Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Baby Led Weaning - An approach that changed me

The first food that our paediatrician advised when Prabir completed 6 months was Cerelac. I didn't find anything wrong with that either as that's what I've seen most babies in the family eat.

We went to the store and bought a flavour that we thought our son would like. And the first day, I held the spoon near his mouth, he rejected it outright. I kept at it and tried for 3 days until I kept the box of Cerelac away for good.

I then started with suji (semolina) porridge, and dal and rice, and introduced fruits and veggies gradually. When he didn't eat as much as I would have liked him to, which happened almost every time, I fretted and worried. When he demanded to breastfeed soon after having some solids, I blamed myself for not giving him enough to eat as he was clearly hungry.

Nothing and no one helped either. I was told to let him watch the television to make him eat. Or may be distract him with toys, which I confess I have done. There would be a whole lot of toys with us as we started a meal and each one was a mission. After all, mumma had to ensure that the sonny eats as much as 'she' would like him to.

It was in his 8th month that I bumped into a group on Facebook. How that happened I barely remember, but it was no less than a miracle. I read all about baby led weaning (blw) and was determined that it was the right approach for my baby and me.

The first thing I needed to do here was to unlearn all that I had known about feeding babies all this while.

  • Breastmilk or formula is the primary source of nutrition for the first year - And there I would make myself sick worrying when my son demanded breastfeed after a meal.
  • Stop feeding mashed or pureed food - While I never really did either, I used to overcook to make the food easy to swallow. BLW made me realise that the baby can chew and needs to start now, whether or not he has teeth as their gums are hard enough. The consistency of the food needed to be such that it is firm to hold and yet easy on the gums to chew. I've seen grown up kids in my family swallow food with water till date and that's not what I wanted for my son.
  • The mother decides what and when, and the baby decides how much - This required the control freak in me to take a backseat and let my son decide how much he wanted to eat and not how much I'd like him to.
  • No forcefeeding or distraction - The toys had to go and the child should have a proper place to have their meals. We were already using a highchair for meals, so this wasn't as difficult.
  • Encourage self feeding - Now, here is what required most patience. With a never ending to do list, it was difficult to let the baby be and sit through while he explored, tasted, threw, poured and massaged it all over himself. Even more difficult is to see the mess with the baby throwing food all around. Every post meal wash became a mini bath with complete change of clothes. Yes, that's how messy it can get!
  • The baby eats what the family eats - This meant that no separate meals needed to be made, just the salt had to go and the spices had to checked.
  • The whole idea is to let my baby explore food, feel different textures and get to know their own taste and system better.

As I read all about BLW, I ordered a book 'My Child won't Eat'. Reading it changed my thoughts and views about feeding my son completely. No longer was I a worried mumma thinking about what my son ate or didn't eat. Meal times became more enjoyable and we started having our food together.

At 19 months, here's where we stand-

  • We eat our meals together.
  • Prabir knows how much he wants or needs to eat.
  • He knows that he won't be forced to eat anything that he doesn't want or like.
  • He's eager to try different food.
  • He's getting better at eating with a spoon all by himself and knows how to use a fork too.
  • He doesn't need water to swallow food and knows that he needs to finish what's in his mouth and then drink water, if he needs to.
  • He knows his 'no' to something will be respected.

Even today, there are days when he would barely take a spoonful or two or completely skip a meal. I'll be honest to say that the mother in me still frets at times, but I'm not worried anymore. As my son can decide for himself when it comes to eating.

This post, in no way, is to endorse Blw as the only or the best way to introduce solids to a child. This is an approach that has worked beautifully for us and that's why this mumma swears by it.

While it's given a sense of control to my son and is a major step for him towards getting independent, it has given a sense of relief to this mumma. All I do is follow my baby's cues and ensure that I offer him balanced and nutrition meals. For the rest, he's the boss :)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Here's How YOU can Help a New Maa :)

When Prabir arrived, I was overwhelmed and knew little how to go about things around me. Even regular and routine things became big tasks as I struggled and fumbled as a new Maa.

And isn't that what happens everywhere? When a new baby arrives, there's a flutter in every heart around. From the new parents to new aunties, uncles, grand mothers and grand fathers, everyone wants the new baby to be comfortable and happy.

However, often, we tend to ignore the new Maa who needs equal love and help. Had it not been for my two sisters and bua (paternal aunt), we (hubs and I) would not have been able to manage. And for all that they've done for me, I'd be forever indebted.

So, if there's a new baby in your home or if one's arriving soon, here are a few ways you can make things better for the new parents and child. 

Help prepare the hospital bag - The expecting mother would need help in her shopping trips to get the bag packed. You could also divide the items in the list and volunteer to buy them after the baby arrives, as many cultures do not allow you to shop before the baby is born. 

Help arrange the nursery/wardrobe - The new entrant would need space of their own. It becomes difficult and tiring for an expecting mommy to bend or sit for long hours in the run up to labour. Not to mention that it's almost impossible to do it when the baby finally arrives. So, go ahead and help stack diapers and clothes for the little one. Set up the little one's crib and arrange their little cot. You have no idea how much it'll help. 

Pick out the stuff for mumma and baby every morning along with other regular things- These things might sound too small, but trust me, they go a long way for a sleep deprived new Maa. My younger sister would pick out clothes for us every morning. I got so used to it that it was difficult doing it myself after she left. There are many other things here that you can do like stacking the diaper/nappies pile, getting the laundry done, keeping things within the mother's reach, etc . These are little, but count a lot.

Volunteer to rock and hold the baby - Babies know their others right from the day they are born. Prabir would not be calm with anyone else, but me, for the first few months. Yet, there were times I needed to get some time off, even if that meant 5 precious minutes. My aunt would hold him in his favorite position, while my elder sister would rock Prabir and even sing the same lullaby as I put my feet up for some rest. So, pick up cues when the new Maa would like some help with rocking or holding the baby.  

Get going with the household chores - A new Maa would forever be indebted to one who'd take over the household chores for her. My bua did that and I cannot thank her enough. Not only did that help me establish a bond with my newborn, but also got a good and balanced diet that a breastfeeding mother should have. 

Spend time with the new mother - Post partum depression is real. I too did go through it, though slightly, but thanks to my support system, I was able to push through it. Just talking it all out and talking and laughing at things other than this new phase can help a new Maa feel so much better. 

Surprises are always nice - Yes, shopping trips are bare minimum, if at all, for a new mother. And whoever visits, only brings gifts for the little one. While I love all gifts that come my son's way, the little sweet things someone got me some time or another was thoughtful and precious too. A chocolate bar counts too.

While one may not think much of these things as you read, but ask any mother and she'll recall exactly how people around her helped her when she gave birth.

A good support system can help a new mother function so much better. And most of us, especially in India, are gifted with it as our folks would come flying to us, at extremely short notice, just to be there. Such things not only help the new mother care better for her little one and herself, but also strengthens the bond between you and her.