Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

A Long Ramble, Mostly About Food

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The sad fact is, I’ve been working on this post for over a week.  Just thought I’d mention that, lest you feel forgotten.

Hey there, people of the internet.  I think of you all the time.  We are all happy and well, but this whole “working with a baby” thing turns out to be — surprise — kind of hard.  Let’s not talk about just how many papers I get graded while chasing our now highly-mobile Bean from deathtrap to deathtrap in the apartment, let alone how much reading I get done for the (totally fascinating!) graduate-level class I’m assisting for in addition to my usual courses, despite having… minimal qualifications in the field.  Bad enough slogging through hundreds of pages of almost comically granular scholarship as a student; now there is the terrifying and very real possibility that I will at any moment be asked to facilitate a group discussion on some arcane point I only dimly remember.  It is really fun, I must admit, to be learning about a new topic; I wish I could talk your ears off about it, but I’m a little chicken that the graduate program in question is unusual enough that doing so could make me vulnerable to googling.  But if you notice feats of more-than-usually-spectacular nerdiness in future posts, this might be why.

The Bean is more charming every day.  No, he still doesn’t really sleep.  But he does crawl like a maniac, pull to stand at every opportunity, and perform constant experiments in balance of the kind that seem to spell E-A-R-L-Y W-A-L-K-E-R.  We are proud and terrified.  He has two teeth and known how to use ‘em.  He interacts more and more with other kids and babies, which I find unexpectedly thrilling.  He seems to like us, too; when Sugar was laid up while taking care of him, he seemed to be telling her jokes by throwing himself backwards onto the bed pillows in exaggerated gestures of lost balance and then cracking himself up, and when I was bedridden the next week (WTF?), he took three naps with me.  He loves being kissed (and zerberted), and sometimes he grabs our faces and sort of rubs his open mouth on us, which I like to think is an attempt at reciprocation, though he might just be practicing being a lamprey.  This Sunday, Sugar brought him to bed to nurse in the morning, and afterwards, he lay between us, touching us and smiling at us and generally looking so very happy to be all together.  Then he caught sight of the cat, and Sugar and I saw what JOY looks like.  Ah, well.  They’ll have to keep us around at least until he can work the can opener.

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He crawls

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He stands.

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He makes friends.

The other thing he does is EAT.  A while back, Turia suggested a post about how we are handling food, so here is an attempt to get that done before he’s ordering his own cheeseburgers.  If he doesn’t have an awful reaction to tomorrow’s flu shot, maybe it will even get finished.

(HAHAHAHA.  I wrote that Monday night, on my train ride home from teaching.  It’s Friday now.  The shot went pretty well, actually, but see graf one.  Also, I’m not sure what he’s been doing counts as cruising, but I’m also not sure it doesn’t count as cruising….)

So. Food.

Before I ever hopped into the stirrups and started down this spermy road to parenthood (ew), I had Definite Plans about how I would handle a few things — surprisingly few things, to give myself a little credit, but the Best Way to introduce food was high on the list of things I was sure about.  (I’m pretty sure Sugar was in agreement about this, but realistically, my fervor was sufficient to overwhelm any objections she might have come up with, so she wouldn’t have stood a chance if she hadn’t agreed.  She’s known me long enough to recognize that glint in my eye, and she is wise enough to pick her battles.)  I was certain — so certain that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to describe it as a choice — that we would do Baby-Led Weaning.

At the time that I first started thinking about it, I didn’t even know BLW was a thing; I just liked the way my Danish friend was teaching her daughter to eat.  I never saw Baby X spoon-fed purees or cereals; The Dane just handed her the food she reached for and she ate it.  So easy!  Baby X sat at the table with us when we ate and chose from the same foods we were eating.  If she wanted something, she ate it, and if she didn’t, no big deal.  Later, thanks to the Fat Nutritionist (whom you should read), I learned that what The Dane was doing was just what Ellyn Satter says we should do for children: we take responsibility for what food is offered (and when and where, eventually); we let them decide whether and how much to eat.  I can’t overstate how much this philosophy appeals to me.  I’m sure that those of you who know I am an American Woman will be shocked, shocked, shocked to hear that I have not always had a worry-free relationship with food; I love that this idea of division of eating responsibilities removes some of the most negative emotional possibilities from the dinner table without seeking to reduce food — which I believe should also be a source of pleasure — to only calories.

When the Bean had his four-month doctor’s appointment, I had just gotten my period and attendant milk supply drop.  He was fussy and seemed hungry to me, I told the doctor as much, and by the way, I can’t pump without having vasospasms galore, so he’ll be getting formula when I go back to work at six months.  Well, she said, do you want to try giving him some solids?

