Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Eat food. Mostly milk. Not too much.

Jack, feeding himself a chunk of steamed zucchini (dehydrated strawberry chunks on his hands!)

I keep putting off posting about Jack's eating habits. Why haven't I written about baby food? Well, I feel quite strongly about baby food and I can't seem to get into a calm enough mood to write a coherent, polite post about it all. So I give up. I'm just going to get this out of the way, and then maybe in the future I can write something better

Here are my beliefs
  1. Babies. Need. Milk. Babies do not need rice cereal. They do not need supplemental (poorly absorbed) iron, or mysteriously concocted vitamin mixes. They need milk. This is how we evolved: to drink breast milk for a long time, a lot longer than we typically nurse in Western society
  2. If I have to puree something and water it down into a runny consistency to convince Jack to eat (drink) it, he probably isn't ready for that food yet
  3. The advice our doctor gave us about avoiding allergenic foods to prevent allergies...? That advice is not based on any research that I can locate. There is very little data to suggest that avoiding food allergens will prevent allergies, and, in fact, there is a significant amount of data suggesting the exact opposite. I have to say, this really ticks me off. I don't understand why doctors are continuing to perpetuate the avoidance myth in babies that have no evidence of a food intolerance.
  4. Just because a baby is interested in food doesn't mean he's nutritionally deprived, for the same reason that Jack's interest in my water glass doesn't mean he's dehydrated. Babies like to explore, and food is something they are curious about for reasons other than hunger.
  5. The recommended approach is to introduce foods one by one, leaving 3-5 days in between to watch for a reaction. Now when I think of the immune system, and I imagine what it sees... interval feeding feels like a bad idea. When I think about taste buds, and programming them for later life, having one thing with nothing else also seems strange. This part is all about instinct, but I can't help my instinct: it seems weird to me to feed a baby anything other than, well, actual food.
The societal norm for baby food in America is purees: homogenize the food, mix it with breast milk so that it tastes familiar, and keep feeding more as the baby nurses less and less. As soon as I started reading up on infant feeding practices, I knew we were going to have to do something different than the norm.

My approach to baby feeding is to follow my instinct. And my instinct said this, very strongly: let Jack eat what we're eating. Bite off a little piece into a size he can manage, and let him figure it out. That's what we've been doing for two months, and it's working for us.

We tried to put off the whole food-at-daycare business, because we knew they would not be willing to give him adult-style food. But they kept bothering us, wondering when he would eat solids, so we decided to send Jack in with a jar of mashed or pureed food for lunch. But when he comes home at night? That's a whole other story.

At night, Jack goes into his high chair, and I spread an assortment of baby-handlable food in front of him. I make sure it's all in safe sizes and shapes, I keep a very close eye on him, and I let him play. And he has a blast. And I have a blast watching him have a blast. When we sit down to dinner, or if I'm out with him in public, he usually gives a little shout when I start eating. So when he shouts, I give him bites of whatever we're having.

It's fun. Here are some highlights:
  • He was about 6 months old and I gave him a partially cooked carrot to suck on while I made dinner. He slowly wittled that carrot down to nothing. It occupied him for a good 20 minutes
  • Kefir, unsweetened
  • HUMMUS. Jack LOVES hummus
  • A mostly-eaten chicken bone... might be his favorite thing so far
  • Smoothie
  • Dried and dehydrated fruit (easy to pick up)
  • Squiggly noodles (ditto)
  • Grapes sliced in half
  • Steamed zucchini with the skin on (he sucks off the pulp)
  • Spicy food (no reaction)
  • Pesto
  • Roasted bell peppers
  • Half a rice cake
  • Beans: a recent favorite. I give them a little squish and he goes wild
  • Cabbage, which is great to suck on for a while
  • Guacamole
  • Etc
It's been great fun, so much more fun than I even imagined it would be. More later.

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