Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What to do with jarred baby food?

Until recently, I had never bought commercial baby food for Little Bug.  In all honesty, he doesn't really even like finely pureed foods.  I think it's a texture issue; he has a hard time swallowing purees.  In order to get him to eat the organic applesauce that his grandma lovingly made just for him, I usually ended up mixing it in with some of my breakfast oatmeal.  (And then he loved it!)

Actually, thus far the solid food adventure could primarily be classified as baby-led weaning.  The main idea here, which seems so obvious and intuitive to me, is that babies don't really need purees.  Once babies are ready for solids, they can handle actual adult people food.  They can manipulate it within their mouths to make it swallowable, and will gag and spit it out if they try to swallow too much at once; in this way, they quickly learn their limits and how to, well, eat.  (Note too that gagging and choking are not the same thing.)  And better yet, they are quite capable of feeding it to themselves, thank you very much.

This is another area where I found it a little difficult to go against the grain.  At first, anyway.  After spending my entire lifetime watching babies receive their first foods from those cute little jars, it felt a bit weird to be taking a different route.  (The one exception to this was my sister, who made baby food from scratch... she helped to normalize the idea that baby food doesn't have to be bland or tasteless or contain only a single ingredient.  But she still started with purees.)

So we eased in slowly.  I honestly couldn't tell you what Little Bug's first food was; I don't remember.  But we started with soft things that I knew he could easily mash up with his gums.  Banana.  Avocado.  Cooked carrots or peas that I smooshed just a little between my fingers before offering to him.  Steamed zucchini, lentils, beans.  And always in small enough pieces that he could swallow without choking on, just in case he didn't manage to thoroughly gum them first.

And now?  When we split a banana every morning--and by split, I mean he eats maybe a third of it--he takes a tremendous mouthful, stuffing as much in there as will fit.  He used to end up spitting out half when he did this, but now he just works it around and slowly swallows until it's all gone, and then eagerly comes back for more.  (Sometimes he gets worried that I will eat it all before he gets seconds!)  I will offer a piece of veggie to him on the palm of my hand, and he will carefully pick it up and cram it into his mouth.  When we go to the farmers' market, I offer him whole berries to nom.  Out at breakfast the other day with my dad and his lady friend, we gave him little bits of plain pancake to feast on.  Fortunately, the nice people at IHOP didn't mind that he made a giant mess; honestly, who could get annoyed with that cute little face?

So that's where we are now.  The only purees he eats are things that are naturally pureed: applesauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin puree from the pumpkin I roasted the other day.  And none of which are finely pureed; lumps make life more exciting.  He'll consent to being fed with a spoon occasionally, but he really prefers to feed himself, and he doesn't really like food that contains no lumps.

And then I signed up for WIC.  In case you are unaware, WIC is a government program that provides pregnant women and the parents of young children (up to age five) with vouchers for healthy foods.  The primary qualification has to do with income, and a surprising amount of military families can qualify.  Among other useful things, we get vouchers that pay for about sixty jars of baby food per month.  Per month.  I wish I could instead get more money to spend on fresh produce and whole grains, since that's what he actually eats.  But I'm not one to turn down essentially free food, so now I have a ton of jarred baby food in my cupboard.

I tried feeding him one jar.  He thought it was okay, but seemed much more excited when we switched to something more, erm, substantial.  So instead, I'm going to try to think of more creative things to do with all of those tiny jars of pureed fruits and veggies.  Add to pasta sauces or soups?  Maybe.  I bet I could toss part of a banana in my Magic Bullet along with the contents of a fruit jar and some almond milk (or, more likely, soymilk, since I get a ton of that from WIC too) and make a smoothie.  Applesauce is applesauce, which I can mix into my oatmeal (and then share with Little Bug) or use to replace the oil in recipes for baked goods.  Bananas can replace eggs, or just be made into banana bread.  "Winter squash" could surely be turned into pumpkin bread, or maybe... pumpkin pie?  Pumpkin risotto?  (Of course, I have a bunch of pumpkin puree in my freezer, but bear with me here.)  I have a vegan brownie recipe somewhere that calls for prune puree.  (Seriously.)

