We now own a banana with Peeper's name on it, and I am excited and sad and proud and terrified - all at the same time - at the prospect of her starting solid foods soon.
We've been talking about this for quite a while, and wondering whether she's ready, especially given her prematurity.
At our appointment yesterday, her doctor said that the gut-closing process is based on how long they've been eating, not gestational age, so her gut really is 6 months old, which was one of my primary concerns.
He told us to do rice cereal for a month, then vegetable purees, then fruit purees, but we are kind of ignoring some of the specifics of that advice.
Okay, we are completely ignoring all of the specifics of that advice.
There are as many "medical" opinions on baby-feeding as there are pediatricians, and it was established before Peeper was even released from the hospital (I may be blogging more about this soon) that, as much as we like our pediatricians overall, we don't particularly agree with them in this area.
We've (I've) been doing a lot of reasearch, and reading up on the recommendations of various pediatricians and nutrition expects of the book-writing variety, regarding starting breastfed babies on solids, and have specifically read alot about the baby-led approach to starting solids, and have sort of settled on that as being what feels the most right to us, for now.
All the big authorities agree that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is best, for a variety of reasons. There's also a lot of evidence that it's just fine to wait even longer, and may even be better.
Looking at the signs of readiness for solids, she's sort of iffy, depending on whom you ask.
(Does she need to sit well without support, or is sitting well supported good enough? She's falling over sideways in her big giant highchair, but if I tuck a rolled-up dishtowel on either side of her, she stays pretty vertical. Does that count?)
One thing that I can't quite decide about on that list is her level of interest in eating solid foods.
Shrike says that's she's watching us eat, and eyeing our food. I guess it's hard for me to judge that because I'm usually holding her and can't see very well what she's looking at and also, I'm used to seeing the little roasted turkeys in her eyes when she's looking at me.
To be honest, I would probably be just as happy to wait a little longer, because I'm not sure that I'm ready for this next step, but I don't suppose that's really the question.
What really matters is whether Peeper is ready. If she is interested and is ready for solids, then we need to give her the opportunity to have some, but if she's not ready, I don't want to push her.
Of course, we could wonder and stew and debate about that until she leaves for college, but really, I don't suppose anyone but can answer that question but Peeper herself.
And I don't suppose she can answer if we don't ask her.
So, ask we shall.
Which brings me back to this "baby-led" thing.
The "baby-led" approach, to put it in a rather simplified way, is just a matter of, first, waiting until at least six months, when the baby is developmentally capable of manipulating soft "finger foods" and has both the coordination and the interest to get them in her mouth, and then focusing more on those, rather than spoon-feeding purees.
One of the things I keep reading, in terms of raising a healthy eater, is that the decision-making about food is a shared responsibility between parent and child.
You can find much more information on "baby-led solids" or, as it's referred to in Britain "baby-led weaning" (primarily in the sense of weaning onto solid foods; they seem to use that term in place of "starting solids," regardless of how long they intend to breast (or bottle, for that matter) feed after starting solids) on these websites:
Guidelines for implementing a baby-led approach to the introduction of solid foods by Gill Rapley, adapted by Stefan Kleintjes
UNICEF UK and Baby-led Weaning from the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative
Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby To Love Good Food by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
Baby Led Weaning / Baby Led Weaning Blog
The most succinct way I've heard it put was by a WIC representative, who spoke at a Learning Center event last year:
"It's the parent's job to decide what to eat, and when to eat, but it is the child's job to decide whether to eat, and how much to eat."In other words, the parent can - and certainly should - say, "Dinner is in an hour, it's not snack time right now," or "We don't eat cookies for breakfast," but should not engage in "Clean your plate, there are children starving in China," or "Have three bites of broccoli or no dessert," battles.
For an infant, focusing more on self-fed finger foods (and self-fed not-so finger foods, when she's coordinated enough to wield some utensils) gives her that control of the whether and how much from the beginning, with no prying of the spoon past her closed lips, or "here comes the airplane" to get that "last little bit" in.
The other big thing I have been reading is that we should think of solids as "just for fun until they're one."
In other words, she's going to still be getting the majority of her nutrition from nursing anyway, so there's no need to stress about how much solid food she's eating or not eating.
She will eat as much as she wants - which will also be as much as she needs.
That all just really seems to make sense to us, so it's the approach that we're going to take for now.
Does that mean we'll never spoon-feed her pureed anything? I doubt it.
Does it mean we're going to hand her a steak tomorrow and tell her to have at it? Certainly not.
But, I think we probably are going to put some pieces of rather ripe banana in front of her at some point in the next few days (when the newly-purchased bananas get good and ripe, I suppose) and see what happens.
(You like how I say "see what happens," ever-so-nonchalantly? Of course, I'm sure that will involve both still and video cameras and blogging about it as soon as we've got her cleaned up. And, yes, we do plan to strip her to a diaper before we begin. We're rather clever that way.)
If she seems to enjoy her banana adventure, we'll probably do that for a few days, then maybe try some avacado.
If she's not interested or can't seem to figure it out, we'll probably wait a week or two and try again - or maybe try some avacado anyway, in case she just doesn't like bananas.
Banana and avacado are two of the most-recommended starter finger-foods because they are so soft, don't require any cooking (a big plus in my book) and are on the sweet side, which is appealling to breastfed babies.
Other things I'm hearing folks talk about offering fairly early on are sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, pears, green beans and other such healthiness. (All steamed good and soft, of course.)
Our local farmers' market opens in a few weeks and I'm looking forward to finding fresh, local (and often organic, although without the pricey certification) fruits and veggies to - dare I say it - cook for her.
If softening them up a bit and handing them to her to feed herself is working out, great!
If it turns out we do need to do some mushing or smushing for a while, that's fine, too.
But, as ambivalent as I am about it all, I am rather excited about the prospect of this whole adventure.
(And, hell, if she tells us this healthy stuff is actually any good, who knows, we might even try some ourselves!)
PS: BigGaloot and PerfectPup are 100% behind this plan!
PPS: Peeper just tried to take an Oreo out of my hand. Perhaps she is ready to try some banana, after all.