I was shocked.  Aren’t solids a six-month thing?  My breastfeeding hang-ups are a topic for another post (hell, they could have their own blog by now), but suffice it to say that I thought six months of exclusive breastfeeding was basically required.  (I read later that there’s not actually much evidence solids need to wait more than four months; a lot of the discussions that suggest as much conflate the beginning of solids with the end of breastmilk.)  We told the doctor that we didn’t want to do cereals and purees, that we liked what the Dane had done.  (The Dane-lette is also her patient.)  Fine, she said, just let him taste what we’re eating.  No milk, no honey.  See you in two months.

(Here’s the part where I say how overwhelmingly grateful I am that the allergy theories have shifted again and we get to give the baby almost everything.)

I didn’t *rationally* believe that we could get the Bean eating so much food by six months that I could avoid giving him formula when I returned to work, but I admit to some fantasies in that direction — not because I believe there is much of anything wrong with formula (because given consistent access to clean water and sufficient funds to serve it full-strength, I don’t), but I am far from immune to the praise given to mothers who breastfeed and withheld from those who don’t.  (And if I ever get this post done, I’ll sound off on that phenomenon At Length.)  Nor will I deny that avoiding formula appealed because deep in my heart of hearts, I want to do at least one thing my mother couldn’t.  She didn’t even take time off from medical school when I was born, but I was by-golly going to win when it came to Earth Mother-hood.

(Good Lord, y’all, it’s been over a week.  I’ve written myself into a corner, and I can’t find my way out.)

The Bean showed signs of enjoying the tastings — that is, he started sometimes pulling our hands back for another go — after about three weeks of on again, off again efforts on our part.  At five months, he seemed so interested in sitting at the table, that we decided to ignore the “6 months” label on his swanky high chair.  He loved being at the table and happily grabbed whatever we were eating.  If it met with his approval, he would shovel it so enthusiastically into his mouth and against his gag reflex that exuberant vomit followed, resulting in a net loss of calories.  …Win?  At about five and a half months, while we were visiting Sugar’s parents, he discovered pickles and thank god did not puke all over his grandmother, who was slightly horrified that we were giving him big pieces of food, not mush.  (I felt smugly superior.  Mush!  Ha!  Not for my discerning baby!)

As my rational brain had predicted, when I went back to work two weeks later, he was only occasionally swallowing food; he still needed just as much formula as he would have had we waited until then to offer him solids.  We had fun getting the Bean to taste things, but, well, you can’t hurry love.  But a funny thing happened in my addled brain: all those tastes of real food meant that the Bean wasn’t only eating breastmilk, and suddenly formula no longer seemed like a sad replacement for something I should have been able to provide had I been mother enough to suffer my vasospasms for my child’s sake (or, better, the sort of La Leche League poster-mater who doesn’t have breastfeeding problems because her heart is just that pure).  It just seemed like one more food the Bean sometimes eats.  No big deal.  I will confess to some disappointment that giving him formula two days a week didn’t magically improve his sleeping habits; I will confess to a little satisfaction on that count, too.  What can I say?  Addled Brain Is Addled.

At his six-month appointment, he’d dropped significantly in the weight percentiles.  His doctor wasn’t worried — said this was just the age when breast milk was no longer enough, that we were doing the right things with food and he would start eating — but then he started crawling all over the place and got slimmer and slimmer.  The weather got cool enough for long sleeves, and he could still wear onesies he wore in April.  I took him to a motion study at the university associated with Kips Bay Mega Hospital, and their (sloppily measured) weight put him in the Danger, Will Robinson area of the growth chart.

At about six and a half months, a switch threw itself in the Bean’s noggin.  Overnight, his attitude towards food went from polite curiosity to GIVE ME THE BANANA AND NO ONE GETS HURT.  Two meals — one before his first morning nap, one midday — were required to forestall wailing.  He also made it very, very clear that he wanted to eat more food than pure BLW was going to allow, and so I have reluctantly admitted that our mothers were both right about the food mill.

…You know, I think I’ve realized why this post won’t resolve, and since this is a blog and not a proper essay, I’m just going to tell you about it instead of, say, fixing it.  (GOD, it’s good to be out of grad school sometimes.)  When I started this post, I did all that set-up about my righteous belief in BLW because I thought that we’d failed at it.  A little pride-ever-goeth schtick.  But the more I think about it, the less I think we really did fail, at least when it comes to the things I most liked about BLW.

