Feeding Solids

Baby will be eight months old next week which means he’ll have been eating solid foods for half his life. Below is some advice I feel I can give based on our experience. Per the recommendation of his pediatrician, we started introducing purees when he was four months old. This will differ for every child, so please trust the advice of your doctor instead of a random person on the Internet.

We made the decision to start him at four months because baby was getting very interested in what we were eating, was able to sit up with assistance, and just generally thought he was a way older baby so wanted to eat solids NOW, dammit! He’s been a champion eater since he came out of the womb, and his journey with solid foods has been no different. If it were up to him, he’d be bellying up to the table with us at every meal and have kissed bottles good-bye already. We have yet to find a food that he won’t eat (seriously) including fish, mushrooms, beets, corn on the cob, tikka masala… he’s a goat. A really cute, messy goat.

  • The Internet can be a scary place when it comes to information about introducing solids. Some people get absolutely militant about baby led weaning (BLW), some people are terrified of their kids choking and only feed purees for the first year, some people read about all the metals found recently in baby foods and put off introducing solids as long as possible. Protect your mental health when sourcing info! Make sure it’s coming from a reputable source, make sure you’re truthful with your doctor and aren’t afraid to ask questions, and be prepared to unfollow the trendy baby food Instagram accounts, if needed.
  • I wish we had registered for those silicone bibs with the built in food-catching trough. I figured “meh, a bib’s a bib” but WRONG-O, new mom self. The journey from spoon or hand to actual digestion is a chasm greater than the Grand Canyon. The more comfortable baby gets with non-purees, the more food will end up in their lap, on the floor, and under the cushions of their high chair. The more you can catch in their bib, the less you’ll be scraping off the floor after baby has gone to bed. Still pregnant Natalies, add these to your registries!
  • Incorporate baby’s food into how you already eat. If you loathe cooking, don’t put the pressure on yourself to make all of your kid’s food homemade. If Friday night is sacred pizza delivery time for you and your partner, start letting baby suck on the crusts or pick off a few olives and squish them up for baby to try. If it’s daunting to think of new foods to puree, or you don’t have a food processor, think of already soft foods you don’t have to transform after you get home. Items like avocado, ricotta cheese (lower in sodium than other cheeses!) canned pumpkin, yogurt, etc. are baby friendly right out of the package & you can eat them, too.
  • I won’t be giving any advice on introducing allergens because that’s medical grade info I’m unqualified to preach to you about!
  • Start with a little, then add more if they eat it. If you scramble a whole egg for baby, only put a bite or two on their high chair tray. If they eat it, give them some more. Until you know they’ll eat the whole thing, you end up wasting a bunch of food because it’s not that appetizing to eat the remainder after a baby has glommed all over it. Similarly, I’ll plan my breakfast and baby’s together. If I know he’s good for half an egg, I’ll set aside the other half- not covered in baby drool- to eat with my toast. If your baby is like mine, they’ll be more interested in eating if they see you eating along with them.
  • Pack snacks in your diaper bag when you’re going on outings. Even if you read Bringing Up Bebe and don’t believe in giving kids snacks between meals, as they get more active, they’re harder to keep entertained at a restaurant booth or in the car. Have some rice teethers, one of those puree pouches, or even pickles (our kid loves sucking on pickles on road trips) packed with you to give them something to work on. They’ll develop hand-to-mouth skills and keep quiet for longer!
  • Your dining area will get messy. Your kid will get messy. There will be food waste as your child learns to not open their hand over open air and let food fall. You’re gonna need to breathe and try to accept these things. You can look at this as a fun opportunity to teach baby the lifelong skill and enjoyment of eating! You’re both learning together. There will be times when baby grabs the spoon and really wants to feed themselves, but ends up with peanut butter yogurt in their hair, or rubs their sleepy eyes with a hand covered in applesauce. Accept that there are a lot more baths in your future, and keep some baby washcloths near the sink so you can do a post-meal wipe down.