We'll see.  If I come up with anything exceptionally creative, I'll be sure to write about it here.  Until then, I guess I'd best devote a shelf of my cupboard to my increasing supply of baby food!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Baby Noms

Om nom broccoli

Inspired by a recent post at the blog In Short, Stories, as well as a suggestion by the talented Mrs. H, I decided to keep an ongoing list of everything that Little Bug has licked, bit, slobbered on, or otherwise nommed today.  Just for funsies.

And it's quite a list.  Little Bug spends most of his waking hours putting various things in his mouth, like most babies his age I suppose.  And if he can't put it in his mouth, he puts his mouth on it!

Quesadilla triangles for grabby little hands

Here's as complete of a list as I could manage.  For the record, many of these things were taken away as soon as I realized he had gotten hold of them.

my pillow
cell phone
computer mouse
(clean) cloth diaper prefold
daddy doll
the straps of my Ergo baby carrier
ballpoint pen
my teething necklace
Swiss chard, cooked with onions, garlic, and an egg
cheese quesadilla
box of markers
WaveWinds magazine
various parts of me, including: fingers, toes, ear, shoulder, his milk source, leg, etc.
(closed) tube of baby sunscreen
the couch
various toys
cloth napkin
various books, including: But Not the Hippopotamus, A Little Sip of Chicken Soup for the Soul,
     Outside Over There, Global Babies, & Halloween ABC
his own fingers & toes
today's junk mail
dinnertime vegetable medley: carrots, broccoli, green beans, summer squash
my water cup
his water cup
car keys
washing machine
bath tub
wash cloth

Friday, October 5, 2012

Going against the norm

I've noticed it's not uncommon for parents to try to do things differently, "better," the second (or third) time around.

"My first baby was induced a week before her due date, I got an epidural because I couldn't handle labor, and we almost had to get a c-section.  This time, I hired a midwife so I can give birth at home."

"We used disposable diapers last time; no one ever told me cloth was so much cheaper and easier!"

"We used a cry-it-out approach with our first, but I've read so much since then...  This time, we'll be using a gentler approach."

I think it's easier to try something new, something less "mainstream," when your first experience was a bad one.  You have time and conviction on your side.  What I don't hear many people talk about is how hard it is to buck tradition with your first.  When you don't have bad memories, complications, regrets, or even vague doubts on your side, it can be hard to deal with others who don't understand why you're not just doing things the "normal" way.

We chose to have our son at home, and I firmly believe that the only reason we didn't get more grief ahead of time was because we didn't really tell anyone.  Afterwards, most of the responses we got were positive.  Some people called me a rock star for having a baby without drugs at home, omg, while others congratulated me on sticking to my convictions.  Interestingly, most of the negative responses I got were from medical professionals; the pediatrician I took Little Bug to for his three-day checkup seemed unable to comprehend why I would voluntarily give birth at home, while the one I saw a week later took less issue with the birth itself than with the fact that I didn't transfer to a hospital afterwards.  When I went to the emergency room to get my Rhogam shot (this was the easiest way, since I had stopped seeing an OB months ago), the triage nurse looked at me like I was crazy and asked, "But it wasn't planned that way, right?"  My stock response became I had a very fast labor, providing an explanation without any further information, neither confirming or denying my reasons or lack thereof.  Amazing how quickly I learned to give vague answers and let people draw their own conclusions.

Even before the birth, my "alternative" ideals came up against opposition.  I knew long before I got pregnant in the first place that I wanted to go natural; no epidural for me.  It didn't take long for me to stop vocalizing that idea to others.  "Oh, everybody says that the first time around," well-meaning but condescending women would tell me.  "Trust me, you'll want the epidural."  I knew what I wanted, and I truly believed I could give birth with out medication.  But against that kind of all-knowing negativity, with no experience on my side, what am I supposed to say?  End result was that I softened my stance a little, even while knowing the truth on the inside.  I was at least going to try, I said, and even that was met with a nasty little smile.  "Just you wait," they said.  I was strong enough to ignore those comments, and smart enough to stop openly verbalizing my ideas without first feeling out my audience.

