I read this article this morning and it reminded me so much of an ongoing debate with my own mom.

Phrases like, “Well, I did xyz with you and you turned out fine…” “That’s how we did it when you were a baby…” are commonplace in our abode these days. More often than not, I try to dodge my mom’s comments, not out disrespect, but to avoid the head-butting with my mom on modern childrearing practices.

It’s a slippery slope having my mom around and being such an active part of our childrearing. It’s one aspect of this journey where we consider ourselves extremely lucky, but it goes without saying that we “pay” in many different ways. We often combat cultural conflicts amidst all the other interesting scenarios, which to me, is the most torturous trivial.

In almost all cases, yes, my mother knows best.

In cases where my kid is concerned, I’m trying my damnedest to learn what’s best.
Without sounding like a self-righteous a-hole, I have to tread lightly and remind my mom that it’s not the 70s.

According to Dr. Sears,

many practices that were common three decades ago are now known– and proven– to be unhealthy, maybe even dangerous to an infant.

If I did everything my mom told me I should do, I’d be feeding him water regularly instead of breastfeeding on demand, putting him asleep on his belly, starting him on solids (in the bottle) at 3 weeks old, exercising his nose daily (?!), keeping him indoors until May and gnawing on an eggroll. (just kidding about that last one)

While these aren’t necessarily bad, they’re not things that we want to do. Just like all the opinion-givers, my mom means well. What’s proven to be difficult is explaining this to someone who has many more years aboard the mothership– just a different fleet.

People, I have never claimed to be a purveyor of all things baby. In fact, I have no clue what I’m doing most of the time. What I’m learning through this process is to trust my maternal instincts and follow up with a little reading.

Where my kid is concerned, I can’t wing it. At the very least, I owe it to my kid to do my homework.

I’m glad I trusted my instinct and was so relieved when I read this:

There is no exact science to introducing solids. Just do your best to follow your baby’s cues about when to increase the amount of solids, and take care to ensure that breastmilk remains baby’s primary source of nutrition for the first year.

Jack was probably about 1 month old when my mom began telling me he “looks” like he needs to start solids. Not sure what the “look” was, but she would tell me daily that it’s “time” and that if he ate solids earlier, he’d sleep through the night, among other things.

1) solids + sleeping through the night= not necessarily true
2) that would’ve disrupted my supply/Jack’s feeding patterns
3) it’s WAY too early
4) it’s been proven that introducing solids too early leads to allergies and digestive issues

In terms of dealing with my mom’s suggestion to do certain things that were once common practice, it’s hard to explain what I really don’t know. But what I do know is that our pediatrician and many other pediatricians recommend breastfeeding for at least one year and cereal and solids should start right around 6 months. Our ped suggested that we could introduce rice cereal at the 5 month mark mixed with breastmilk.

To my mom’s excitement, we recently introduced rice cereal. It’s still not a part of his daily routine, as much as it is an experiment and introduction to new textures. We mix a tablespoon of cereal in with expressed breastmilk to give him a taste of what’s to come.

All kids are different; that, we know. So, this is how we came to decide what was right for our kid.

Why delay solids?

These were our top reasons:

  • It is now estimated that as many as 8% of children under the age of 3 have some sort of food allergy, and 11 million Americans are thought to be allergic to some sort of food related product.

  • It has also been suggested that children born by Caesarean section, which have risen 40 percent in the last decade, could be at higher risk for allergies, perhaps because their bodies are never exposed to the healthy bacteria in their mothers’ birth canals.

  • More than 25% of the global population reportedly suffers in some capacity from a functional gastrointestinal or motility disorder.

Jeff is one of the 25% that suffers from gastrointestinal issues. With almost daily occurrences of discomfort –which has made routine activities for us like, public transportation, dining in the city and even camping difficult– Jeff was a big advocate for the delay of solids.

Allergies of all kind run in my family. My younger brother was told at the height of his allergy outbreaks that he was “allergic to the world.” There were days that he could hardly function because he itched from hair follicle down to his pinky toe. For years at a time, his life would be disrupted because of these severe allergic outbreaks. Sometimes, he’d take up to 8 showers a day just to make the pain go away.

Why was he allergic to the most mundane things like dust, chemicals in personal grooming products, shellfish and wheat? We’re not exactly sure. But what the drs did tell us was medication with steroids would control the outbreaks and improve his quality of life. It was a double-edged sword: suffer through the pain of severe allergies or take steroids daily to curb the pain. The “lesser” of two evils was him taking lots of meds. Now that he’s in his mid 20s, things have been under control and he seems to rely on medication much less.

With Jack already showing skin-related issues, it reminds me how much my brother has suffered with allergies. If there was any way I could impede the same fate on my baby, I am willing to do so.

And of course, all of this goes without saying that what we think is right for our kid doesn’t mean it’s right for every kid.

In fact, Jack’s pediatrician recommended to not watch the calendar but instead, watch our baby. He will let us know that he’s ready for solids. By the end of his 3rd month, Jack was staring at us when we ate dinner. He knew something was going on, and that he wasn’t a part of it. When Jack and I recently visited Jeff at work, we had lunch with some coworkers in the conference room. Jack sat on my lap as I shoved bites of a sandwich in my mouth. One coworker could not believe that Jack was not grabbing for my sandwich. That was another sure sign that we knew he wasn’t developmentally ready for solids.

Thankfully, the kid has a clean bill of health, it’s up to us to preserve that.

In many cultures, introducing solids is a crowning achievement and a huge developmental milestone. The introduction of solids is a big milestone. But Jeff and I wondered, what’s the hurry?
In this journal, I read that cultural belief correlates with infant feeding practices. The author hypothesized that compared to Asian American mothers, Anglo-American mothers would have a greater incidence and duration of breast feeding, would delay the introduction of solid foods and would rely on professional sources of information regarding infant feeding practices.

Like many new to this game, we have our challenges of being new parents and making decisions for our kids. Because we value friends and families’ insight and advice, that can often cloud our own judgment. And just like many other families, we have the cultural aspect and the importance of observing our kid’s multiculturalism. Today it’s the solids, tomorrow it’ll be something else.

And so, we begin the dance of the solids.