As I mentioned in my last post, we started solids a few days ago. I was pretty excited to get to this major milestone and eagerly anticipating seeing my girls develop into foodies just like Mama and Baba. I had visions in my head of offering a spoon full of wholesome, organic fruit or vegetable goodness to my girls and having them joyfully opening up their mouths to eat it (and getting it all in of course without any mess! Hey - it's my fantasy!).
So here's your opportunity to feel a little superior for a moment as I have managed to bungle up this new food introduction pretty good. Due to my overenthusiastic efforts to introduce solids, my poor little Victoria is now constipated. I had to watch her scream and cry through a bowel movement today and wipe the tears from her eyes as she struggled to pass everything that I had been joyfully spooning into her. Now let me qualify - she isn't technically constipated in that her stools are still soft but they are the firmest they have ever been in her lifetime and she really struggles to pass them (sorry TMI).
I have to admit that I didn't have a lot of time to do any reading...I just quickly read through the short section in the What to Expect book (in the first year - not the pregnancy one) and thought "Okay - we'll just feed them a little bit...just until they don't want any more." There was not a lot of information in that particular book and they didn't really include any quantities or how much to give them so I started off with 1tbsp of rice cereal per the package instructions. After the initial shock and resistance to the introduction of solids, my girls showed great interest in having more so I prepared and fed them more and more cereal until they didn't want any more. This translated into 2-3 tbsp of cereal plus about 1/4 of an avocado (the next thing I introduced) mixed in. Then I had a tiny bowl of mashed bananas, maybe about 1 tbsp of that on the side as that was the 3rd thing I was introducing. It was about 3-4 tbsp of food in total which doesn't sound like a lot...but for a 7 month old, I guess it is a lot.
I had read that at this point, the introduction of solids should not replace BF but rather, the aim is to get them used to chewing and moving the food from the front of their mouths to the back and then swallowing it. They aren't supposed to be getting any real nutrition from this food - it's more for "learning and enjoyment" as one book put it (so I read after). I didn't understand how introducing solids could not have an impact on how much milk they were drinking - there is only so much room and if I'm feeding them until they don't want any more, how does that not replace even a small portion of the milk they would have drank? I quickly discovered that with so much solid foods added, they were beginning to not have enough room for milk when I would go to nurse them.
Tonight, after putting the girls to bed, I started consulting Dr. Google and called my sister about how to go about introducing solids properly. Wow did I make a lot of mistakes!
Mistake #1: starting with rice cereal and feeding it to the kids in a large quantity as a base for all of their meals. Did you know that rice cereal (and rice in general) is constipating? I didn't! (It's okay - you can feel superior...I give you permission!) I just thought rice was easy to digest and all of the resources I had consulted prior to today pointed at rice cereal as the first and most obvious choice to introduce solids. Besides, I'm Asian so rice as a first meal seemed like a natural choice.
Mistake #2: feeding the girls such large quantities of the new solid I am introducing. I now know that introducing solids is just that - an introduction to the tune of about 1tsp to 1tbsp *in total* depending on whose opinion you've solicited. Now in my defense, I have this recipe book that I do quite like that provides recipes by age and introduction of solid foods and it talks about a portion size at this stage as being something like a half of an avocado which sounds enormous for a small child IMHO. I thought I was okay by feeding them a portion which is a lot less than half of an avocado but I was still giving them too much. So, tomorrow it's back to just 1tbsp of whatever it is that I'm introducing.
Mistake #3: choosing banana as a first fruit. Did you know that bananas are also constipating in nature?? I didn't (again, here you may feel superior - it's okay, really)! In what little reading I did beforehand, many books recommend starting off with bananas as a first fruit as it is sweet and can be readily mashed to the appropriate consistency. So here I am, merrily feeding my kids not one but two constipating causing foods in their first exposure to solid foods. I obviously have more reading to do about the effect that various foods will have on one's digestive system.
Mistake #4: feeding the girls solids 2x/day. So apparently, when introducing solids, you're supposed to do it just once a day in tiny quantities (i.e. 1tbsp or less) which is how this can be done without any impact to BF at this point.
Mistake #5: introducing solids before BF. Apparently, the way to do it is to introduce solids after breastfeeding to ensure that they don't fill up on solids yet as they aren't supposed to be getting their nutrition from this source at this point. Breast milk should still be the primary source of their calories. I gave them solids before BFing because I wanted them to be hungry and therefore more receptive to new tastes and textures but at this point you're not supposed to do that. Who knew?
So there you have it - in 5 short days I have managed to wreak havoc on my little one's digestive system. My sister recommended a book called The Baby's Table which I will be picking up tomorrow and it includes important information such as serving sizes and frequency of servings along with a sample menu plan. This book will help me to get from introduction up to the full transition to solid foods which is exactly what I'm looking for. This would have been so helpful to have had last week. However, better late than never and I know this is a learning process for the both of us.
So sorry to have constipated you Victoria - I hope you forgive Mama...