22 July 2007

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life, and that they continue to receive breastmilk through the end of the first year and thereafter "as long as mutually desired by mother and child." The World Health Organization encourages breastfeeding to continue (in conjunction with complementary foods after six months) until the child is two years old.

Rafi and Rita* are six months old today.

As I nursed each of them earlier this morning, I noted with bittersweet amazement that our period of exclusive breastfeeding is ending. We've long made it past the initial hurdles, and now we've reached that first golden goal: half a year of successful nursing with no supplemental nutrition. Aside from a three doses (each) of oral rotavirus vaccine, a few weeks of messy (and probably unnecessary) vitamin supplementation, some (probably necessary) gripe water for Rita, one (very necessary) helping of prune juice for Rafi, and a few experimental sips of plain water over the past week, these kids have had nothing but The Best Stuff On Earth. By the end of the day, we will have to amend that to "nothing but The Best Stuff On Earth and some boiled sweet potato."

(Let me just state, for the record, that infants can and do thrive on formula. I'm not knocking parents who choose to give their babies formula, exclusively or as a complement to breastmilk. I'm certainly not knocking women who want to nurse their babies and, for one reason or another, cannot. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months, followed - we hope - by extended nursing and child-directed weaning, is the path that we have chosen for our family, because it is right for us. End disclaimer.)

We are planning to start down the path of baby-led weaning, skipping purees and "baby foods" altogether and starting directly with simple table foods. Spoons are out; bibs are in. I'd love to elaborate on this, and I will in the future I'm sure. But right now the children are up from their first nap...Julian is changing and dressing them, there are boiled wedges of sweet potato waiting on the table alongside the grown-ups' bagels and cream cheese, and I'm off to nurse my children for one last time before they find something else they can swallow.

* Names changed to protect the young from Google Monsters.


miriamp said...

Interesting. (The whole BLW thing... first I'd heard of it!)

I totally back the 6 mo thing, and the "able to grab food" thing... that's usually our clue to start solids... but the no spoon thing? I think I like that! OKay, it still requires someone sitting there and supervising, but I can get a 10 yr old to do that faster than I can get him to spoon feed anyone, and he'd certainly scream for me immediately if the baby happened to (Chv"Sh) choke.

This has definite possibilities. One question: do you also hold by the "one food at a time repeatedly until not proven to be allergenic to this baby" theory or the "one food at a time is hogwash and actually may lead to allergies reactions instead of preventing them" theory? Or somewhere in-between?

shanna said...

Right now we're doing one new food at a time, at least 48 hours apart. I think we're going to try to hold to that for at least a month, possibly longer, but we'll see what happens.

The important thing to know about the "choking alert" is that a self-feeding baby who has never been spoon-fed purees is nearly guaranteed to gag several times at least in the first few weeks. It's part of how they learn to chew before swallowing, not try to swallow large chunks, etc. It's very important not to freak out around a gagging baby...provided s/he is coughing and able to bring the food back to the front of hir mouth within a reasonable length of time. As I'm sure you know already (having been around a baby or two in your time), even six-month-old babies can pick up on their parents' tension, fear, and anxiety. If the baby sees you get scared when s/he gags a little, s/he may then get scared about the whole eating process.

Long-winded way of saying that maybe the 10-year-old supervisor should not start on the job until the baby in question has been self-feeding for a couple of weeks and there is a lower probability of a 10yo (or even a grownup) mistaking normal beginner gagging for actual attention-needed choking.

Oh, and the big fun of BLW (and part of the theory, actually) is in having the baby sit at the table while others are eating, so s/he learns to imitate them. Rafi actually insisted on a spoon today because he saw me eating my rice and beans with one! I never thought I'd see a six-month-old self-feeding with an actual spoon, on only his fourth day with solids, but there it was!

miriamp said...

Oh, we always have the baby at the table during meal times. Thinking about it, my issue was more erev Shabbos and having to drop everything to sit and feed an 8mo old lunch from a jar or two. If the baby is totally self-feeding solids by then, I can even pull the highchair into the kitchen (which I probably will have done anyway) and put food on the tray and continue to cook. I'll even be right there in case of any trouble.

That and trying to actually eat my own food while serving everyone else at the table and spoon-feeding a baby, all at times when I'm the only at-home grown-up.

Both times when I am actually available to supervise, just not to spoon-feed.

And my current 3-mo old has been known to gag on her own saliva, so I don't panic when she makes gagging noises. I'm pretty laid back about that sort of thing anyway, like the time R (at not quite 2 yrs old) fed baby H a potato chip. H was probably about 3 or 4 mo old at the time. Not old enough for potato chips! If I didn't panic then and H certainly didn't pick up on it, then we're probably fine to try this too.

LC said...

HI! Welcome back!

Two questions - first, if you aren't offering bite-size pieces, but larger ones, how does that fit with the "cook harder foods until mashable with only gums"? And on the other hand, (maybe it's the same question) wouldn't a cooked sweet potato fall apart when picked up if you make "sticks"?

And they can gag anyway; my oldest gagged on a bite of cooked sweet potato after he's been finger-feeding for a few months; freaked me out to hear the sound effects, but he cleared it on his own - I think it was only stuck to his palate, not going down his throat.

Penny said...

So bibs are in? How many do you want? They are Machine Washable and I need to work on better button attachment or alternate arrangements (ask the other two commentators to this post)

You "owe" me foot length so I can estimate fall foot sizes. ;)

I will try, bli neder, for bibs by the end of the week...

shanna said...

LC: The sweet potato sticks held up pretty well to boiling and cooling and Rafi's gentle grip, but Rita completely smushed every piece we gave her unless she went for it with both hands simultaneously. They were definitely soft enough to be mashed with the kids' gums to the point of swallowing. Steamed zucchini - flesh was practically melting, and at least Rafi managed to cut through the skin. Ripe avocado - already soft enough. Carrots were a little firmer, but still mashable with gums, or at least shredable.