Excuse me while the anger subsides

HE JUST wasn’t ready. At five months, six months, or even seven months. But now he is eight months, the time has come for the Little Mister to eat. At last. Our progress over the last week and a half has been spectacular. I am almost at the point of boasting that he is eating three meals a day. Almost. And they are small ones.

I’m not going to complain about the fact that he only seems to want to eat very sweet and well-pureed fruit. I’m not going to complain about the fact that he will only be fed from a metal teaspoon, at the same time as holding another metal teaspoon himself. He’s gone from not eating any solids at all, to eating about a quarter of a cup three times a day. Success.

For months now my attitude has been that when the Little Mister is ready, he will eat. I’ve been confident that he has been putting on weight and drinking plenty of milk, so I’ve not been worried. But a conversation I had with a nurse about Milin’s eating habits last week did make me really angry.

We were at the doctor’s just over a week ago, when the doctor we don’t usually see suggested I speak to the health nurse while I was there – she was kind of the equivalent of a Plunket nurse. She weighed the Little Mister straight off and I rejoiced. She didn’t. I had an inkling he was packing on the pounds with formula and the scales showed I was right. At 7.1kg the Little Mister is no longer in the 0.4th percentile. He’s made it up to the second.

But of course, a lengthy discussion about solids ensued. How much does he eat, she asked? About two teaspoons of solids a day if I’m lucky, and up to eight bottles, I answered. I was actually quite pleased that he was eating that much – it was far more than he had been taking previously.

“He should have no more than five bottles a day and he’s not eating solids because he’s full. You must stop feeding him at night so he eats more solids in the day.” She said, or something to that effect anyway. It was a lecture.

I know one size doesn’t fit all, and I’ve stopped caring about all the advice that gets thrown at first-time mums, but this woman made me angry. It took a few days before I could again believe that I was doing the right thing with the Little Mister and following my instinct by letting him guide our pace.

As for giving up night feeds, I don’t mind getting up. He’s a little baby, and I think he’s young enough that if he wants his mum at night and the comfort of a feed, I’m going to give it to him. If I’m tired the next day, it’s not as if I can’t take a nap when he does.

Yes he drinks a lot of bottles instead of eating the prescribed amount of solids, but he is thriving. Plus, after the dramas we had trying to get him to take formula, I don’t mind if he doesn’t give it up in a rush.

I left with another copy of a colourful poster showing what foods to introduce at what age. The colours correspond to the colour of the jars at the supermarket. I also left with a leaflet questioning whether my baby was getting enough iron. It contained a whole load of recipes for beef and lamb dishes for babies – most of which took two hours to cook. Because yes, that’s what I feel like doing in my spare two hours to myself every night. Cooking shepherds pie and blending it into mush. Not surprisingly, the leaflet was from a particular lobby group with an interest in encouraging me to buy copious amounts of beef and lamb.

On another day, I wouldn’t have been angry, I would have beaten myself up about failing to feed my son well enough. I would have gone and stocked up on beef, lamb and colour-coded baby food jars. I would have tried to force feed my proudly independent Little Mister. I would have forgotten that his nutritional needs are being met, despite what meat lobby groups tell me. Nobody would have won.

For first-time mums, the industry that has grown around marketing baby products can be overwhelming. It can make you question whether what you are doing is right, and it can make you doubt yourself. Surely though, no-one knows what a baby needs better than his mother does? And surely, if a mother is trying her very best, that’s what her baby needs?
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