dear abby

April 13, 2010

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we're writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Dear Abby,
(lovely reader that's you for today! so, dear you,)

Here's the sitch... since I last shared with you this hilarious video of Jude eating some banana I have given him... no food. I need your motherly guidance and experiences!

I still want to do baby-led weaning, which to me, means skipping the whole pureed foods stage. Check. Got that. And everything I keep reading says, "Delay solids as long as possible! Delay Delay!" and I believe them, and we've held off.  The benefits in some of the studies I've read seem quite real, real enough to overcome the societal pressure to cram some nasty sawdust wheat paste into the kid.

But, we're now in month seven (SEVEN!!).  The pressure is on.  I'm worried if we don't start foods soon he'll end up like a friend of a friend's kid who is 2+ and has developed some crazy aversion to eating solid foods at all and has to have everything pureed for him.

Jude is VERY interested in watching us eat and has thoroughly enjoyed the few pieces of bread we've let him gnaw on,   I'm just not sure what the next step is.  He'll suck on foods and seems like he's practicing the whole swallowing thing.  So that's good, right?

Is it time?  I think maybe it's time?
Are we doing this right?  Rightish?  Is there even a right way to do it?
What have your experiences been with introducing your babies to finger-food type solids?
Anything to expect or avoid?
Can I assume that if he's not choking then everything is peachy keen?

Signed,
Still Foodless in Ohio

(Feel free to weigh in on any or all of these questions, darlings.  Just looking for some general babies vs solid food tips.)

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

27 comments:

Lauren @ Hobo Mama

I think if you just let him continue to experiment he'll make his own decisions about what to swallow and what to just gum and I think that will both help you avoid the food aversions thing, because he gets to experiment with textures, and sort of take the responsibility off you to decide how much he literally eats in terms of swallowing.

At seven months, he CAN eat if he wants, but it absolutely is still early in terms of NEEDing solids. He could wait till a year old as long as he's breastfed. When people talk about delaying solids (in crunchy circles), they're usually talking till 10 or more months old. But, after six months, I like to let the baby set the readiness. If he likes chewing and experimenting, I don't see any reason not to keep offering him bits and see what happens.

I would just give Mikko pieces off our plates. He liked gumming on pickle spears and steamed broccoli trees and fruit and pieces of bread. But I swear the kid didn't really start swallowing food till close to a year, and even then it was sporadic for another year. But don't worry about it — they'll get there eventually!

Oh, a word on choking. There's literal choking, where food is impeding the airway, and that's bad. Then there's gagging, where the baby coughs or gags out the food, and that's normal. Don't get too concerned over gagging. If his gag reflex is really strong, it just means he'll delay swallowing for longer, and that's OK.

Some other ideas for foods to try are whole-milk yogurt (YoBaby, eg) and mashed cauliflower. They are purees, right, but that's fine, too. They will go EVERYWHERE, but babies get a kick out of that. :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama

But I forgot to give you the most important tip of starting solids! Have your camera ready.

Alexandra

follow your instinct. My daughter is 8 months old and we just give her big pieces of whatever we are eating to chew on. Apple slices, red peppers, raw potatoes, etc. That way she is exposed to food and wont have some weird aversion to it, but we don't have give her "baby food" every day.

It's also kind of funny because she has no teeth yet and can get chunks off her apple slice and gum them until she can swallow them. I think we are often scared by media/doctors/whoever that if we give them anything they will choke. But they know what do to by instinct and by watching us. Even if she gets a tiny piece of apple in her mouth she still chews (gums) it before swallowing. But do watch him if you give him something solid, i have had to turn her upside once because she couldn't cough up what she was eating.

Dionna @Code Name: Mama

Don't fret!! Kieran was 10 months old before he gummed his first solid. He didn't even swallow it (it was a bell pepper, truly). He didn't really *eat* anything til he was 11 months. Now? You can't keep food out of the kid's mouth at 28 months old (he's still nursing, by the way). Follow his lead! If he's interested in food, let him play with an avocado slice. Let him mush stuff up. If it makes it into his mouth, fun. If not, still fun. He won't be a freak if all he does is nurse for 7 or 8 or 9 (or 10! or more!) months. At least - my kid isn't ;)

Sarah @ OneStarryNight

Tristan who is now 6 1/2mo has been on solids (just at dinner time) for the past two weeks.

Daniel, my oldest son, had ZERO interest in solid food until he was 10-11mo old.

Tristan however has been trying to shove whatever he can get his hands on from our plates since around 5mo.

We do baby led eating (I don't like to use the word weaning here). Generally it can be some mashed potato from dinner or some toast with mashed avocado spread on it, he really loves oven baked sweet potato fries.

