The Solid-Foods Jungle
Hi Amalah, oh-great-giver-of-the-smackdown-advice!
I need your no-nonsense advice on weaning my almost 8-month-old dude-let: HELP! Your advice has gotten me through pregnancy, our first round of antibiotics, baby-proofing, and so much more, but now that I want to wean my little one (want mah boobs back!!! And caffeine. Oh, and can’t handle the %^*@#!***ing pumping any more. Seriously. No more. How much do I hate thee, pumping? LOTS! So, yeah, I’m done now. Please and thank you!) I can’t find anything in your archives that answers some of the questions I have at this stage. So I was hoping you could help me out? There are two main questions really:
First, I get how the whole weaning-thing works, in terms of slowly reducing the amount of breastmilk and replacing it with solids. In theory I totally get it. But I’m clueless as to what a day in feeding a (at that point probably) 9-month-old only on regular food should look like. It seems like such an obvious thing and I feel like I should totally know this stuff by now, but I’m still coming up totally blank! Eeeekkk! I don’t want to do formula, if I don’t have to, so that means that he needs all real foods to replace his current diet of mostly breastmilk. So what does that look like? How often do I need to feed him? 3 square meals seems unlikely, but then how much snacking? And how late is the last feeding? Right now, for example, he needs to feed right before he goes to bed in order to fill him up so he doesn’t wake up hungry right away. But as adults we’re told not to eat right before bed, because of digestion interfering with sleep and getting fat, and all that jazz. So then I don’t feed him right before bed anymore? But then does he have dinner (at what time???) and just go through till morning? That doesn’t seem likely either, with such a wee stomach. Arghhhh!!!!!! Can you tell that I don’t know what I’m doing? I just kinda want somebody to say: here’s 24 hours, this is what you feed them and when. God, boobs are so much easier sometimes, aren’t they? Meh.
And then, the second issue that I’m having is his development insofar as solids goes: the smackdown articles that I have found that refer to feeding suggest to me that my boy is waaaayyyy behind in what he will and won’t eat. It sounds like he should able to handle finger foods like cheerios, etc. and all kinds of regular stuff that requires actual chewing at this age. But he still does the gaggy-thing on his mashed banana, for cripes sake! Should I be worried about this? I didn’t introduce solids until he was almost 6 months, and then I just started with the recommended mashed banana. I then fairly quickly also introduced the iron-fortified rice cereal that I mix with breast milk. Once he had that he decided that that was fine, but banana notsomuch. Gag. and Puh! Then I didn’t really introduce anything new for a bit, as he was sick (ah, the joys of a baby in daycare!) and I was sick and the hubby was sick, and thus tired, lazy, and boobs-are-so-easy later we finally introduced carrots and sweet potato (same reaction as the banana: what are this wee, little, bitty bits: this texture-thing, and how do I process it? Puh!), and then nothing again as he had to have the antibiotics and I didn’t want to add anything new to an already sensitive digestive system. So now I’m wondering does he have sensory issues? Swallowing issues? Taste issues? All of the above? I’m terrified to try anything that’s more that complete moosh at this stage, because I’m worried he’s going to choke on it. Is that just me? Should I just bravely forge ahead and stop being such a scared-y-pants? I don’t want to be mashing everything into oblivion all day long, that doesn’t seem right, but maybe I’m wrong? And if so, how long does that stage go on for? HELP me Obi-Wan-Amalah, you’re my only hope! (oh yes, I did just say that! Woot for dork-dom!)
Oh, and congratulations on no 3! Wow! I mean…I can’t even…3…3 boys?…but?…how do you?…I just…wow…clearly you must be Super Woman. Or have Hermione’s time-turner thingy. ‘Nuf said.
Whoa. WHOA THERE NELLY.
I’m stuck on your first opening paragraphs here: Your baby is eight months old. You don’t want to do formula. Then, therefore, thus, I am sorry, it is not yet time to wean him from breastmilk. It’s too early. It’s too early even for a baby who IS eating every bit of solid food in sight. And this isn’t a judgment on wanting to wean him from the breast. Just…if you really want to wean him, you’ll have to put him on formula at this point. He is not ready for a diet of all-solid table food, and breastmilk or formula MUST be his primary source of nutrition for several months longer — until his first birthday. Full stop.
Ezra lost interest in the breast around 10 months, and was eating great, wholesome meals of a wide variety of foods. But he still needed a steady intake of breastmilk or formula at that point — the chart I’d been given from my lactation consultant said nursing sessions every four-to-five hours, or 24-31 ounces of formula. This is the guideline you’d follow as well, at nine months. (The six-to-eight month guideline is breastmilk every three-to-four hours, and 24-37 ounces of formula.) So, while formula wasn’t my favorite or anything, Ezra continued to get bottles of it until his first birthday, when the bottles went bye-bye and we got the okay to switch full-time to cow’s milk.