Yes, I’ve ground up more food than I had intended to, but actually, in the time it’s taken me to write this thing, the Bean has mostly stopped needing more mashing than a spoon can provide.  (Uh, I mean his food doesn’t need mashing.  To be clear, we have never attempted to mill the baby.)  Yes, I’m feeding him with a spoon, but we settled quite by accident on using ice tea spoons with very long handles (and very small bowls, hence the choice).  This allows us to hold only the very end of the handle, while the Bean grabs the handle farther down and either puts the spoon in his mouth or shoves it away; he is still in control of what goes in his mouth.  He has some finger foods: sweet potato fries, Cheerios, and as of today, goldfish crackers (only from the coop, so they’re actually shaped like rabbits and if that isn’t genetic engineering then I don’t know what is).  He drinks water or his new favorite, seltzer, from a cup.  Since I’m cheap as the dickens, we haven’t been buying pre-made food; for the most part, the Bean has been eating what we eat, which makes me glad.  I realize there is a natural narrowing of the palette in toddlerhood and that the 3-year-old Bean will probably subsist on hotdogs and cherry chapstick, but for now, he seems to love almost everything, from bananas to sardine pasta to kimchi.  We sit at the table together at meals, me eating with one hand and holding his spoon out to him with the other.  Whaddya know, a happy ending.

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(Teeth.  Did I mention that?  Just the two on the bottom.)

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21 thoughts on “A Long Ramble, Mostly About Food

  1. such a refreshingly encouraging post on food! I think I’ll be stopping back over to re-read in a few months. this parenting thing seems to be a lot of compromise and equal amounts of reworking previously planned methods. not only did I not read any of this as failure but it was all rather inspiring. thank you for the great post!

  2. Wow, I’m so impressed (and incredibly envious). Eggbert will only eat white foods. Period. It’s quite vexing, but we’re trying to just remind ourselves that it’s a phase, and to continue to offer other things. Good for you, and good for the Bean!

    • i am dreading that phase; you have my sympathies. it will, as you know, pass, it really will. i remember my parents saying, “but you used to LOVE chili sauce,” and how crazy i thought they were. and how delicious cherry chapstick tasted. (i’m sure that was partly visual: my dad had a bright pink stick of glass de-icer in his car that i was sure would be the creme de la creme.)

  3. Nice to hear from you! I was wondering how things were going.

    First up, love love love the pics!

    Second- I totally get you with the ‘assisting for a course for which you are not really qualified’ thing. Luckily the times I’ve done that it’s been first or second year, and not graduate level. You are brave!

    Third- thank you SO much for the food post. I really want to go the BLW route as well, also because I have massive hangups about food and want to avoid passing them on to E. (and I think my worries about this would be even worse if E. were a girl, sad but true). I have a couple of friends who have taken this approach. One of them was SO keen on BLW, but as she said to me, “He just wants mush”. But since she was letting her son hold the spoon and was watching for his food cues, I think that still does count as BLW. As does what you are doing with the Bean. I’m really glad everything is working out.

    Did you have to puree things and add water/breastmilk, or was he mostly ok just with mashing things up with a spoon?

    He is so mobile! Oh my goodness! (And so so so cute!)
    xoxo
    T.

    • (it’s so true on the boy/girl thing, isn’t it? i’m sure there will be compensating things i worry more about for a boy, but still.)

      at first, i added some water to milled foods. at some point i stopped adding water — i’m not following any real system, just responding to what it seems like the Bean wants. i haven’t milled anything for a while, but i haven’t put the food mill away, either. how’s that for totally vague?

  4. His taste in food might end up being very wide, even through toddlerhood. We did BLW starting at 6.5 months (after having introduced purees at 5.5 months). Curly has always loved trying a variety of stuff we were eating, and today, at 2.5, he is still a champion eater. We feel so lucky when we see some parents trying to get their 2 year old to eat a couple crackers when ours is eating the same portion of seasoned pork loin that we are. lol.

  5. Oh, I just love this post, and you. Cherry chapstick! Gack! Milling the baby! Snort! It’s wonderful to be out of grad school! Hurrah!

    And the information is also right on time. We’re doing BLW (or, like you, What Seems Obvious and Turns Out to Have a Name), but are still in the sort of tentative stages. And because I don’t have any ideological commitment to the whole thing, just excited to be avoiding mush, and taking dollars out of the pockets of Big Baby Food, my plan has been to do a bit of spoon feeding in conjunction. So anyways, it kind of sounds like just going with the flow can work out fine. Which is perhaps not what you intended to say, but that’s what I’m taking from it, by gum!

    I have some questions about the whole thing, though (like since we eat a lot of, like, pasta with dairy based sauces, and what I’m supposed to do with that, and when I can move beyond soft fruits and vegetables and…), and I don’t want to read a lot of books, because books are scary and lead to confusion and regimentation, SO do you have any recommendations for simple sources of information?

    • I was so excited I neglected to comment on the amazing sweetness and beauty of the Bean. It is VAST.