Generally most of it ends up AROUND him or ON him rather than in his tummy but that's ok!

Really until the baby is about a year old, solid food isn't so much for nutrition (especially in a breastfed baby) but for fun and experimentation.

Biscuit

Alright, here's my thoughts, do with them what you will:

If he is watching you eat, showing interest....then let him try what you are eating! Just like when you were pregnant and craved things without understanding it, his body is probably signaling him to want more exciting things on his palette. He's obviously healthy, so supplementing with "solids" isn't going to hurt your boy.

Keep it organic, if it helps ease your conscience, but I don't see what the hang up is, and to be honest no one EVER told me to avoid solids (purees). Natural parenting to me would dictate using the Earth's natural offerings. Fresh veggies, fruits, juices from those fruits..etc.

My guy LOST HIS MIND when I gave him sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, and melon. Just let him set the pace, but if he is showing interest, give him a taste, see what he does. Wiz didn't even have teeth until 9 months, but he was eating purees at 4 months. Granted, it was wee bits at a time, but he soon showed me that he way into it.

The best advice I ever got was from my mom, an O.G. hippie, "honey, take that fucking book, walk to the end of the pier, and throw it overboard. DOn't be a dumbass." My mom is so sweet.

jenn

Thanks for the wide range of comments here! I've been having the opposite insecurity! My son (who happens to be Jude's cousin and only three days older than Jude) has been eating organic purees for dinner for a few months now. And now I'm worried that he'll wean early...

I'm so glad to know that there are different ways of being a "natural" parent, and that there are women out there who support each other as mothers, no matter what their loving choices may be, instead of the judgement we feel coming at us from all directions.

the grumbles
This comment has been removed by the author.
the grumbles

great advice so far! i love hearing from people the different ages that they've experienced baby-led eating (Sarah, i like that phrasing!) starting and all your experiences.

jude is DEFINITELY interested in what we're eating. last night i shared some black beans with him from my plate and he chowed down a whole handful. and "chewed" them up on his own. it was AWESOME! i think beans are officially a hit.

Alicia

We started introducing foods a little after 5 months old because she was showing so much interest. We went with pureed, and she loved it. We started with orange/yellow veggies, green veggies, then fruits. By 7 months, we had graduated to small pieces of fruit and mixed veggies, which she still loves. Of course, she was really only tasting stuff. She didn't really start eating for nutrition till she was like a year old or so.

Unfortunately, Ellie, at 3.5 years old, is now a very picky eater. Put a piece of fruit or a veggie in front of her, and she'll eat it. Meat? No thanks. Eggs? Nah. Pasta? Yes. PB? Sometimes. Everyday is a crap shoot. It's frustrating to say the least.

The reason why I'm telling you this is because she tried practically everything as a baby and then became a picky even anyway. She used to eat small pieces of baked or grilled chicken breast, and now she can't even swallow it. The taste repulses her.

The first year is all about practice. Practice, practice, practice. So as long as he's reaching for it and wants to try it, have at it.

A note of caution: I think the only veggie to avoid raw at this age is carrots, although I can't for the life of me remember why. Also, I think you can start the yogurt around 9 months if I remember correctly. I think there's a warning on the label for giving it to a baby younger than that.

Alicia

*even should be eater. I suck.

Kris

I have 5 kids (my youngest is now 5), and they all approached food differently. I had one that didn't put a bite of solids (other than the occasional teddy graham or goldfish) in his mouth until he was 11 months. Just nursed exclusively. He got me away from the whole pressure of baby food, puree, etc. He went straight from nursing to eating table food and he's my best eater now. With the others, I just waited for their cues. If they showed interest, or were clearly hungry, I tried some of whatever we were eating. If not, they just joined us at the table for family social time. That's the key about eating - it's NOT about the food. It's about the social togetherness. Toddlers are also notorious snackers, so it's okay for baby to "eat and run" so to speak. I also found that at the younger ages, they tolerated table food much better on my finger, rather than a spoon. Take a bit off your plate, mash it between your fingers and pop it in and see what happens. If he eats it, give some more. If he spits it out, try again later. And don't let anyone tell you that he "needs" to be eating baby food.

Cave Mother

The WHO stress that for the first year, eating should be fun and milk should provide the lion's share of the baby's diet. Keep it fun and enjoy it. Don't worry about what actually goes down. If your baby rejects something once or twice, keep offering the food on later occasions.

If you find the baby likes apple puree or something, don't stress about that either. It's not going to kill it to have a spoon put in its mouth.

