Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I have been struggling to wean my baby for three months now. I will not go into details as it will bore you all. It is enough to mention my baby girl is a fussy eater with the capital F. There were two months that she literally did not take anything and I tried so many lovely things. Due to her allergies (milk, soy, nuts, egg, gluten, coconut, carrot, banana, sesame, pulses…etc…) we have had crazily limited range of foods to choose from which has not made things any easier. My baby girl is not only fussy with flavours but also with textures. In addition to this she is moody and I mean really moody. She is worse than ladies in their menopause. She gets ridiculous tantrums like a two year old, throws herself to the floor, kicks her legs and acts theatrically without any reason. The better side of the coin is that she is intellectually very developed, alert and attentive. She is extremely mobile but slightly hyperactive -like her parents :)- which means she cannot concentrate on sitting down in her highchair for any longer than five minutes. Below you can see my list of things how I got her to eat..eventually. Of course we are still talking about spoonfuls. A huge feed for her is half of the regular size baby food pot which means half of the 125g. Her favourite fruit and berry flavours are pear, blueberry, blueberry-raspberry-lingonberry, rose berry-pear. So my poor mother has dragged tens of pots from Finland to her as you cannot find pure blueberry puree in the UK. My baby girl’s vegetable favourites are potato-broccoli, potato-parsnip, cauliflower and sweetcorn. Pear and broccoli are perfect as they have a huge iron content. I also recently read an article about white vegetables. The article highlighted that cauliflower should not be overlooked as it is one of the healthiest vegetables and has amazing nutrients and vitamins in it, luckily my fussy baby likes it!
Before you start reading this I want to highlight that I am very much pro breastfeeding. I find myself belonging to the school of though that believes ”boob is the best”. I was dreaming of breastfeeding until my baby was one year old. I encourage breastfeeding on demand, I have never looked at the clock and thought ”my baby cannot be hungry”. I have always fed her whenever she has asked for it (this is why I woke up hourly for months and months..). So when I decided to quit breastfeeding it was mainly due to my baby’s allergies and bad excema. It was a difficult decision and I shed many tears for it feeling like I failed as a mother. During the first few weeks of formula feeding my bad mother syndrome got just worse and worse until I got over it. In the end I just felt I had no choice. Despite how carefully I looked at what I ate, my baby girl’s skin and tummy just reacted badly all the time. Now when she is on formula (special formula Nutramigen in which milk protein has been broken down) her skin has cleaned and she is pretty much all smiles. We were recently discharged from the special excema care and she is happier than ever which for me is more important than my ideal of breastfeeding. She has also finally started to sleep peacefully during the day. Now when I look back I almost think that the reason why I carried on breastfeeding after 6 months was not only that I thought it was best for her, I also did it for myself thinking selfishly that I would be somehow a better mother. I know it is naive, but I think this is quite typical for new mothers with their first child. What I have learned is that sometimes you have to forgive yourself and let your ideals go in order to gain something more profound and better.
Here you can see what helped me with my baby:
1. Starting mixed feeding changed my baby girl’s eating drastically. I started giving bottles during the day time (she was 7 1/2 months old) and I breastfed only at the night time. Suddenly she started eating during the day time as the breast was not available every minute. In fact she forgot breastfeeding and is hardly interested in it anymore so in the end the quitting of breastfeeding happened quite easily after she started to take bottles (it was a fight at first!!). If you feel like you could do this I would say it is not a bad option.
2. Smooth purees. My baby girl was so fussy with the textures that if there was even one lump in it she spitted it all out. The food processor that saved my life was Tommy Tippee Explora Baby Food Blender. It was only £20 (now in fact even cheaper) and it makes the smoothest and creamiest puree textures ever! My baby girl loves those purees now. After your baby is bigger you can leave the purees lumpier. This is a very good blender so definitely worth every penny!
3. Books and toys. Some people would say this is malpractice and that babies should not be taught to think eating time is play time. I can only comment on this by saying that you don’t care about good practice as long as your baby starts eating. I bought books that had textures on them hairy or scrubbily spots to touch, feel and experience and whilst she was discovering the book I scooped spoonfuls into her mouth. Works these days every time!