    • i love how you assume i have sources of information. it’s like how the students assume i have some idea what i’m talking about.

      basically, we’ve just followed the doctor’s no milk/honey rule (apparently the land of milk and honey is one year. who knew?) and otherwise just shoved things at the bean and watched what he does. the end. if he isn’t eating much of something, i sometimes try making it softer. for instance: he loves to scrape his teeth on an apple, but hardly any gets in. so i cooked it in water. yesterday, he ate tons of that, so i did it again today. he ate approximately 1/32 tsp.

  6. this is perfect. this is how i want to do it.

    pumping’s going well for me so we’re not in a hurry, but bunny is fascinated with food. he loves to watch us eat and has been like that for a while. we haven’t shared much (i had to make dragon stop giving cream to our reflux baby), but when i put fruit in his mouth, he sucks up all the juices with great gusto. our pediatrician gave us the rice cereal go-ahead a few weeks ago and we went along with it because we figured it might sooth his reflux. he eats it, but not with the enthusiasm that he has for a taste of whatever it is that we’re eating.

    i think we might try it your way, hybridized BLW. i’m going to share this post with dragon tonight and see what she thinks.

  7. The Bean is awesomely cute! And so mobile — wow! (At casa Irrational, we have some military crawling, but not much else, and frankly I am grateful! But we also have an enormously tall and large babelah, so who knows what’s up there.) Sounds like the food is going great — funny that you mention kimchi — B also had some last week. He liked it, but the farting? THat was not awesome for the rest of us.

  8. Thanks for sharing this and for the laughs–I’m very glad to be reassured that you were not attempting to mill the baby. We lovelovelove Ellyn Satter as well. I agree with you that her approach seems like one that will instill healthy habits/ideas around food. The added plus that we have found (our son is almost 3) is that our mealtimes can be less stressful when we trust that he is going to eat what he needs to. It has been super-helpful to completely avoid getting into the power struggles about how many bites of x need to be eaten or how many peas make a bite. Our son eats widely varying quantities of food at each meal, and there’s some individual foods that he’ll gobble one day and ignore the next. But he eats a pretty decent variety of things overall, and seems to be growing just fine.

  9. We REALLY wanted to do BLW. I studied. I judged the baby food aisle. And then we gave Roozle something big and she gagged. And puked. On purpose. Because she thought it was gross. But when we gave her a bowl full of (homemade) mush, the girl could not get enough. She ate mountains of it. She FINALLY went for the BLW a little at 9 months but certainly not before that. And at 11 months I gave her some oatmeal that I hadn’t run through the babycook to make it smooth and she purposely puked again. Nice one. Then one day she started eating regular food. Lots of it. And all kinds. So far she is an awesome eater and we have zero complaints. And this probably has nothing to do with us, but we like it! 🙂

    Also, I really love this post. A lot.

  10. Your Bean sounds so much like our Bean. SO MUCH. They’re wonderful, but also keep us busy, don’t they?

  11. The bean is seriously killing me with his cuteness. How is he old enough to be cruising and standing!? Wasn’t he born, like, last week?

    Thank you for the though-provoking, um, thoughts on food. I’m very pro-BLW and C is really into the idea of making and feeding Juju purees. We plan to do both and the iced tea spoon is a fab idea. I want Juju to feed herself as much as possible as soon as possible, but we’ll seriously see how that all goes down. It’s so inconvenient how these babies have their own opinions and preferences!

  12. I was very pro-BLW as well (although probably not quite as gung-ho about it as you were). But at 5 months the turtles were REALLY ready for something other than milk and NOT AT ALL ready for anything other than mush. So we did mush. For a while. I tried giving the Lion a small piece of watermelon and he choked. And so I backed off of the solids and the BLW and spooned mush for weeks. Finally, they really really turned the corner at 7.5-8 months and were just READY for solids. Now three-quarters of what they eat is self-fed solids. (Although the Lion really just opens his mouth and waits for you to deposit food into it. Tiny, however, smashes everything on his tray into his mouth in seconds and with great gusto.) It’s awesome. We still do some spoon-feeding because mush is a good way to get them hard veggies (like carrots) and because they love love yogurt and applesauce and hell to the no are they self-feeding those foods. But yeah…I couldn’t really commit to the BLW until they were ready to chew food with their gums and that didn’t happen until about a month ago.

  13. I can’t quite remember what I did with the twins, but I think it involved throwing bits of whatever we were eating at the time in their general direction with the hopes that if enough of it went child-wards, some of it would stick.

    Half of it was on the walls and the floor and oh my gad the nappies became a religiously eye-watering experience, but at least for one of my spawn after an initial meltdown at the thought of pasta in sauce with TEXTURE, it has resulted in a remarkably unfussy eater.

    The other lives on dry weeties.

    You win some, you lose some I guess.

    G

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