Introducing Solids or Jamie loves Banana

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I was so looking forward to starting Jamie on solids!  Food has always been a very important part of my life (see my food blog here) and I was terribly excited to introduce my little boy to the wonderful world of flavours and tastes.

Weaning advice states that your baby is ready if (1) if he can hold his head and can sit upright almost unaided, (2) shows interest in mummy’s food (3) puts things into his mouth and exhibits chewing motions and (4) has lost the extension reflex to push everything out of his mouth.

I thought weaning Jamie at 4 months and 2 weeks would be a failure (read more about why I decided to wean before 6 months) – he didn’t show any visible interest in what I was eating, or if he did, he kept it hidden very well.  He was just about able to hold his head but sitting? No way!  The only thing that he did was to put everything into his mouth and chewing vigorously (but then again this could be teething, right?), leaving pools of saliva everywhere.  I thought I’d give solids a shot anyway.

Jamie’s first experience of spoon-feeding was with a small portion of baby rice mixed with breast milk.  It went swimmingly (please not that below video documenting the seminal moment of Jamie’s first spoon of solid food is probably only interesting to Jamie’s grandmothers) and I haven’t looked back since.

Now, at 5 months 1 week, I feed Jamie twice a day.  There are periods when Jamie eats quite a bit (I’d say the equivalent of about 7 tablespoons), and days when he just grazes, pulls funny faces, spits food everywhere and falls asleep while eating.

It doesn’t matter how much baby eats at this early stage as all essential nutrients are still coming from breast milk or formula.  Solids complement rather than substitute milk feeds.  Knowing this, takes a lot of stress away from introducing solids as you can be sure that even if baby has a few days when he refuses your beautifully cooked carrot mash, it really doesn’t matter.

Feeding Jamie is my favourite part of the day (which admittedly is a little bit sad…) and I love introducing a new fruit or vegetable each day.  His grimaces and look of disgust and desperation with every first spoon (regardless of whether he likes it or not) are absolutely hilarious and so is his impatience when the spoons don’t keep coming at the same pace as milk flows.  Jamie loves carrots and parsnips and is really unsure about zucchini (well I can’t blame him!).  His favourite is banana, god he loves banana!

(here another of these videos with probably limited interest to the broad public, but can I just say that my son is totally cute. I am of course not biased at all!)

 

What You Need for Baby’s First Meals

1. A few bibs – I preferred the ones that can be wiped in the beginning but will now move on to softer cloth ones.

2. Baby Spoons and Feeding Pots

3. A food freezer tray or ice-cube tray – ideal to freeze small portions of your freshly prepared puree.  I think that’s the most important piece of equipment as it saves you from cooking up baby food from scratch twice a day.

4. A hand-held electric blender

5. A steamer or steaming insert

6. A seat where baby can sit upright – 4-6 months old babies, unless they are very advanced, won’t be able to sit in a high chair just yet.  Better than buying extra equipment for your high chair to accommodate smaller babies, use a maxi cosi or bouncy seat for these early feeds.

 

The First Few Feeds:

1. Expose to tastes a couple of weeks before you start weaning

I got the tip to start putting tiny pieces of food (e.g. banana or papaya, a piece of bread) into Jamie’s mouth to get him used to tastes different from breast milk.  I did this from about 15 or 16 weeks on and this may have helped to make the transition from exclusively breastfeeding to solids so smooth.

2. Baby Rice – an ideal first food

Baby rice is a good starter food.  It is bland and, mixed with breast milk and formula, will taste very familiar to baby who will initially just have to get used to a new texture and eating from a spoon.  I don’t think baby rice is particularly healthy or helps to expose baby to the wealth of tastes and flavours out there, so I stopped giving baby rice as soon as Jamie accepted fruit and vegetable purees, basically after a couple of days.

Here a very interesting article which supports my views on why not to use baby rice long-term.

3. Mix in breast milk or formula to make purees taste more familiar.

5. Time and patience is the key and be prepared for a lot of mess.

 

New Tastes and Textures

1.  The When and How Often – As Jamie seemed so excited about eating, I have given him 2 portions of solids a day from the beginning – one between 8-10 in the morning and one between 5-6 pm, just before his bed time routine.  It’s easiest if baby is hungry but not starving, so for example give one breast, give puree and then feed the other breast.

2. Best first foods:  Whether you start with fruits or vegetables, baby is used to the sweet taste of milk and will therefore prefer sweet flavours to, e.g. broccoli or cauliflower.

Good first fruits are cooked apples or pears, or raw and mashed bananas or papaya.

Good first vegetables are sweet root vegetables such as parsnip, carrot or sweet potato.

3.  Mild constipation is a common problem when switching to solid food.  Banana, baby rice and cooked carrots are the culprits and cooked apples, pears or apricots may relief mild constipation.

