“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that the lessons in a parent- child relationship flow in only one direction: from you to the baby. Nothing could be further from the truth. My son teaches me every day to look at the world in wonder, to laugh with abandon, to dance like no one is watching, to trust, to be fearless, to learn, to look at things I have long taken for granted with renewed appreciation and respect and to love. I could go on.
As the curtains on breastfeeding get ready to close, I am reflecting a lot on my weaning journey and how little of it I have shared. Rather fortuitously, Tommee Tippee South Africa invited me to share my weaning journey as part of their #weantogether campaign. Serendipity perhaps?
My weaning journey is far less about the story than it is about the life lessons that I have stumbled across while trying to be completely responsible for the nutritional needs of a whole human being. It’s a bit daunting if you really think about it. That’s how I came to lesson number 1.
1.You don’t have to have it all figured out at the beginning
One of the most stressful things about the early stages of my weaning journey was trying to know it all. I didn’t just want to know where to start or where to end. I wanted to know what came next and then what came after that. I wanted to know when exactly to start and why. I wanted to know exactly how much of what to give at what time of the day and then what would happen. The reality is it really is not that simple. There is a lot of information floating about out there accompanied by seemingly contradictory opinions from the experts. One doctor will tell you one thing and a different doctor will tell you another. One nurse will tell you to try rice cereal first and the next will say rice cereal is so two years ago. Every mother I asked happily shared their experience and I eventually realised that they all differed.
It all boiled down to understanding the basics of weaning: identifying the food item you want to try, cooking it and then giving the baby a little of it to see how they take it over a couple of days before trying the next. It all seems so simple in hindsight.
Sometimes the end goal looms so large on the horizon that it casts a blinding shadow on the path to get there. Take a step back, listen and understand, plan and then do.
2. Babies, like adults, are very different.
What is stress? Stress is watching a toothless 6 month-old baby on YouTube chew and swallow a whole slice of bread with peanut butter while your 1-year-old with 8 teeth refuses to chew literally anything except my nipple. Nate just refused to chew. He is approaching 15 months of age and he chewed intentionally for the first time only 2 weeks ago. What the heck right?!
Over the last year, he has steadily opened his mouth to try almost anything and then proceeded to attempt to swallow it whole. His gag reflex worked overtime but luckily it was very efficient. The result was that if I tried a solid piece of food at the wrong time, everything else he had eaten just came out in projectile vomit which he would casually shrug off. Even if it was solid food he loves like mangos or the odd chip or ‘fry’, he pretty much sucked it until it disintegrated. *sigh*
During a visit to his doctor I explained this to him and waited for a deep medical answer. There was none. His answer was the common sense kind that hurts to pay for :). It was, he doesn’t need to do what the other children are doing. When he is ready, he will chew. Until then give him what he can swallow and try something solid every so often.
Understanding and appreciating the differences in people allows us to accept them for who they are and to do what works for that relationship without the pressure of trying to fit them into a mould or into expectations that have nothing to do with them.
3. You need the right tools to get the job done
Weaning kept me on my toes for most of the first year because I wanted the little man to try as wide a variety of foods as possible. One of the books said so. This meant that I had a very well-used copy of Annabel Karmel’s Baby Meal Planner book and I spent a lot of time on baby recipe sites like wean together. I was in the kitchen cooking, blending and freezing a lot. It’s no wonder then that I burnt through three blenders in the space of a few months. When my miserly self did the math, I finally realised that my dear mother was right all those years ago when she said that more often than not, “cheaper is dearer.”
There are a lot of good blenders out there, and among them is the Baby Weaning Steamer Blender from Tommee Tippee. I had the privilege of trying it out recently and I so so so so wish that I had had this at the beginning of my weaning journey. Maybe that is why my heart is rather insistent that I should give it away to a mother at the beginning of her weaning journey. I just need to figure out the details then we will have our first giveaway.
I might have missed out on the blender in the early stages of my journey but I definitely didn’t miss out on any of the other weaning tools that they have on the market. My sisters in law love to tease me about how I have a Tommee Tippee spoon stashed away everywhere. I had at least 12 before they generously gifted me more. Mbasela if you will 🙂 . One in my car. One in the back pocket of my jeans on weekends. One in my weekend handbag. One in the baby’s lunch bag. One in the nappy bag…you get the gist. That’s because when I find something that works, I stick with it. These spoons really worked for me.
Once you figure out what you are aiming for the right tools can ease the journey but the wrong ones can turn the journey into a nightmare.
Ah man. I used to think my impatience was incurable. God must have chuckled. Persuading a toddler to eat comes with full plates of lovingly prepared food being accidentally tipped over onto the floor. Mess being redefined to mean food in hair, food in ears, food on me, food on him, food on everything. It’s wonder any of it goes down his gullet. It’s a spoon for me and a spoon for him and moving the plate around to minimise the amount of food going….well, everywhere really. It’s singing baby shark do do do do do do and then slipping a spoonful of food into his mouth (If you just sang that to yourself, we need to form a support group). Let’s not even start on trying to feed a teething baby.
It comes down to understanding that you can’t hurry nature or a toddler.
Life doesn’t always go according to plan and making peace with it and even finding joy in it lies in adjusting our attitude
5. The process evolves. Learn to adapt.
The same boy who acted like I was trying to kill him when I gave him the first couple of tastes of an egg, ate half the egg on his father’s plate last week and cried for more when it was finished. Turns out things change. Things that don’t work out the first, second or third time may work out if you try again in a couple of months.
So if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.