So really, honestly: SLAM ON THE BRAKES HERE. You are getting so far ahead of yourself here that it’s making MY head spin. Sensory issues at eight months old because your baby isn’t super in-love with one or two of the first mushed-up foods you tried? No, no, no. Here’s what I want you to do:
Step One: Deeeeeep breath.
Step Two: Recognize that weaning from the breast and introducing a well-rounded diet of solid foods are TWO SEPARATE THINGS right now. Two separate issues and two separate processes. They really have nothing to do with each other yet. Solid foods are just practice for your son. Fun, exploration, an introduction to lots of different textures and flavors…but not so much about trying to meet all of his daily nutritional needs. For that, he needs breastmilk or formula.
Step Three: If you decide that yes, you really do want to stop breastfeeding, replace the bottles of breastmilk with formula, then work on replacing actual nursing sessions with bottles. Have your husband take over the Big Ones, like bedtime or middle of the night, if your son fights the bottle. But recognize that yes, the weaning process will involve formula in his life until at least 12 months old. If that’s not something you’re comfortable with, then you’ll need to continue breastfeeding. And you can absolutely have caffeine in moderation, by the way. I sure did. You could quit the hated pumping and replace SOME feedings with formula, but continue to nurse him during your time together as a half-and-half compromise.
Step Four: Educate yourself on introducing solids and the various approaches. It’s not one size fits all, and while I’m flattered by your loyalty to me and my prattlings, I am not an expert here.
For a fairly traditional, straight-forward approach that uses a combination of purees and finger foods, visit wholesomebabyfood.com and look at the food charts by age. Here’s the page for feeding eight-to-10 month olds, complete with the breastmilk/formula intake information. However, if you look at the list of foods and realize that it would completely overwhelm your son and his current limited diet, go back and start with the six-to-eight chart and see what happens. And no, this doesn’t mean he’s “behind” or “delayed” or ANYTHING LIKE THAT. He’s just going at his own pace. A huuuuuge part of the move to solid foods includes your baby learning to listen to his own body’s cues and signals about how much he needs to eat and when he needs to eat it. (Another reason, at this stage, to offer breastmilk and formula FIRST, and then let baby explore solids at a more leisurely pace once his primary nutritional needs have been met.) Even the greatest future eater in the world is going to reject a good number of the things you offer, or require many, many servings of the same food before accepting it.
The other big approach that (as you’ve probably seen in the comments) is becoming very popular is baby-led weaning, which skips purees and baby food and encourages you to just feed baby from your table and plate all the time from six months on. (Please note that the “weaning” in the name has NOTHING to do with weaning from the breast — this feeding plan encourages full-time breastfeeding for at least 12 months, and preferably for 24 months.)
We did — without even realizing that it was a Thing That People Turned Into A Big Philosophical Debate — a hybrid of purees, traditional baby finger foods AND baby-led feeding of letting the boys taste and experiment with everything and anything we ate. Again, I don’t think any of these things HAVE to be a one-size-fits-all, all-or-nothing approach. Some babies hate purees and mushy foods and spoon-feeding (NOAH). Some babies love the purees and stews and smashed up avocados and practicing the pincher grasp with little mushy peas. Some babies (EZRA) love all of the above. The best takeaway from the baby-led philosophy that I think would be helpful for you, though, is not to push your baby into what you THINK he should be eating, but instead let him set the pace and feed him what he seems interested in without making a big production over mealtimes and what he will and won’t try. The fact that you’re trying to diagnose swallowing issues already tells me that mealtimes are probably…a bit stressful at your house right now. Let’s dial back a bit and figure out how to stop that from continuing, and hopefully being a little more informed and confident about the whole introducing-solids process will help.
Step Five: Talk to your pediatrician. Maybe this should be an earlier step, like after Take A Deep Breath. I’m trying to put this gently, but the fact that you were planning to stop breastmilk at eight or nine months old and switch to all-solids tells me that you could really, REALLY use some professional guidance when it comes to feeding your baby. I get the “I don’t want to do formula” thing (kind of, anyway, my kids both had it and it wasn’t the end of the world AT ALL), but you just sound…well, very lost here, about what your son can and “should” be eating and what your options are. No need for that. Your pediatrician can help, and while solids should be fun and not terrifying and all that…it IS a serious enough of a topic that you probably want to get some non-Internet-strangers advice on as well.
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