What baby led feeding taught me about food refusal

From the day Ruby started solids she has predominately been feeding herself. Baby led feeding (also called baby led weaning) is a method of introducing solid foods without purees or spoon feeding. In short you introduce foods that are easily picked up and soft enough for the age of the child.

IMG_4725We started around six months with things like avocado, banana, paw paw, papaya, cooked pumpkin, sweet potato and zucchini. As Ruby grew more accustomed to eating, and grew a few more teeth, we added different textures and varying crunchiness. The great majority of this food has been placed on her high chair tray then she has been left to explore the food in which ever way she likes (including shoving it into her mouth).

Throughout this time there has been instances when I would spoon feed her. Think yoghurt, soups, porridge. All that sloppy stuff that hands do not cope with well. But here is the thing, the majority of the time I spoon feed Ruby it becomes a headache. First I have to convince her to try it, then after a few happy mouthfuls she simple refuses to eat any more. Because we also have a 3 year old with special needs who requires help with meals I regularly gave up the fight and passed her the food, conceding I would clean the massive exploratory mess up later.

And she would proceed to finish the meal, in her own messy way.

IMG_6656It is behaviour I have observed from the very first weeks of feeding solids, and therefore not caused by baby led weaning. I am led to wonder what would have happened if I had been predominately spoon feeding. I may have decided she was a fussy eater and thought she didn’t like a whole range of foods. But the truth is she likes to feed herself, and I doubt she is unique in this instinct.

I believe it is her way of learning about the food and feeling comfortable with what she eats. It is also one way she has power over her diet. Sure I choose what is placed on the food tray, but she decides what to eat, how much to eat and how to eat it. I also believe this is pretty wonderful, a little tool/method/experience I want to share with you.

xox

 

 

 

Our stay-at-home Village

The last four years have been a real eye opener for me. Before I had my own children I really didn’t understand the reality of being a parent, many of us don’t. At times parenthood feels like a marathon with no finish line, and let me tell you…people break down. I am actually quite saddened by how hard this journey has been on both myself and quite a few of my close friends. In general it is more pervasive into a mothers life, but of course there are exceptions. It is hard to a point where you lose yourself to exhaustion, isolation, self doubt and a weird rage that was never there before. But I do not believe it has always been this way. The fact is our modern society, our neighbourhoods, our new age family…just doesn’t support raising human children.

pa and rubyI recently read a great article about how the loss of village life has most affected mothers and I whole heartedly believe this. “Perhaps most tragically of all, the absence of the village is distorting many mothers’ sense of self. It’s causing us to feel that our inadequacies are to blame for our struggles, which further perpetuates the feeling that we must do even more to make up for them.”

My own journey has been hard, I have been at breaking point many a time, but there is one thing that has helped beyond all else. My tiny stay-at-home village. My mum and dad.

My parents are retired, and since our son’s birth four years ago we have all lived together for two years and only lived five minutes apart for the remainder. We see each other almost every day. They help with pretty much everything, from entertaining kids to household chores. If I am in a fowl mood, they accept it. If my house is a bomb site, they help clean. If I feel like giving the kids away, I can (for a short time at least;)). They are always there. 

To be honest I have had many a pang of guilt about how much I rely upon them. Sometimes thoughts of inadequacy creep into my mind, “this is wrong, I should’t need them”, which is RIDICULOUS. But, as the years go on and I still rely on them more then ever, I am accepting that it is right. That having our family (and ideally our extended family) close by, helping daily, is actually the way it was for so many thousands of years. Accepting that our current family makeup is a blip on our existence as a species.

bozandgranmaI also have the most amazing friends. Beautiful, caring, inspiring people. Shouldn’t they be enough? Well, no. Because the fact is most of them are in the very same exhausted, isolated, self doubting, weird rage head space that we are in (that is most of them have young children or demanding jobs, or both).  On top of that our days are just not intertwined enough that we can fully support each other in the ways that are needed. Whether that means we live too far apart, work varying hours or simply cook, eat and sleep separately (because hey, that is what happens when you don’t live in a huddle of huts).

So here’s a tired mum saluting her tiny stay-at-home village and sending a little wish out that one day our villages will grow again, in a different and wonderful way.

To My Past Self – Here’s what you didn’t know on the day of your son’s diagnosis

This is a post I originally wrote for The Mighty, when they asked “If you could go back to the day you got a diagnosis what would you tell yourself?”


 

Today, the doctors will tell you that your baby boy is missing part of his DNA, and they do not know exactly how this will affect him.

I know you want to meet the news with dignity and grace, because this is not a diagnosis. This is your son, and you enthusiastically accept every part of him.

That is not entirely what will happen.

kiss boston

As you sit in front of the panel of experts, you will be commendably cool and calm, nodding at their carefully-worded responses as your stomach knots and your throat aches. They won’t see the ball of emotion that is rising slowly from within.

You will securely place your beautiful firstborn in his car seat, hop in the passenger side, and wait until your husband pulls onto the highway before, finally, the tears come. You will sob as a sadness takes over that you have no word for.

In the days, weeks and months ahead, that sadness will visit you. It will surround your worries and fears and blur your visions of the future with its salty tears. And the sadness will make you feel guilty, because you never want to feel this way about the baby you love so much.

I am writing you to say: Everything is OK.

The sadness that is hurting you — embrace it. You are not a bad person for dreading this challenge. This pain is nothing to be ashamed of or hide from. This journey can chew you up and spit you out, pummel you down and lift you up. You may laugh with abandon and cry with despair, sometimes at exactly the same time. I am not going to lie — this is going to be hard.

But…

It will also be the most joyful and rewarding experience of your life. You’ll feel gratitude for the smallest things. You will learn a new respect and acceptance for others. You will help spread awareness of rare disorders and craniofacial anomalies. Your community will come together in such unexpected ways to support your son’s journey.

Oh, and your son — what an amazing person he is. He will continually surprise and delight you with each of his successes. His personality will be wonderful and unique. He will melt hearts and break down barriers wherever he goes. And dear one, he is happy.
So here I sit, your future self, sending love to you always through this incredible journey and letting you know: Everything is OK.