As the other comenters have said, some babies wait until a lot later to start eating. Last year I met a baby who had barely eaten any solids in its 16 months of life. Yes, 16 months. But she was fatter than my little chubster!

It takes some babies longer than others. At seven months, you are still in the early days.

Finally, a good tip I read somewhere was to offer foods that you could squash against the roof of your mouth. That way, you know the baby is capable of eating them if it wants.

Good luck with your weaning adventures!

Laura

I agree with Jenn that trying to be a "natural" parent means different things to different people. Just like all of our kids are different. You are getting great advice here to follow Jude's lead and it sounds like you are already doing it. Love that he eats black beans :) I'll have to try that with Max.

He is 8 1/2+ months now and we've been doing some organic purees, some homemade through the food grinder and some experimenting with whole foods for the last few months. He has been intently watching us eat and trying to grab since he was 4 months old. My little guy likes to play with the food and is not a big fan of the chunkier foods in his mouth yet- but he sure liked sucking on a piece of cantaloupe the other day :)

There are so many things for us to worry and beat ourselves up about as mothers. The key is that we are all trying to do our best for our own unique little people. And we don't need to be judgmental about choices other people make and constantly worry about our own choices. You've got good instincts. Keep using em :) And I'll try to follow my own advice, too.

Zoey @ Good Goog

I also lived in fear of my daughter never eating properly when she was that age. Finally at around 9 months she started eating and wasn't really keen one eating until she was 12 months.

Melodie

Soft foods like banana and avocado are best to start with. Mushy rice and oats are good too although you will hear conflicting advice about introducing grains first, even though the grocery store and nurses will tell you to put them on rice cereal first. But food doesn't need to be pureed completely. Chunks are good for learning how to chew and learning about new textures. Just make sure you keep breastfeeding for the full 12 months. It's surprising how many people I meet who think once you introduce food that babies don't need breast milk or even formula anymore. But they do. Enjoy! And like Lauren said, make sure you have a camera on hand.

Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes

We slowly introduced solids to our son when he was 6 months. Some of his favorites in the beginning were mashed banana and avocado.

I tried to give him foods that were fresh and not processed. When I could give him something fresh, rather than cooked I did. A soft mashed ripe pear or a soft mashed ripe peach were also good options.
We also finely grated things that we couldn't mash - like apples or carrots or beets.

I was a bit paranoid about choking in the beginning, so I did mash or lightly puree most foods from about 6-9 months.

Have you ever seen mesh feeders? They were also helpful in the beginning - I'd put a chunk of whatever fresh fruit we had on hand and let my son chew on it.

Our son is now 2 and loves all food. I don't know if it is just dumb luck or if it has something to do with the way we exposed him to lots of different flavors from fresh food.

Good luck and have fun!! A La Leche League motto that I like is: Food before 1 is just for fun! It means that all of your baby's nutritional needs are met through breastmilk and food is just an added bonus. I took this to heart and we really enjoyed experimenting with food.

Betsy B. Honest

Avocado is the best first-food ever. You can spoon feed without even mushing and it's full of fats and fibre. It even fits in your purse so you can bring with.

Also, I think fish -- salmon, etc. is underated as a first food. Lot's of iron and good fats.

navelgazingbajan

My son is close to 9 months old and still doesn't really care about solids. I let him taste different things but he hasn't really been too interested in any of them. The closest thing to success was when I let him taste avocado and he made a fairly neutral face. It can be difficult when facing pressure to feed solids at 6 months but please rest assured that your baby isn't abnormal (and won't be abnormal) if he's not ready at that age. Just keep offering food from time to time, never force, and eventually your little one will take to solids. After all, most people are eating solids by the time they reach adulthood.

mamapoekie

Relax, you're doing fine! Until the age of one my dd hardly ate anything and then she turned into an ogre. Just let him nibble at whatever catches his interest (and is fairly safe). It can be some fish filet, soft fruits, cooked vegetables... Just don't worry and propose foods to him often

Darcel

My 2nd didn't start solids until she was nine months old.She had a taste of sweet potatoes off my plate. After that we started mashing up our food and giving her a little when she wanted it.

You are doing great! Keep following your child's lead.

Jessica

I did a modified child-led feeding thing. I offered, if he ate it, great, if not, no biggie, but that included pureed organic foods as well as whole fruits. The thing for us was that I offered all the time all sorts of things. He was munching down on solids regularly by 8 months, but we had a few false starts.

