Friday, January 8, 2010

When to Introduce Solids

Our daughter is approaching the age when solid foods can be introduced. She’s 5 1/2 months old and currently is exclusively breastfed. I’m going back and forth on when we’re going to start giving her solids.

She’s gaining weight fine on breast milk alone (hello, I think weighing 17 pounds at 4 ½ months probably means she’s getting enough!), and I hesitate to mess with something that is going so well. I know there are people who are of the opinion that breast milk alone isn’t enough for a baby once they reach six months of age, but I’ve witnessed cases where babies had only breast milk until they were one and had no negative effects from it. One might even argue that these children benefited from not eating solids until later.

I’ve read about possible allergies that can be caused by introducing solids too early, and putting food off seems like such an easy thing to do to avoid what might be a lifelong allergy.

I also love the bond we have with breastfeeding. As of right now, I am the only person who can feed her. If we are in a group of people who all want to hold her and she gets hungry, whoever is holding her has to give her back to me. When she is fussy, I can always comfort and soothe her through breastfeeding. And, when someone else is holding her, even if she isn’t hungry or fussy but I can tell she wants me, I can always use the excuse of, “Well, she’s probably hungry,” and take her immediately. This helps me avoid hurting anyone’s feelings or making anyone mad, because no one can argue or feel inadequate when I truly am the only person with the ability to give her anything to eat.

On the other hand, I’m so excited about the thought of her eating real food! I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she first tastes rice cereal, squash, sweet potatoes, pears. I see her curiosity when we eat, and notice how she watches what we do. I watch my friends feeding their babies, see how anxious and excited their little faces get when they see the food coming, watch as the drool drips down their chubby little lips and chins in anticipation.

Even with all the excitement surrounding a baby’s first taste of “real” food, I don’t feel any sort of rush to get started on it. I suppose there is no hurry in doing “big kid” things with her. Once we start solids, we probably won’t go back. Someday, chances are, I’ll look back and wish I hadn’t been in such a rush. I’ll probably think back to the days when life was simpler, when what my baby wanted or needed didn’t have to be opened, heated, or spoon-fed. I’ll think back to the days when lunchtime meant snuggling up on the couch, then taking a nap afterwards.

Solid foods? Those can wait.

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