4. There are advantages of introducing as many flavours as possible at this early age, before little one gets fussy.  You may want to introduce a new fruit or vegetable every day.  Start with root vegetables and then move to easy digestible foods like cooked apple and cooked pear.

At around 6 months we will move on to the second stage of weaning, which means introducing more lumpy textures and expanding the repertoire to grains and cereal, fish, chicken and dairy.  This is gonna be fun!

Reading Tip:

Annabel Karmel – Weaning:  A concise and informative little companion with some useful (and a lot of redundant) information.  I particularly love the recipe for making raw banana puree…

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Headlines: Co-Sleeping increases risk of SIDS

With dismay I read the Guardian headlines yesterday – “Sudden infant death risk greater when parents share bed with babies”.

This study (a meta-analysis) conducted by Bob Carpenter of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and published in the BMJ, showed that babies younger than 3 months who were co-sleeping with their parents had a 5 times increased risk of dying from SIDS than babies sleeping in their own cot.  In fact, 81% of SIDS cases could be avoided if parents stopped co-sleeping. According to the study this was independent of known SIDS risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, or premature babies.

For me, these results are troubling.

Co-sleeping has kept me sane during the first difficult stages of motherhood.  Initially, it didn’t even occur to me to have Jamie sleep in my bed, but when he was about 3 weeks old I had reached the end of my strength.  I was fully breastfeeding and was just so tired!  Until then, I would get up whenever Jamie was hungry during the night and feed him while sitting up, and he would leisurely nurse for about 1.5 hours (and this every 3 hours), nodding off, waking up, feeding again – it was torture.  I wrote this post about the drawbacks of breastfeeding and one of the best advice that I got was to co-sleep.

This really transformed my life as a new mother.  I suddenly got enough sleep and also Jamie slept better, feeling safe cuddled to my chest and enjoying my body heat.  If he wanted food 5 times a night, I would just shove my nipple into his mouth whenever he stirred (it took a couple of weeks to teach him to latch on with both of us lying down) and get back to sleep.  We both woke up happy and relaxed and everyone was amazed how quickly I bounced back after birth and how well and rested I looked.

Of course I was nervous in the beginning, afraid to accidentally suffocate the baby.  I moved into the guest room as I was scared that my partner would roll over and smother Jamie and I followed all the advice about safe co-sleeping.  After a few weeks, when Jamie was about 2 months old, I bought a co-sleeper that attaches to our bed and moved back to our master bedroom.  Now he is five months old and sleeps in the cot half the time, and half the time with me in bed.  I love it and I think he does too.

I am sure if I hadn’t started bed-sharing with Jamie, I would not only have been miserable and tired but would have very likely also stopped breastfeeding after a few weeks.  It is known that breastfeeding protects from SIDS… (Hauck 2011)

So what does this study really mean?  It lead to an uproar by NCT, Unicef and ISIS who all issued statements pointing out weaknesses in the study.

Their main points of criticism are that (1) the data are 16-25 years old, and (2) that it was not clear to which extent other risk factors like alcohol, drugs and smoking could have been involved in reported deaths.  They criticise also that, to recommend (as the authors of the study do) that parents should ‘simply avoid bed sharing’ would show a lack of cultural awareness and also would not take into consideration that it is far more dangerous if over-tired mothers fall asleep on a chair or sofa while nursing.

As my spoilt brat of a son won’t give me enough time to critically assess the study myself, may I refer you to The Analytical Armadillo who has done all the work.

I think it would be a mistake to change co-sleeping behaviour following this apparently flawed publication.  However, we parents need to be aware of the potential dangers of co-sleeping and I hope that further studies will be conducted to address this issue.  Until then I will keep bed-sharing.  What about you?

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Why I started solids before 6 months

I started Jamie on solids a couple of weeks back, when he was 4 months and 2 weeks old, despite current guidelines suggesting that babies should not be started on solid food before they have reached 6 months of age.

So why did I start solids early?

Jamie was a good sleeper, almost from birth.  At 3 months he usually slept 7 or 8 hour stretches and I was having a great time, wondering what all the fuss regarding sleepless nights and exhausting motherhood was all about

Then, when Jamie turned 4 months, things turned pear-shaped.  Suddenly he would wake up every 2 hours demanding food, crying, being awake for long stretches in the middle of the night – all things completely new to me. I am ‘grateful’ I could experience this aspect of motherhood too, but it was enough, thank you very much!

I asked other parents for advice and many of them admitted to weaning before the magic 6 months cut off point.  According to them, nights got better after they introduced solid food.  (This is contrary to studies that show that introducing solids does not actually help babies sleep through the night).