You know what they say about all babies being different. And don't worry too much about the child you've heard of who only eats pureed food as a full blown toddler. It's like the "horror" stories of bed-sharing parents with 7 year olds refusing to sleep in their own beds. It's only a problem if you think it is, not if everyone else thinks so :) Besides, I've never seen an adult refusing to eat regular food before. Y'all will work it out eventually!

uncreativewriting

Slightly off topic, but do you think you could explain the concept of a carnival to me? I've read about them on NaBloPoMo, but even after visiting the site I still wasn't able to really figure out what they are. Thanks!

beth

I'll share some experiences from my own baby - who is only 6.5 months now but is chowing down on table foods like nobody's business.

Around 4 or 4.5 months he started showing interest in our food, but whatever we gave him he would just taste but not swallow. We bought him some soft baby spoons and at dinnertime I'd dip the spoon in whatever I was eating and give it to him to taste. He also liked drinking water from our cups.

Around 5.5 months he was picking food up from the table, putting it in his mouth, chewing, and swallowing. He could also hold a spoon and nom on the end, which was a good way to feed him soft foods like mashed potatoes.

Two things that we nearly forgot in our quest to "skip the puree stage", as we put it - one, there are still a few choking hazards to avoid, and two, purees are not the enemy!

You don't NEED purees, but think of table foods like mashed potatoes, applesauce, soups, yogurt - all stuff that we adults eat. It's not cheating to give your kid this stuff! Put some on a spoon and let the baby chew or suck on the spoon. My 6.5 month old will hold the spoon, eat the food off it, and let us know when he's ready for more. He's happy to either feed himself like that, or to let us feed him (which is nice if we're in a hurry). And since he's getting plenty of real foods, we think it's fine if he gets an occasional jar of puree from a babysitter or whatever. We also bought a food grinder for when our meals don't have foods he can easily eat. It grinds the food pretty coarsely so he still gets a lot of the texture.

As for choking hazards, my info comes from our pediatrician, who was very supportive about starting with table foods, and my father who deals with (adult) speech and swallowing problems and is always pointing out choking hazards at meals (how fun!)

Our doc's rule of thumb is that the food should easily mash or crumble (like Cave Mother's rule), and pieces shouldn't be much bigger than corn kernels. That leaves things on the list like: rice, beans, crackers, bread, ground or shredded meat...

On the list of things to avoid for at least the first few months: large chunks of meat, big pieces of bread that could wad up into balls in the mouth, "anything shaped like a cork" like whole grapes or hot dog chunks, and hard raw veggies like carrots that he could bite a too-big chunk off of.

We didn't delay or isolate any foods, just threw everything at him at once, which our doc thought was a fine idea but I know opinions vary on that.

In the past few weeks he's eaten: rice, indian food sauces, guacamole, bread, muffins, bananas, yogurt, thick soups like black bean, baby food, applesauce, ice cream, cake, pasta, ground-up fish/chicken, tomato sauce, mashed potatoes ...

Thomasin

I've heard so many different things about introducing solids to babies that's is refreshing to hear such polite genuine conversation on this blog!

My own experience: I wanted to delay solid foods for as long as possible with my daughter. However, her father was very eager to introduce them. So, at 6 1/2 months we gave her sweet potatoes for the first time (he fed her). She hated them. Bananas about a week later were a hit, and since she was a decent sitter by that point I'd sit her up on the floor and give her 1/2 a banana and let her chomp away. It was CRAZY MESSY but I just wasn't interested in mashing everything up for her if she could grab foods and sit up herself. She loved it. I'd give her the pits of mango and let her chomp on those too. But food for her wasn't really nutritional until nearer to a year. It worried my daycare provider some (I had to sign waivers about not "allowing" her to be fed cereals and canned meats) but it worked out fine. We fed her table scraps and the occasional banana when she seemed interested, otherwise I just nursed her like normal.

I think you're doing well! Feed him bits off your table if you're comfortable with it, don't worry about it if you're not yet and he's still getting all he needs from you, and ignore the rest of us if what we say doesn't work for your household. ;-)

Amber, The Unlikely Mama

I actually wish we had waited a bit longer. I'm not sure I could have held out though.

I did make all of Alexa's food in the beginning, but once meats were added I couldn't do it. So I make as much as I can, and add the homemade to the jarred and hope it's a happy medium :-)

Now she's FINALLY able to eat things bigger than a grain of rice, so I can feed her chunks of my own food. I can't wait till she can just eat a damn sandwich :P

I think baby led weaning is a great option if you can hold out!

Momioso

There's no pressure - really! - you know he really IS going to eat solids :) My youngest didn't eat them til 13 months and I was very antsy, but frankly, I loved loved not having to make and clean up baby food mess. It was awesome!! She did eventually want to eat food - slowly but surely!

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