The pressure to start weaning E is immense. Technically the received wisdom and recommendations from the Department of Health is that babies are fine to be fed with just milk (breast or bottle) until they are six months old – E is nearly five months old now. We joined several baby clubs when I was pregnant including ones run by companies that sell baby food (you get loads of free stuff from clubs and they have forums you can go on to ask questions etc. I never seem to have time for that but in theory that’s what they’re there for.) From 17 weeks onwards we’ve been getting emails or mailings from them that really focus on weaning and introducing solids including “a Five step weaning plan” booklet and all kinds of recipes for mushed up food, equipment lists (splashmat, spoons, bowls, bib recommendations and so on). Obviously they want you to buy their products and normally I’m fairly immune to advertising campaigns but the constant bombardment of these messages does start to plant messages in your mind.
Each email starts with the words “The Dept of Health recommends that you feed your baby only milk until they are six months BUT…” and then go on to mention that you should obey your instincts as a mother. “If you feel that your baby wants more to eat…” It’s neatly done (says the cynic in me) as the default guilt gene starts questioning if you’re doing the right thing – is she hungry? Should I start with the baby rice? Is my breast milk enough? – but technically they’re still pushing the official guidance.
I’d find it easier to ignore these if the pressure wasn’t coming from elsewhere too. Other mums I’ve chatted to, including the hairdresser (a captive audience when she’s got her hands on your head) tell of starting weaning and how much easier their lives became when their baby FINALLY got enough to eat. I think the interrupted sleep starts to play a part too. The voice in your head starts saying “she’d sleep through the night if she had enough to eat ,you’re not feeding her enough, she wakes ’cause she’s hungry…” and it’s such a siren call, the promise of more sleep.
A friend has lent me a book about baby-led weaning, stating that she found it really helpful and a much better way to introduce an interest in food. I’ve read the book through (a lot of it is repetition but they had to fill the pages somehow) and it makes sense to me. Essentially you wait till the baby waits to show interest in food and you give them bits to explore. You let the baby play with the food and this way they can eat food that looks like food, not mush, as well as giving them the same things as you’re eating (assuming you’re not constantly downing junk food) and then you don’t have to prepare separate stuff for them. E has started showing an interest in food already so I’ve been sitting her on my lap when I eat and giving her a spoon for breakfast. Smearing yoghurt and oats all over her face and throwing it on the floor. It’s hilarious. She also likes a big chunk of bread to suck on. None of it’s going down yet.
S hates it. He doesn’t like the mess and worries about her having proper solids so early. My mum also prefers the mushy puree route to food so I’ve got both of them going on about this to me as well as the aforementioned emails from Cow and Gate etc.
I’m going to try and stick to my guns. For now, I think she’s fine on milk. She’s alert, trying new things, drinking plenty but not looking hungry for long periods of time. She doesn’t need solids yet, right? Also this week, we’ve had three nights of her sleeping through till 5am which seems like a step in the right direction.
I remember mealtimes when I was a child being a battleground. I didn’t like many vegetables and my dad made me finish everything on my plate. After a while of what seemed like hours sitting alone at the table crying I started to hide them on the shelf under the dining room table and then stash them away under a corner of the dining room carpet later on (a sensible child transfers them straight to the bin but not me). When my mum discovered the rotting food she pretty much decided to just give me peas and carrots with every meal, the only things I liked.
So this is a scenario I want to avoid with E! And I don’t want to worry about trying to make up batches of mushy food when I have a spare moment. The mess is temporary and cleanable – it’s only a carpet after all, and I’ve made up some sheeting to spread on the floor.
For now, I’ll just carry on with the milk.