Sunday, October 20, 2013

Eat

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. 

11 comments:

  1. Well, glad to hear that Gummy is enjoying her food, and you've found a feeding strategy you're happy with!

    I didn't really do BLW with Tiny Boy, though I read about it. Even now when he eats it's about 50% pureed stuff, though he uses utensils (and has for a very long time)...I think even spoon fed kids ultimately decide what goes in their bodies....

    which in Tiny Boy's case is very little. Might need to check out that book!

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  2. I love hearing BLW stories! I'm planning on doing BLW for this one, too. So different from how I handled eating with Little K!

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  3. I understand where you are coming from on this from all angles. I spend my time thinking about how to react to my MIL calling my son the michelin man and how she hands out extra food to my smaller son. As I lived through this too as a child with my own mother. We did BLW with my second. It's going great. He hasn't choked on anything yet and he's only got two teeth. I'm glad to read this. It's an exciting time, and you're right, what the baby eats doesn't cause a lot of extra fuss or work.

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  4. BLW here too. I think I can credit Sister Bunny as well. Huge fan of it and enjoyed a load of success trying it with Jaybird. Yay for your house!

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  5. thanks so much for sharing this resource have dealt with compulsive overeating and my mom had bulemia! i am glad there are books like this and people like you to share them!! I want to break the cycle!

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  6. I'm so sorry you had to go through the hell of eating disorders. And so glad you recovered, and that you're trying to do everything you can to protect gummy from it. I learned listening to my body's cues in my early twenties and shed quite a bit of weight from teenage overeating through this (for which I think "society" is mostly to blame, my parents have fairly healthy eating habits, if a tad on the granola/whole grain side).
    BLW sounds awesome. I hope to look into that... someday.

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  7. Oh yaaaaay! I am so happy that you are all entering the glorious world of sharing food together. (Because who wants to share sim.ilac? Not ME!) It was such a joy for me, and I hope it will be for you, too. I periodically flip through the book just to remind myself, and there's a part that brings tears to my eyes every time--if food is a pleasure for you, it will be for your kids too.

    My mother was hyper focused on nutrition and making do with our extreme poverty, so I did NOT grow up enjoying food in general, but I learned it from a friend, and am forever grateful.

    This is all about MEEEEE! Point is, I'm also forever grateful that you are so strong and that you survived and that you can give the gift of healthy attitudes about food to your daughter.

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    1. Forgot to say: The choking vs. gagging thing was a tough part of the process, but the thing that comforted me was knowing that people who spoon feed still get to learn about choking and gagging. I should perhaps also say that we have NEVER had choking. Just gagging.

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    2. Bug went through an unfortunate phase when he not only gagged every time we gave him something new, but then also kind of threw up a little. We were really alarmed at first but he did it every damn time (and then the second time with that food it was always fine). Kids: always with the fun and exciting eating experiences.

      Dr. S once pointed out to me that, as he grew up in a poor-and-hungry household, he would tend to ask after dinner "Did you get enough to eat?" And I, who never went hungry a day in my life in my white-collar well-off household, would always ask "Did you enjoy your dinner?"

      It sounds like Gummy is enjoying all the exciting new flavors!

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  8. Hello girl! I have been so hard pressed to comment on your blog as my phone doesn't allow it.. but i am definitely still reading. As I read, I think to myself man, we are similar in parenting styles. (Must be all the psychology training, it paid off somewhat. And also, your thoughts on Misfit's post about attachment parenting... so dead on... it's so hard to take as they are always the first to critcize you too as they are have been taught to fear ruining their kids!! AHhh!) Anyways, just wanted to let you know I am still here reading along on Gummy's adventures.

    I think it's really great how you processed the role of food here, as it's really important.

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  9. Hey! I like your blog. You seem to be a lovelly mom. By the way, I also get scarred when I see kids putting things in their mouths, I'm also affraid they choke... thought I'm not a mom.

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