Food is very important to me. And has become more so since having a family.
It's also hugely time consuming. Buying, preparing, making, feeding, cleaning up. It's a huge portion of my day as a (currently) stay-at-home Mum. But it's also something that I wanted to do right.
With my first little girl I feel inclined to say that I did it all wrong. That may sound a little harsh, but we really did have a hard time with things. I don't feel that she ate 'normally' until she was over 2. I struggled with feeding her to the point of tears, both our tears that is.
She didn't want to eat, and would sometimes consume maybe half of her recommended calories for the day, and then fill up with milk. This continued for a long time because I would feel relieved that she would drink milk, but then that had the knock on effect of making her less hungry at meal times.
My first food advice came from our local Early Childhood centre. My mothers' group was given a date when our bubs were 4 months old to go back and go through the first steps of getting your child to eat. There was some very specific advice, but most of it went like this:
- sit them in a high chair, and do not feed them until they can sit upright for a short period of time (supported)
- start with bland foods, like rice cereal. These are 'best' for baby and are a low allergic food.
- blend & sieve everything so there are no lumps. Your baby will not be able to cope with these.
- introduce new foods slowly, every 4 days or so. That way you will know if they have an allergy.
- spoon feed everything.
- homemade purees are best, but new baby products in supermarkets are getting much better.
They also told us that the World Health Organisation keeps changing their minds about when is best to start solids. Between 4 and 6 months. So they told us that 4 months would be fine.
I eagerly sat my little girl in a highchair and gave her the rice cereal watered down with formula a few days later. She seemed interested in having something in her mouth, but didn't eat it. This continued for weeks - we would do a few spoonfuls of one thing or another, but nothing really got consumed. I made pumpkin and apple purees at home, and these got spat out - I was unable to get rid of the lumps completely, and resorted to store bought baby foods.
Even two months after starting, we were getting through maybe half a packet of spinach and apple puree a sitting. And then a lot of spoon avoidance. Many meals were taking me 45 minutes to an hour, the time it took to distract my little girl and sneak a spoon into her mouth.
By about 9 months the eating was not improving. Miss K's mothers' group contemporaries were eating stews and rice and mushed up pasta at this point, and getting through good quantities too. I just convinced myself that we would get there through persistence and getting her to try new things that she would love! But instead Miss K was becoming anxious around meal times, just like her mum, and was instantly regurgitating anything with lumps, or anything unfamiliar. Granted, I was still tricking her into having all sorts of things put into her mouth that she didn't really want. But the vomiting was a really bad turn of events.
I spoke to the Early Childhood Centre and they referred me to a speech pathologist. This is the most common first call for eating problems as sometimes the muscle structure in the mouth can impair eating. She confirmed that there was no physical problem there, just a resistance to food. She encouraged a very gradual introduction of lumps. Say from slightly lumpy mash potato to mashed rice in purees, to adding couscous. None of which was new to us.
At this time I also started letting Miss K have more handheld food. Her friends were eating biscuits and sandwiches at this point. I saw no harm in giving her things to feed herself, especially when they weren't too messy. Looking back, I think this was the way through. These foods became more acceptable to her, and more interesting. She seemed to take more enjoyment in food. She ate fruit like bananas and pears. Slowly things started to improve.
During this time I was also reading Homemade Heart by Talia. Her blog is great reading for both Mums and foodies, and she goes into great detail of how she went with Baby Led Weaning with her little Tabitha. Including lots of photos!
This was a totally new idea to me, essentially it involves letting the baby decide how and what they eat. Messy yet successful I decided to do further research prior to having baby number 2 which I will go into in Part 2 of this post....
Sorry for such a long blog post. These thoughts have been going through my head for a number of years now, I always knew it would be a long one!