But in retrospect, there's something very sad about being uncomfortable talking about things without first knowing that my thoughts would be well-received.

It's so easy to have doubts, even if in your heart you believe you're doing the right thing.  I did not have a single ultrasound during my pregnancy.  Not one.  They are so commonplace nowadays that many women get one at every appointment.  My insurance didn't cover them unless they were "medically necessary," and the OB I was seeing early on volunteered to "make up" a reason if I wanted one!  So many people don't realize that, in many cases, an ultrasound isn't necessary.  They are a relatively recent technology, and women have been growing babies for most of human history without them.  One of my books told me that for the baby in the womb, undergoing an ultrasound is similar to being in a subway tunnel; the decibel level of what the baby hears is that high.  I also read that there really haven't been any long-term studies on the fetal effects of ultrasound.  (Don't ask me where I read these tidbits.  I read a lot of books and web articles and blogs during my pregnancy.)  I knew that I didn't want an ultrasound, although I would have willingly undergone one had my midwife thought it necessary.  (Interestingly enough, at one point she did.  My fundal height didn't seem to match the estimated due date, and she was thinking we might have it wrong.  My appointment was for the day after I ended up going into labor.)  And yet, even with all I knew, all I had read, I still doubted myself, deeply and frequently.  What if there was something wrong?  What if my baby was malformed?  What if there was some disorder that could be detected through an ultrasound?  Some days, I felt like I was trying to reassure myself that I had made the right decision.  When everyone is asking how the ultrasounds looked, asking me to post pictures on my Facebook page or posting their own, when I didn't know a single person who didn't get an ultrasound themselves during their pregnancy, it was easy to doubt myself.  

Of course, everything turned out fine.  Ten fingers and ten toes, no problems whatsoever, a picture of health.  But that doesn't mean I didn't doubt myself.

When it comes to dealing with these subjects that I worry will garner negative responses from others, I find there are three main ways I talk about them.  The first is to not talk about them at all.  I didn't talk about my decision to have a home birth with many.  I (wisely) didn't mention to any of Little Bug's pediatricians that we were co-sleeping.  Sometimes not talking is a good decision (it's not worth the lecture from the doctors), but sometimes I feel like my reticence is contributing to the problem.

Sometimes I give vague answers, like my stock response about having a fast labor, and let others think what they will.  When the pediatrician asked if he got the vitamin K drops at birth, my response was that the baby got "everything he needed" at birth from my midwife.  (Again, not worth the lecture.)  

And sometimes, more frequently than I'd like, I try to blow things off.  So many people seem to think that babies need to be fit conveniently around their own schedule that heaven forbid we inconvenience ourselves for them.  Cloth diapers?  So much cheaper than disposables, and when they're nursing they're so very easy to wash!  Babywearing?  Much more convenient than lugging around a stroller!  Baby-led weaning?  I've no time for pureeing foods, and letting him feed himself is much easier than bothering with a spoon.  Co-sleeping?  I get more sleep when he's right next to me; it's so much easier to get him back to sleep after he nurses when I don't have to put him back in a crib!  I have a friend who practices elimination communication (which we dabble in), and the only time I've seen her publicly mention it on Facebook was with the caveat that it saved on diapers.

Why do we do this?  Because we don't want to get lectured by the "professionals."  Because parenting issues are already so polarizing and we don't want to be drawn into arguments.  Because our family might not approve.  Because we have doubts about our own decisions.  Because it's not what "everyone else" does.  Lots of reasons, I guess.  

I, for one, would love to be able to have more honest, open conversations about the choices I've made and the things I do for my baby.  And yet, there are so many topics I am simply uncomfortable discussing, even if I know I'm making the right choices for me and mine.  I can only hope that as I get more parenting experience under my belt, I will become more confident in my decisions and more willing to discuss these things with others.  Otherwise, how will some of these things become more acceptable in the mainstream?