4. Distraction. If your baby gets tantrum and starts crying whilst putting her to highchair distract her with something unusual, a new noise works quite often. I do drumming noises or I knock the table and suddenly the crying stops and she cannot even remember why she was crying. After the distraction you can finally start feeding her.
5. Timing. It is all about timing. If your baby is cranky (unless hunger crankiness) , don’t even try to feed her. If she is a fussy eater she needs to be cheerful in order to discover new food and flavours. Try different meal plans. Try Central European 3 meals plus snack a day, if that does not work for you, try Northern European 4 meals plus snack a day. For my baby girl who is very petite the English meal planner just did not work, the Finnish guidelines have been the best. My baby could not possibly drink 210ml of formula in one go she would have popped as she has been exclusively breastfed so far and her tummy is a lot smaller than that of formula fed babies. By spreading meals and giving smaller portions in one go she felt better and she actually started eating more overall and what matters is overall, not one meal. So try smaller portions often. Don’t look at the clock, try to offer her food when she is cheerful and willing to experience new things.
Our sample day is:
07-07.30am breakfast: porridge with fruit or berry puree and 120ml formula
10-11am lunch: vegetable puree and 120ml formula (potato-broccoli, potato-parsnip or cauliflower)
1.30-2.30pm snack: fruit or berry puree and 120ml formula (pear, blueberry or blueberry raspberry puree)
4-5pm dinner: vegetable puree and 120ml formula (potato-broccoli, potato-parsnip or cauliflower)
6.30-7pm supper: porridge with berry or fruit puree (and sometimes a tiny bit of formula)
7-7.30pm 150ml formula
01-02am 120ml formula
6. Good spoon. You need a really good spoon as you don’t want all the food to fall down or dribble out from her mouth. I found that OXO Tot Travel spoon has been super good. It is deep enough, the shape is good and with it I find it easy to stuff food into my baby’s mouth. She seem to like it too. This spoon comes also with a handy travel pack. At least John Lewis sells them in the UK.
7. Patience. Babies can take a long time to taste and feel the food in their mouths. In the beginning our eating sessions took 20-30 minutes (long sessions do not work anymore). Try small amounts often if longer feeds don’t work for you. It feels like you are offering the food constantly but it does not matter as long as she takes some. I was a way too petty about feeding solids with the clock. In the beginning of weaning process it does not work, fussy eaters eat only when they are happy.
8. Sleep. I noticed that my baby started eating better if she slept better during the day time. Particularly after the naps she was very inclined to take solids and happily experience new flavours. For 8 months my baby hardly slept regularly. Between 6-8 months she stopped sleeping all together. She was cranky, frustrated and tired all the time but she did not understand to go to sleep. She fought back and just refused to sleep when she was put down. Of course this was related to her allergies as she was just feeling unwell and could not relax as she was scratching herself all the time. By establishing or even trying to establish a nap schedule will ease the weaning. My baby takes solids very happily right after her long day time nap which is usually between 10am and 12 or 1 pm.
9. Pep talk! Give yourself a good old fashioned pep talk. Imagine of coaching a rugby team. You can do it, you can do it, you can do it. Don’t give up. My GP gave me the biggest pep talk ever when I visited her tears in my eyes. She told me not to give up as ” if you give up now, next comes TV watching, then home works and then boyfriends!”. Be disciplined and strict but kind and patient. It is tough, I know, I have been going through this for almost four months now. It will change just do not give up.
10. Age. If none of my tips works I comfort myself by saying every baby learns to eat within the time. Some are slower, some love food immediately. My baby girl has not gotten teeth yet and she is almost eight and half months old. I see teething having a natural relationship to their ability to eat. If the baby does not have any teeth how could she possibly feel ready for chewing things, no she is not ready, she needs more time. Many people have told me when the teeth appear, taking solids takes a new turn. Whilst waiting for the first tooth, I keep on giving myself pep talks.