I was getting desperate and happy to do what it took…  Before I decided not to comply with the guidelines suggested by the WHO and implemented by the Health Department in 2003 following a systemic review by Kramer and Kakuma in 2002,  I researched some of the current peer-reviewed literature out there discussing exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months versus introducing solids earlier, at around 4 months.  I certainly did not want to put Jamie at risk just to have a good night’s sleep.

It appears that the jury is very much still out and it is often claimed that ‘parents cannot win’ and confusing advice leads to parents just “doing what they want”.  This 2013 article in the Herald Tribune for example cites a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed that 40% of parents introduced solids even before 4 months!

While I would not risk starting solid foods that early, it seems it is not only safe, but may even be beneficial, to not delay weaning until 6 months.  This literature review published in the British Medical Journal (Fewtrell 2011) suggests that weaning at 6 months (as opposed to starting earlier) may lead to a higher risk of iron deficiency anaemia, higher incidence of food allergies and higher risk of coeliac disease.  Other recent publications and literature reviews support that introducing a variety of foods between 17 weeks and 27 weeks is crucial for babies not to develop allergies or celiac disease  (Sansotta et al 2012).

There are some suggestions stating that delaying the
introduction of certain foods may actually increase (rather
than decrease) the prevalence of allergic diseases. Therefore, when a child is ready, from the fourth month of life, a
new solid food should be introduced every couple of days,
while encouraging the mother to possibly continue breastfeeding during this period. (Sansotta et al 2011)

If you however read articles like this on mumsnet, you think that you are severely maltreating your baby if you feed solids before 6 months…

So everyone should decide for themselves if their baby is ready for solids or not and if they want to comply with current WHO and NHS guidelines   I find it comforting however that there is mounting evidence that starting proper food a few weeks earlier won’t harm your baby and I wouldn’t let any ill-informed healthcare visitor bully me into doing one thing or the other.  I can safely say that I know more about the benefits and dangers of early weaning after a 30 minutes literature search than the stupid healthcare visitor who held the weaning class in King’s Road.

I don’t know whether it is the solid food, if it is the bottle of formula I have started giving Jamie now every evening before bedtime or if it would have happened anyway if I had just stuck to exclusively breastfeeding, but he sleeps now for 7-9 hours each night.  In fact, yesterday (on his 5 months birthday) he slept for 12 hours!

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Object Permance

Object permanence, a concept from developmental psychology, is the understanding that objects (and mummy) exist even if you can’t see/hear them.  Object permanence only develops around 8 or 9 months, before that, little offspring thinks his new toy (or mummy) have just disappeared when removed out of his sight and loses interest.  Baby obviously can’t miss anyone he forgot exists, how depressing is that?!

 


 

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Jamie’s Friends or how to entertain a 4 months old

Jamie is now 4 months and a bit, and it’s a joy to see his transformation from someone who basically just sleeps, feeds and poops into a little human with his own personality and taste.  For him, everything is new and exciting, but what Jamie takes a liking to appears really rather random at the moment. He has moved on from his black and white phase, that’s for sure, but most of the things I hold in front of his nose still don’t elicit as much as a sneer from my dear offspring.

Jamie obviously has a very discriminating taste already (just like mama), and here are some of his favourite playmates.

1.  Sophie The Giraffe

There is a reason why Sophie The Giraffe is such a popular toy.  4 months is the age where everything baby can possibly get hold of (which is not much due to a not quite working hand-eye coordination, bless!) goes straight into his mouth.  Sophie is easy to grab with little chubby baby hands and Sophie’s limps have a good size to fit into his Jamie’s tiny mouth.  Happy chewing!

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2. His Hands

As much as Jamie shows interest in Sophie, there is no way she could compete with his hands.  They are so exciting, they can open and close, they can grab things and they taste so good!  Prior to having Jamie, I could not envision the pride of a mother, when her child manages to suck his thumb (as opposed to the whole fist) for the first time.  (I have the strong feeling that this pride is not here to last).

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3. Tiny Love Mobile

Jamie is picky about his mobiles.  He was totally not impressed by the cute Gingerbread one (he probably sensed that I got it in the sales) but immediately fell in love with the Tiny Love Classic Mobile. The broad grin that suddenly lightens up his little face when you put him into his play cot and turn the mobile on is far happier than when he sees his own parents and is only comparable with the excitement the second before he latches onto my breast.  He can spend hours with his little friends, cooing and laughing while they endlessly circle above his head, which gives mama time to wash her hair in peace and even occasionally use conditioner. Hallelujah!

(Also note that this mobile plays nice classical music so is actually not annoying.)

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who says a boy can’t have two mobiles?

 

4. The Little Man In The Mirror

There is this little man living in our mirror who Jamie is particularly fond of.  Whenever he sees the little man he breaks out into fits of baby laughter (which sounds close to crying but is just incredibly sweet), and he gets even more happy when the little man smiles back at him.

