This is what mommy had for lunch today:
As I bounce from music class to baby sign language group, give my child her organic baby-food and set up to spend half an hour ‘sharing focus’ with her to help improve her listening skills, attention span and communication I am struck by how soon the differences between the haves and the have nots start to surface. Some may say it starts even before that, in the womb…
I mean researchers have drawn correlations between IQ and:
– diet (particularly, but not only, Omega 3 consumption),
– exposure to certain types of music (most notably Mozart),
– learning baby-sign language,
– developing a healthy ability to focus (mostly through having a parent give one-to-one attention to the child, responding to and expanding their interests, etc),
– breastfeeding (including/especially night-feeding)
– less exposure to ‘ambient’ or background TV and distractions (which again impede the development of good listening skills
– early reading
– etc., etc.
As I bump into the same mums over and over in the different groups I attend, I can’t help but muse about just how lucky all our children are, how privileged. Conversely, I spare a thought for all the kids who don’t have all this attention lavished on them.
Hey, I know there is such a thing as too much doting, for sure. And I am also very aware that the second born child doesn’t get this level of one-to-one attention (though they usually get a slightly less neurotic, more experienced mom). But as you glance at that list above it is easy to speculate that most kids whose parents both work or who perhaps have a single parent caring for them and among those the kids whose parents have little education, know nothing and care less about healthy nutrition, books or Mozart… well, you can see the divide may start (or be perpetuated from) very early indeed.
College scholarship for underprivileged kids may be a good thing, an excellent thing, even… but it seems that the fate of so many kids is all but sealed by then. No, not just because they didn’t have baby-music classes – but because of a whole package of care that comes with having educated middle-class parents that they may have missed out on.
Then again you have to admire all the more the exceptions, the kids that came from rough neighbourhoods, whose parents gave them none of the advantages of interaction, stimulation, support and motivation that they might have got in other environments and they still make it. Some of them make it BIG. Is it their genes, their determination or something else that gives them an edge?
And I guess, there are as many (if not more) kids who were given everything and did nothing with it… ended up taking drugs and wasting away.
My point is only this, the gap is widening between the super-rich and the poor. The ‘raising tide that lifts all boats’ is failing our nations. And here I am seeing it from a new angle, from the seed up.
Hoorah! Today we gave Anya her first taste of real, solid foods (apart from paper, grass and carpet fluff, of course). It was so much fun.
Saturday we went out and bought a high chair. It is a trip-trap by Stokke, which we quite like so far (though there is a slight sense of design over function in some areas). That afternoon, while she was still in a good mood and before bed, we put her at the table with some toys. She had a good time banging things about like that. Sunday we planned to introduce foods… but she was cranky in the morning and fussy in the afternoon, so another day passed with only breast milk.
Today, at the end of the day, the stars aligned and we went for it. She had finished her nap, had been fed about three hours ago, so there should be a little room in her little tummy but she wasn’t due a feed for another hour or so and shouldn’t be gaggingly hungry, yet, either. Anya was in a good mood and seemingly quite calm. So, we dared.
Despite all the convincing arguments about ‘Baby-Led Weaning’, we were feeling to start her with rice cereal. It is easy to digest, easy to prepare and super safe. I am going with the overall feeling that all babies are going to learn to feed each other sooner or later, so whatever works for us, for now should be good. I am incorporating a couple of that philosophy’s ideas though: 1) we are making eating social and eating or at least sitting at the table with her while she eats and 2) I am serving foods singly, so she can recognise them by look before she decides how much to eat.
So, I mixed up the rice cereal (mostly with water really, as I don’t pump although I did manage to express a little with my hand pump which I added in for her). I served it up in her hello-kitty plate. K gave her a spoon to play with, to keep her amused, and she put that right in her mouth (with no food on it). Then she plunged her hand in the bowl of cereal. I expected her to eat that… she did not. I went to get another spoon, loaded it up with rice cereal this time and Anya, clever cookie that she is, held on to her spoon and turned to mine for a mouthful. And that is how it went, she would suck on her spoon for a minute, then, when she was ready, she turned and reached for a another serving of rice cereal. She loved it, clearly.
After a while she actually started grabbing the spoon and feeding herself, in a haphazard kind of a way. That just increased our confidence. She ate the whole portion (one tablespoon of rice cereal with four tablespoons of water) and then she was done – so the serving was just right for her.
She has been showing signs of being ready for solids for weeks now. She would watch us eat, following food from plate to mouth with both K and me. She is sitting on her own (ish… for a few seconds before she starts to lean forward). For the last week or so she has also been practicing chewing, between mouthfuls of breast milk and even sometimes when she saw one of us eating. Yep, she was ready.
And then, when it was time for bed, I breastfed her and was relieved to find she still loves it just as much. I don’t know what I expected, but I guess somewhere in the back of my mind was the feeling that she’d wean herself instantly and not ‘need’ me anymore in that way, as soon as we started solids. But she enjoyed it just as much – and so did I.
So we have entered a new phase. My little girl is growing up – still little, but growing.
As for feeding, now, perhaps it was beginner’s luck, but we had read that the first time you feed a child can take ages and be really hard work and yet, for us, so far so good. Wish us luck and may the good eating continue!
[photo: Madie at 7 months, feeding herself a chunk of broccoli]
After first hearing about Baby-Led Weaning [see my first musings here: ] I asked my friend Ang, who has been experimenting with it with her daughter Madie since she was 5.5 months old (she is now 8.5 months old) what the main advantages are. Below is her response:
“With baby-led weaning, the main advantage for the mother is: no purees!; for the baby: feeding herself from the start. Afterall, the baby is feeding herself, managing her own nutrient and liquid intake from the breast so it makes sense for that independence to carry on with food. She chooses what to eat and takes the amount she wants etc. That’s what the book’s [http://www.amazon.com/Baby-led-Weaning-Helping-Your-Baby/dp/0091923808/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278096645&sr=8-1] view is.
My view is: when first introducing foods, why not let them touch your food if/when they want to. It’s more of a game at first and less stressful, I think, than suddenly cooking lots and giving purees.
However, I would say that a mother who chooses baby-led weaning because it sounds easier is in for a surprise! The mess caused is more work to clean up than cooking batches of pureed foods. Well, I think it is. I don’t know for sure because I haven’t pureed anything! I’m mashing stuff now. We gave pre-prepared purees to Madie when we started supplementing the cooked finger foods.
The other advantages in theory is that they learn to enjoy their food from the start whereas purees can be hard to feed to babies and they can end up not enjoying meals and becoming fussy eaters. I don’t buy that. The mothers I know who feed purees stop trying feeding the purees the babies don’t like and give them something else. However, the baby-led way says that you’re supposed to eat each meal with the baby which means there’s a social side for them to enjoy as well. That I can understand would help them enjoy the meal. However, it’s not always logistically possible to do that!!
Finally, with baby-led weaning the baby learns what the veg looks like from the start rather than everything looking the same with a slighly different colour. I guess I enjoy seeing Madie choose which veg to eat knowing what it is going to taste like. That is nice. With the puree it’s always a surprise for her and by the look on her face, not always a good one ;) It’s nice to see her feel so autonomous already!
That’s all I can think of in terms of baby-led vs spoon-fed. My answer: do what works for you, trust your intuition, and maybe avoid reading the books as they seem to always stress the mothers – whether it’s purees or baby-led!!”
Ahh, I have wise friends. Thanks for your thoughts, Ang!
NB Don’t try this at home without consulting with your pediatrician and reading the book (so you are sure you know how to do it safely). Thank you.