery, when they load up the forks for him (so I guess this is what we’re used to at home, but it’s nice that the nursery staff think he’s doing well too!) The nursery leader explicitly mentioned that they were doing the loaded forks because we’d said that we were doing BLW at home, so I was really pleased that they’ve taken that on board. She also said that at first he would throw his whole bowl on the floor if they put it on the table in front of him, so they had to keep it away from him and just pass him the loaded forks.  Again, so far, so familiar. However, she then said that after a few days he just stopped throwing his bowl, so now they can leave it with him! Well, I don’t know why Daniel thinks it’s acceptable to have one standard at nursery and another at home, but we’ll have to have a word!!

Drinking from a beaker is going really well now. He’s enjoying water, cows’ milk and (occasionally, as a treat!) some sugar-free squash. He’s still interested in what happens when he turns his free-flow cup upside-down, but for the most part, he’s more interested in proper drinking, and if we leave a cup of water around while we’re playing at home, he’ll come back to it for a sip periodically when he spots it. I think nursery is really helping in this respect, as they use the same beakers there (Tommy Tippee free flow) and presumably he’s also learning from watching the other children who have got the knack already.

Just for the record, we had another major gagging and vomiting incident last week. It was about 6.00am – for some reason he’d woken up unusually early and seemed hungry so I gave him a beaker of milk, a couple of those ‘breakfast biscuit’ things and some melon, all of which he went for with gusto. However, while he was still in his highchair eating the melon, all of it suddenly came back up again in quite a dramatic fashion. Like last time, neither Jon or I saw exactly what preceded it, and at first we both thought he was actually ill, as it was such a full-on wretch and he went quite pale and floppy for a while afterwards. However, after a couple more hours nap, he seemed right as rain for the rest of the day, eating normally and playing energetically with his cousins who were visiting. So, perhaps it was just a bit early in the morning for his tummy to cope with a large and quickly-consumed breakfast, or maybe some melon went down the wrong way.

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