Let Them Eat Solids! Baby-led Weaning
When Petals was born I knew that I wanted to breastfeed.
It was very important to me that she only receive the best – and breastfeeding was, as I’d been told many, many times, the best.
I was already disappointed in my inability to be completely natural. I attended all the classes. I avoided all the medicines. (I almost cried the first time I had to take an Excedrin during my pregnancy.) I fulfilled a craving for beer by allowing myself to, only once, dip my finger into my husband’s hefeweizen and taste the delicious beverage. And of course, I ate only the healthiest of cheeseburgers…
But there were a lot of things that I couldn’t give my baby.
I had wanted to quit drinking caffeine – I couldn’t.
I had wanted to go into labor naturally – I was induced due to possible hypertension.
I had wanted to move around during the birth – I was hooked up to so many machines I couldn’t.
I had wanted to birth her without drugs – I ended up taking the epidural.
So when it came time to breastfeed, I was determined that it was going to happen. She was going to pop up out and lay on my tummy until she decided to latch for the first magical time. She was going to room in with me and at every “engh!” she made, I was going to be there, with a breast and the crook of my arm. I had practiced multiple holds with my pillows, and I was ready.
Except, she wasn’t.
She did lay on my tummy for about an hour – before my family got too impatient to hold her – in which time she tried to latch, but couldn’t really get the hang of it. Later that night, I called lactation nurse after lactation nurse. One of the nurses put a shell over my nipple and used a bulb syringe to fill it with water, trying to encourage her to learn the important lesson: if you suck on this thing, liquid will come out. By the next morning. her constant gnawing had taken the skin off of me and she still wasn’t getting the hang of it. (I remember looking down at her little mouth and seeing a strip of dark nipple skin in it. “J! She’s sucked the BLACK off of me!” I yelled.)
Her weight dropped dramatically and they asked us to come into the hospital to continue monitoring her. For the next week, we stayed up nights trying to feed her and spent our mornings hauling her into the hospital. When she cried because she couldn’t get any milk, I cried because I couldn’t give her any. It wasn’t until another lactation consultant, the most awesome in the world, showed me how to pull down her little tongue – so that she wasn’t biting, but she was sucking – and pull out her lips that we began to have success. She also told me that it was okay to give the nips a break, that pumping and giving the kid a bottle every now and then wouldn’t be the end of our breastfeeding relationship.
Five months later, Zuri is a pro. She loves breastfeeding. (And she ain’t bad at bottle feeding either.) And I love it too. (I thought I’d never hear myself saying…er…typing…that!)
So at four months, when the doctor said that she was old enough and big enough for cereal, I was skeptical.
Still, I didn’t want her to not have anything she was supposed to.
As always, I did tons of research on the internet.
And then I spent two days hemming and hawing over cereal brands.
I finally made the purchase, at the behest of my husband and mother, mixed up some cereal and breastmilk, and, one bright Saturday morning, sat Dad, Baby, and Camera down to capture the glorious moment: Z’s first bites.
She was less than thrilled.
I tasted it. I forced J to taste it. It was gritty and cold. Who would want to eat this?
The next week, we tried bananas. We pureed them with breastmilk. She didn’t like it. So we tried them the next day, mashed. She didn’t take to ’em. “Maybe she doesn’t like sweet stuff that much. Maybe it’s all too sweet?” I said to The Boy.
The next week, we tried avocado. She actually spit it out and almost cried. So we mixed the avocado with breastmilk. Nope. With banana? Nope nope. If she didn’t like cereal or banana, she put up with us trying to shovel it in her mouth. Avocado though? She hates avocado.
The next weekend, we laid off her…she began swatting at our plates. So I gave her tastes of my food with my finger. She pushed it around in her mouth for a bit before spitting it out. She’s still not ready to eat any of this foreign stuff, but at least she didn’t look so miserable about trying it.
So now we’re faced with a choice. As her little teeth begin to bud, we must decide: to train her to eat solids? Or to let her discover solids on her own time? Certainly, websites and blogs about baby-led weaning (and the relatively lazy side of my parenting style) seem to be leaning to the “Meh…she’ll do it eventually” side. Then there are the maternal parental units that are all about “Givin’ that baby somethin’ to tide her over…at least some grits or somethin’…you could even put rice cereal in her bottle so she’ll sleep good”. And there are websites and articles about starting solids to back them up. Besides this, they have, clearly, beautiful and healthy kids as proof that their methods work.
But the thing is she doesn’t have trouble sleeping through the night. And there is scientific evidence that it really might not matter that much…but it could…but maybe it doesn’t. And the fact of the matter is, we’re just going to have to do what feels right for us. For right now, that means letting her play with her food and keeping off the pressure. If that’s baby-led weaning, then I guess that’s where we’re going.