As I mentioned in my previous post on baby-led solids, I began introducing Paige to food via table, or “real”, food. So far this has been a fun experience for Paige, James and I, as well as a great learning adventure. I am hoping to sum up the past few weeks now.
Paige’s first taste of real food was of cooked red pepper, and she was tickled to be a part of the meal. At home, slices of orange, yellow and red pepper have been regularly offered and, with enthusiasm, Paige accepts them. She chats away while holding these slices, and licks and gnaws on them. And when I say, gnaws on them, I mean it, as Paige has two bottom teeth which first broke through her gums almost a month ago! Due to her having teeth, I am cautious about offering raw food – I seldom do it unless it’s something that she cannot bite a choking size piece from, such as a thick carrot stick (for offering hummus), or wedges from softer fruits and veggies, such as an apple, pepper or cucumber.
At Easter it was wonderful because she could directly participate in the extravagant meal and “eat” what everyone else was eating. She enjoyed tasting beef rib meat, broccoli, and carrot, but was less fond of potato (I think it was texture related) and sweet potato (she gagged on this one!). As the book mentioned, when babies gag, it sometimes leads to them vomiting and that is what happened to Paige; however, she was over it very quickly (literally) and happily sucked on more broccoli. I want to comment here about gagging and explain how it’s very different from actual choking. Choking is what happens when the airway is partially or completely blocked; gagging is retching from the texture, taste, or sensation of something in your mouth, but does not actually compromise the airway in any way. As Paige is only 6 months and 2 weeks old, her gag reflex is initiated when food is anywhere from the middle to the back of her tongue. Very little makes it past the middle of her tongue, except maybe the spoon she plays with.
Nowadays, I offer a wider variety of foods, and am an even more health conscious consumer and cook. Paige still prefers peppers and now also likes carrots. This evening she sucked on a boiled carrot so much that it got thinner and she got a chunk in her mouth, which she promptly gagged on, then ejected from her mouth. Yesterday, we had great success with banana! I was holding Paige when I decided to eat a banana. As soon as I peeled it and took a bite, Paige was reaching for some. I held the base, while she guiding the banana to her mouth, using two sides of the peel to hold onto it, like two handle bars. She gnawed it, spit some out, then had more. She was so happy and so was I! There was even more evidence of consumption in her diaper this morning ;)
My husband and I are learning what textures and shapes are easiest for Paige to handle and which she prefers. She gagged on some shredded cheese the other day; I could see the skinniest, shortest piece right on her tongue, but she didn’t know how to swallow it. One recommendation that has been helpful with this method, is to offer sips of water with meals. Paige primarily gets her nutrients and satiation from breast milk, but water seems to help her learn to swallow and she loves drinking from a cup! Large fruit wedges have worked really nice, such as a chunk of apple or pear with the peel left on. The peel keeps the fruit from being so slippery and she works out which is the soft, flavorful side rather quickly; sometimes preferring the “flavorless” peel. She is unable to bite a chunk off but gets small tastes and bits when gnawing with her teeth.
At dinner this evening, she was eager to try the chicken and ravioli, although didn’t want to eat either of them, or even try them again for that matter. And at lunch she was keen to try more hummus, but this one was more sour than usual and although she kept trying just to be sure, she didn’t like it that much.
Just as a bit of a quasi-experiment, I have tried some iron-fortified rice cereal with Paige. She was interested to try it, but only once from me, on the spoon. The rest of the times, she insisted she hold the spoon, and once she realized what it was, she stopped trying any, and started dropping the spoon on the floor. I tried this for about a week. And now if I try offering her something from a spoon, she first reaches for the spoon, but if I don’t give it to her, she purses her lips and turns her head away.
Anyway, I think it’s pretty clear: Paige wants to be in control of what goes into her mouth. I think I’m stuck with this method even if I didn’t like it. But I do :)