What can I say, that’s cheap entertainment!

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Your Baby Week By Week – a must-have book for every new mum

I bought a lot of books in preparation for the impending birth.  What a waste of money that was as they are now all gathering dust on my book shelf.

Gina Ford has annoyed me after 20 pages – I find authors suspicious who spend the first part of their book defending it.  In addition I thought it a rather stupid idea to push my adorable newborn into strict routines.  What to Expect – The First Year scared the hell out of me and persuaded me that you need at least PhD to bathe your baby, and Secrets of a Baby Whisperer is also a lot of rubbish.

It actually stressed me reading these books and others, which all claim to hold the holy grail of bringing up your baby and over-complicate things that are so easy.  In fact they made me think I am a bad mother.

The only book every new mum really needs (in addition to a smart phone where you can google everything that is not covered there during nightly breastfeeding sessions on mumsnet and babycentre) is Your Baby Week By Week: The ultimate guide to caring for your new baby.

Rather than telling you what to do, this book holds a wealth of information on what to expect from your baby, week per week from birth until 6 months. It is written by the paediatrician Dr. Caroline Fertleman who works at the Whittington Hospital in London and the Daily Mirror health editor Simone Cave, both mothers in their own right.  It is relatively short, very concise and easy to read (therefore ideal for baby-brained new mothers), and most importantly, it is SENSIBLE.

Starting with Week 0, the book covers the development of the strange creature that has just entered your life, divided into Eating, Sleeping, Bathing, Nappies, Development, and What’s Happening to Mum.  You are always going to have five minutes to read the few pages covering the week your baby is currently in, and you will have the most important, accurate and concise information.

How many wet nappies are there in Week 0, and how many in Week 12? When can you expect a baby to sleep through the night? What’s wrong with your baby when it cries in the evenings and will he ever stop?  Dealing with vaccines?  Issues with breastfeeding?  When is introducing a bedtime routine sensible?  Am I spoiling my 2 months old when I pick him up as soon as he cries? When can I expect a smile? When should I see a doctor?  Co-sleeping?  Tummy Time?  etc.

Jamie followed the development outlined in this book so closely, I suspect he must have read it!

So, dear expecting mothers, buy yourself a nice pair of shoes and Your Baby Week By Week and enjoy motherhood 🙂

“Of course, we understand that parents are hungry for facts about their newborns – why are they awake most of the night, is their poo normal, and are they feeding properly? And yet we also realise how exhausted you’ll be feeling. Even finding time to eat breakfast can be a struggle, so doing in-depth research on jaundice is the last thing you’ll feel like. This is why we’ve given you all the facts you’ll need for each week in the first six months of your baby’s life and presented them in a simple, easy-to-follow format. Each chapter is broken into clear sections covering a full range of practical issues, from sleeping and crying, to nappies and when to call a doctor.”

(Your Baby Week By Week – Introduction)

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Boys Toys – The first 6 weeks

When Jamie arrived first into this world, I enthusiastically introduced him to the wealth of toys I had acquired on various late-pregnancy shopping trips, internet shopping frenzies and as presents.

To my dismay Jamie was not very receptive.  He was entirely oblivious to my attempts of stimulating him and playing with him, such as falling asleep in the activity gym.  My little coward was scared of all the cute furry animals I surrounded him with (it probably didn’t help that they were larger than him).  He seldom cried but the annoying music played by his mobile and the bouncing chair totally set him off.

It was only then that I realised that newborns don’t care much about the outside world and my brightly coloured toys are total waste as babies initially can only see black and white and can’t focus no further than 25 cm.  Even when their colour vision develops after a couple of weeks, babies still prefer to look clear contrasts in bold colours.

The only things that raised some kind of interest in Jamie was this Manhattan Toys Wimmer Ferguson Nursery Novel (about £10) which I got as a new baby present from our interior architect, a new mum herself.

Jamie’s absolute favourite however was not ment to be a toy or baby stimulator.  This lovely Ferm Birdcage Pillow (about £60) was super successful with my offspring and he spent most of his waking hours lying there with his eyes focused on the black and white stripes.  He was even happier when I combined the pillow with my black and white striped coffee mug.  No one told me it was so easy to entertain a newborn!

When I understood my son’s obsession with black and white, I finally found a solution to focus his attention on me.  All the cooing, singing (badly), making faces, kissing and hugging did not show much reaction, but wearing black and white stripes did!

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It was only around week 6 or 7, when Jamie started being impressed by my carefully chosen mobile and didn’t scream the house down when I approached him with Sophie the Giraffe.  It was also then that he started focusing on my face which was indicated by his sudden heartbreakingly cute cross-eyed look.  I hope that’s normal for this age, otherwise I see a hefty ophthalmologist bill coming our way!

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