It's tough when you try to do all the right things and you can't be sure what the right thing is. When it comes to starting solids it seems everyone has an opinion and they're all different. Some people said they started feeding their babies as early as 2-3 months! Others at 4-5. The What to Expect the First Year book says to start between 4 and 6 months. My doctor, the early years centre and Ontario's Nutrition Resource Centre all said not to start solids until 6 months. They said that the baby's body is not able to properly digest solids before then and that you can cause lifelong problems for them by starting too early. So that's what I went by. As far as what foods to start them on first, there is also a great deal of debate. Some say vegetables and fruit first and meat last. The Early Years Centre and literature from Nutrition Canada said that because a baby's iron level drops significantly at 6 months that they need a lot of iron and protein so you have to feed rice cereal fortified with iron and start the baby on meats like chicken and beef. So that's what I did. Also, to rule out allergies you have to introduce foods one at a time. So plain chicken with nothing else added. I stocked up on chicken with broth and plain beef so I'd be ready.
What the nutrition experts fail to warn you is that pureed chicken on its own is completely disgusting and there's about a snowball's chance in Hell of your baby eating it! I know how bad it is because I tasted it myself on my knuckle when I tested the temperature. It tasted like chicken but such a bland, awful version of chicken and with such a gross texture that I couldn't blame Michelle for complaining. She screwed up her face, gagged, turned away and cried. I was told that you can't keep the jars more than a few days once they're opened and she'd barely touched it. I didn't want to waste it so I tried to give it to the cat. Even Ali wouldn't eat it! You know a food is bad when your PET turns up her nose at it. I now see why the jars are so small. They actually need to be even smaller. No baby would eat that much chicken on its own in three days. I also understand why most of the baby chicken jars had chicken mixed with other things. Maybe they are a little more palatable. You can't give those as first foods though because you have to experiment with each food on its own separately. Once she's cleared on vegetables I can try those mixed baby dishes.
After I'd ruled out the possibility of allergy for chicken, I thought I'd try carrots. It was my Mom's suggestion. Maybe the carrots would be more appealing because they're a bit sweeter. My Mom thought if I mixed the carrots with the chicken, she might like it better. Not so much. She hated carrots about as much as she loathed chicken. The mixture seemed to make it even worse. She screamed. She would not eat it. Two negatives may make a positive but not when it comes to food. Stirring up two gross foods doesn't make them magically yummy. I decided to try a new tactic the next time I fed her. I'd give her a tiny spoon of chicken. She'd screw up her face but at least ingest a bit of it. Then I'd alternate with a spoon of carrot. She'd make another face but seemed relieved it wasn't chicken at least. I kept alternating so that she got a little of both. It kept her guessing what each spoon would be. It seemed to work. She grudgingly had the carrot thinking at least it's not chicken and took in a little chicken figuring at least it's a break from the carrot. Though a lot ended up on her chin, bib, sleeve and the tray, I know she swallowed some of it because her poo changed. It was a little orange and had some more texture to it (I never thought in a million years I'd be describing feces in a blog but life changes when you're a Mom!) Her poop definitely smells a lot worse now that she's having solid foods. It barely had a smell when she was only having breastmilk. I was using a lidless waste basket by the change table. With her new poo I could no longer leave the garbage uncovered so my Mom gave me a big tall aluminum can with a flip lid to use (one good thing about my Mom having so much stuff is that when you need something chances are she's got one! These days the less things I have to buy the better!)
Gradually I will try her on all different types of vegetables and finally fruits. Some say not to give fruit first or it spoils them for everything else because it's so much sweeter. I know that I love baby apricots. I even eat it myself sometimes. Others say it doesn't matter if you give fruit first. I'm not taking any chances. I want to make sure I get some vegetables and protein into her as soon as possible. Fruit is almost like a dessert. I'm hoping there will be foods she'll love so that I can hide other foods she doesn't like in them. I stocked up on jars of baby chicken. Maybe I can return/exchange them...
I went to pick up some more baby foods and a woman in the aisle suggested sweet potatoes as they were her daughter's favourite. Her little girl loved to eat though. I couldn't believe it when the woman said her girl was only 7 months. She looked like a toddler sitting in the basket portion of the shopping cart. She was big, wearing shoes, had a full head of hair. Michelle at 6 months in her carseat looked like a newborn next to the girl. I suppose it's all relative. Michelle is wearing 9 and 12 month old clothes but at the same time is very petite. My doctor was concerned she hadn't gained enough weight and wants to see her again in a few weeks to check her progress. I'm determined to get her weight up somehow. It's certainly not easy when she barely eats the foods. At least she's still breastfeeding just as much. She's so active she burns off everything she's taking in. I can't believe how much energy she has. It's exhausting! At least she has her cereal morning and evening but even that doesn't seem to slow down her nursing. I'm still nursing her every 2 hours. I told the doctor how active Michelle is but the doctor didn't seem to take that into account. It has to make a difference. I mean if I was doing jumping jacks 24-7 it stands to reason that I'd weigh a lot less than someone who sat around doing nothing and consumed the same or less calories.
People have suggested making my own baby food. I thought about it but there are two major obstacles in that department. One is that I don't even have a blender (I did but someone broke it and I never got a replacement.) The other is that I don't have a lot of time for cooking as it is. Trying to make baby food for her would be one more thing to stress about. She doesn't give me enough time to do anything as it is. Besides it sounds like after a couple of months they're supposed to start having bits of our food and finger foods mashed up as it is so I'm not going to go to the trouble and expense of buying equipment to make baby food that will only be consumed for one or two months. I'll make do mashing things by hand.
I was so relieved when I spoke to a woman at the Early Years Centre and she said that most of the nutrients Michelle needs at this stage, she's getting from my milk. Feeding solids at six months is more about introducing the baby to tastes and textures than it is about nutrition. It isn't until the 10 month point that most of her nutrition will come from food instead of my milk. So I've got some time to get her used to foods before then. I told her that Michelle is at least eating the rice cereal twice a day so she's getting her iron from that. The woman also suggested I try other sources of protein like eggs. I thought you could only give egg yolks at this point in case they're allergic to egg whites. She shook her head and said no that the latest findings show that you can give whole eggs. She said unless the parents have food allergies, baby should be OK with anything I'm eating. She gave me the number for Eat Right Ontario so I can talk to a Registered Dietitian for free anytime I have questions. She told me to try each new food for three days and then once they're cleared I can keep adding more to her repertoire. Someone else told me that a baby needs to eat a food about 15 times before they really get used to it or develop a taste for it. One Mom is a vegetarian so she's been giving her baby alternate sources of protein. It's good to know that's an option too if Michelle wouldn't eat meat. I'm going to keep trying though. I felt a lot less stressed after getting some feedback on the subject.
Since the carrots were a flop I figured I'd try other veggies and then take the plunge into beef. Now Michelle has been having peas for the past couple of days. Though she doesn't exactly love them, she doesn't hate them as much as chicken and carrots. At least she opens her mouth for the next spoonful. I figure if I find things she likes I can try to sneak a little meat into it. I hope to find many healthy foods that Michelle will love on this culinary adventure. She looks longingly at what I'm having and seems fascinated when she hears me crunching something. She doesn't understand that she needs teeth first. Teething. Sigh. That will be a whole new adventure...