Gummy is eating food. Not just delicious sim.ilac, but real, honest to goodness food. Much to her mama's pride.
We started in the summer, when she was 5 1/2 months old. The WHO tells us to introduce solids at 6 months, but she was ready 2 weeks early. I wasn't going to make her wait, seeing as she opened her mouth every time I took a bite of something and then looked at me quizzically when I failed to put something in her baby bird beak.
I took that gift certificate for a big chain baby store and ordered me a high chair. It arrived. I put it together the same day. And we started.
Well, I should say that Gummy had carefully been given fruits and veggies to lick prior to that. I would hold a piece of apple and let her put it in her mouth, without letting go.
But it was time to let her try things on her own. I decided that baby-led weaning (BLW) was our method of choice. I knew a number of women I admire use this with their babies, much to their delight. I looked into it, and it seemed to fit with what I imagined feeding would be all about.
My main concern was the potential for choking. I had to review the infant cpr techniques we learned last fall when we took the class, and watch some youtube videos to see what the difference was between gagging and choking (well, I didn't see any babies choking, but I saw plenty of gaggers, and could extrapolate what choking might look like). I was reassured to hear from moms who were doing BLW and had seen their babies gag several times, without dire consequences. One of my local mom friends did say she and her husband grabbed the tray of the high chair, ready to take their baby out expeditiously a few times, but never needed to, as it was always just gagging and never choking.
The fear of choking remains. Yesterday was the first time in 2 months where we actually pulled Gummy out of her high chair because her gagging was starting to look like choking. But she gagged and was alright. She continued eating happily thereafter.
There are several things I like about this BLW:
1) The three of us can eat together at the same time. Because neither Mr. A nor I has to spoon feed Gummy, we can all focus on eating and conversing, instead of only one adult and one baby eating, while the other adult plays open-the-tunel-for-the-choo-choo-train with the spoon.
2) The preparation of Gummy's food is minimal. I quarter an apple, and take off some of the skin. I steam some green beans. I slice a watermelon and take out the seeds. Done. We also sometimes feed her exactly what we're having. She had rice pasta the other day, and rice and beans last week. She loved it! In fact, she has tried EVERYTHING we've put on her tray so far (I know this can change).
3) I am not the one deciding what goes in her mouth: she is.
That last point, it turns out, is the most important to me. I want her to grow up trusting her own biology. I want her to know that her body will tell her when she's hungry and tell her when she's had enough. That sometimes she'll miss the mark on that by eating too much or too little, but that it will all even out if she keeps listening to her hunger and satiety cues. I want her to trust that if one day she is craving tons of fruit, that's fine. And if the next day it's fries, that's fine too.
I've been reading this book (recommended by Bunny*) and it is GREAT. The main premise is that there exists a division of responsibility in feeding our children. Parents are responsible for what, where, when their children eat. Kids are responsible for how much and whether they eat. And this is based on the fact that we can trust our biology, starting in infancy.
I think that's the ticket.
I say that as someone whose done academic research in the area of obesity and eating disorders.
I say that as someone who has treated adolescents and adults with eating disorders.
And, of course, I also say that as someone who had an eating disorder and recovered fully.
In other words, I say that I like this philosophy of feeding children based on the fact that I have spent A LOT of time thinking about eating. An obscene amount of time, to be honest. And after all that, the only thing that I'm truly convinced of is that trusting hunger and satiety signals, which are inherent in everyone but can be silenced by loudmouths like 'societal pressures to be thin' and 'your mother who thinks you need to have one more slice of pie', is the way to have a good relationship with food, and to have a healthy body. There are other important things for health, to be sure. Vegetables. Exercise. Etc. I don't disagree with any of those, but it comes down to eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full.
It took me over 30 years to learn that. Closer to 35.
I guess I knew it at birth, but I unlearned it. My poor 23-year-old mother was overwhelmed and figured out that dipping my soother in honey would shut me up (it was a different time in the early 70s). There is this family story about how I was such an overweight baby that my doctor told my mother to put me on a diet. And then there is my mom's own chronic eating disorder and it's impact on how she fed me. And seventeen thousand more layers on top of that, layers that made those hunger and satiety signals inaudible.
I want my daughter to hear her signals. I fear so much that she would ever go through the hell I went through. Bulimia. Anorexia. Cardiac issues. Suicidality. Psychiatric institution for months. I never want her to become familiar with any of those. I know that I can't stop society's influence on her in terms of body image (although there are things I can do to help mitigate its impact). But I can give her the chance to have a good relationship with food by following her cues. And right now, letting her decide what goes in her mouth feels like the best way to do that.
* Bunny who swore off reading parenting books, so when I saw that she was reading this one, I figured it must be damn worth it. And it is.