I started writing this post a month ago, and then life got in the way. Travel back in time with me…
I’ve wanted to write this post for a while, but every time I thought about baby food and feeding Oliver, I started to get anxious… Until today. Because he’s finally eating.
Olly is 9.5 months old, and I started introducing food to him at about 4.5 months old. It has been 5 long months of struggling and refusals and gagging and vomiting and choking (once). But yesterday… Yesterday he happily sucked a puree from a food pouch until that food pouch was empty.
I’m writing this post because, 5 months ago, I was that naive new mom who thought her baby was going to love food and eating and it would be all sunshine and rainbows from his first taste. But I was clearly wrong. And if your child happens to be similar to Olly, I don’t want you to struggle the way I did. If you’re currently struggling, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
I may have started things off wrong. I was preparing a snack for myself one day and thought, “Why not see what Olly thinks of grapes?” I grabbed a mesh feeder (handy little things for first foods!) and popped some sliced grapes in and handed the feeder to Olly.
He held it in his hands and turned it round and round, examining it as he does every new object. And then, also as he does witj every new object, he put it in his mouth. The look of disgust that came across his face was comical, to me. I had tasted the grapes and found them to be fairly sweet, but I suppose for his “budding” taste buds (pun intended) they were quite sour.
Ok, grapes were a “No”.
Despite this first refusal, I went ahead and started pureeing everything. I had purchased the Infantino Squeeze Station and Squeeze Pouches so that I could make baby food for him rather than buy. And man, was that thing fun! Ok, I might be the only one that finds squishing pureed food into pouches fun… But whatever. Don’t judge me. I pureed and squished and labelled and dated my way through 30 pouches. I popped them in the freezer, thinking they’d be used and replaced long before their two month expiry (recommended by various baby food-making guidelines).
I took things slowly and played by the rules (one type of food at a time, spaced three or four days apart to rule out intolerances or allergies). I had got the ball rolling earlier than most recommended (6 months), although our doctor had said that some babies are ready and willing to start solids as early as 3 months old.
Olly was not willing. He really didn’t like anything. I tried rice cereal, wheat cereal, bananas, carrot puree, sweet potato puree, mango puree, mashed potatoes mixed with breastmilk, watermelon… I felt like I had tried everything and he hated it all. There were times that he’d seem to like something – really only carrots and bananas – and I’d think, “Eureka! This is it! He likes it. He loves it!” and the next day, I’d try it again, and it was like it was the worst thing he’d ever tasted.
Along with the difficulty of trying new tastes and seeing the look of disgust on his face, came the gagging and puking. The first time he gagged, I panicked and thought he was choking. His face went beet red and he wasn’t breathing or making a sound. And then the vomit flew out of his mouth and halfway across the room. I laughed at myself and recalled witnessing my friend’s son do the same thing about a year ago; at the time, I’d told myself to remember the experience so that I wouldn’t be shocked when my own child did that.
Whole lot of good, that did.
So, ok – he wasn’t choking. I could handle some gagging and vomiting. Or I thought I could. Until it started happening three or four times a day. Then it started to get to be too much.
I lamented my feeding woes to a friend (my mom-hero… You know who you are). She suggested that I try Baby Led Weaning. It was, she said, the only thing that worked for her fourth child, who was, at the time, 10 months old. I had never considered BLW, as my only knowledge of it came from relatives who (knowing what I know now) may have misunderstood the principles behind the strategy. It was not, I learned, about letting your child eat however much of whatever their heart desired at any given time. It was about letting your child be in control of when and how the food entered their mouth.
Armed with suggestions from friends, I went home that evening and steamed some sweet peas. Once they had cooled, I placed a pile of peas on the high chair tray, and let Olly explore. He picked one up (after numerous attempts), turned it around and side to side, and then popped it into his mouth. And then smiled.
And then gagged and puked. But he did it again, and the second time managed to swallow the pea. I think he ingested three or four that night. That was the most solid food he’d ever had in his system, and he hadn’t hated the experience. That was a win, in my books.
This wasn’t the downhill portion of the uphill battle, as I had hoped. He definitely preferred to feed himself, but he still would rather not eat more often than not. I bought Gerber Puffs, and he loved them, and that became the only thing he would eat consistently.
We tried chicken. One more thing he would eat consistently. I gave up on purees, and other people told me that I had to keep trying but I was so frustrated. I had long abandoned the rules and was feeding him something new every day, because by this point, he was 7 months old and still completely disinterested in solid food. I was tired of the three-times-daily battle at the high chair, my meals going cold while I encouraged Olly to eat with me. I was done asking for help and tired of everyone telling me what I should be doing, and telling me about how much better he’d be sleeping if he was eating solid foods. (Still not sleeping any better, by the way.)
So I gave up. He ate Puffs, and only Puffs, for about a month (in addition to his formula, of course). And then we visited family and Auntie Selena decided to try her hand at feeding Olly some puree at dinner one night and…. Oh. My. God. It worked. I was pretty sure we were going to have to live at Auntie Selena’s house for Olly to start eating consistently, but we went home the next day and I tried feeding him another puree and, magically, he willingly ate it!
Mealtime has gradually become easier. There have been a few bumps in the road – a stomach flu, a cold, an infection. These kinds of things cause him to lose interest in food for about a week. But we’ve discovered some staples that he will eat no matter what, and that gets us through the day.
I came to the conclusion, a couple weeks ago, that all that food I had lovingly and excitedly pureed and frozen was likely no longer suitable to be eaten. I took all of the pouches out of the freezer and, after staring at them longingly for about 5 minutes, threw them in the trash.
As much as I enjoyed the puree making process, I don’t think I’ll have time to do it again, as I’m returning to work very soon. Besides, Olly still definitely prefers food that he can pick up with his fingers, put in his mouth himself, and chew. So, the Squeeze Station will be passed on to a relative, who’s expected baby will, hopefully, enjoy their first foods much more than Olly did.