Baby Towels

You know what you don’t need? Baby towels.

Sure, they’re adorable because they come with little corner pocket hoods that make your kid look like a duck or a dinosaur.

But you know what I bet you already have? Towels. Regular-sized towels that won’t outgrow your kid in six months.

Take baby towels off your registries, still pregnant people, and add wipes (can never have too many) or restaurant gift cards for you or straight cash money instead.

Kids’ Music

Our tyke has always loved music, and he’s started to bop along and “dance” so I’m dead from the adorableness. A friend of mine introduced us to Raffi, who I’d never heard of previously, and now he’s a frequent Spotify play in our house on the Alexa/ government listening device.

Raffi is hokey kids’ music- I’ve already got all the lyrics down to “Banana Phone”!- but our son loves it, so I guess this type of music exists for a reason. So many pregnancy advice books told me to find a song we could play to the kid in utero that would be his favorite when he burst forth, but we’re not hugely musical people and never found the “right” one. Poor kid did listen to “Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande at least 100 times during my pregnancy, though, so maybe we should revisit it??

I try to play him Fleetwood Mac and Simon & Garfunkel and his dad plays him The Beatles a lot because… I don’t know, we’re trying to culture him? Make him a really cool, old soul seven-month-old? Or probably because he’s too young and impressionable to actually be exposed to my garbage music preferences of Fall Out Boy songs popular in high school, explicit Cardi B, and “Bulls on Parade.” I should play him the Space Jam soundtrack more since that’s hands down the best movie soundtrack of all time.

Babies do love a full musical performance, so if you know the lyrics, I can recommend ELO and Meatloaf, though you’ll feel positively ancient and that you’ve already turned into the embarrassing parent you promised yourself you wouldn’t be. So, Raffi. Thanks, Rachael, for the music tip. I now pass it along to you, dear reader.

Peri Bottle Uses

I thought most people had heard of this, but occasionally I’ll talk to a new parent whose mind is blown when I pass on this advice, so now it’s going on the blog for all to access!

Hang on to your peri bottle after you no longer need it for it’s intended use,** and utilize it during your baby’s baths. It’s great for gently washing shampoo out of their hair without dumping water down their face, and it’s a lifesaver to spray out all the hidden milk/drool that accumulates under their chin(s). Now that my son is older and more playful during bath time, he thinks it’s hilarious to get sprayed in the face with it.

Shout out to previous guest poster Morgan for the tip that peri bottles can also be fun, cheap toddler toys! Let them use it to squirt the driveway on a hot summer day– you can “draw” smiley faces, their names, etc. onto the cement. It dries quickly, then repeat, because repetition to the point of insanity is what kids are best at.

**If you’ve yet to give birth, the hospital provides you with a peri bottle to use during your stay and to take home (Frida Mom also makes a popular version.) Because things are probably, um, super delicate (sore, enflamed, possibly torn, gnarly as hell) down there, you can’t immediately resume your normal toilet paper routine. The peri bottle is a way to gently clean yourself without making matters worse. TIP: fill it with lukewarm to skin temperature water unless you want quite the *shivers down the spine* downstairs wake up. Leave it to the Tucks pads or padsicles to provide you cooling relief, if needed.

Baby Sleep

The real, actual Natalie texted me this weekend– not pics of her kid, as I would have appreciated, not to ask how I’m doing as a person, but to demand “Do a sleep blog next.” Apparently her baby is a pretty good sleeper, she’s just “curious about your experience.” And I didn’t even pay her to say that! So here we go. Baby sleep: a touchy subject for anyone going through the absolute hell of sleepless nights.

People tell you babies don’t sleep well (but shouldn’t they be really great at it because they need so much of it??) It’s one of those things pre-motherhood that I conceptually had knowledge of, but truly had no idea about until living through it. I’d had a few nights of little sleep in college, we’d be fine- right? IT WASN’T FINE.

Day one, my kid didn’t sleep. We even asked one of the nurses, “He should nap at some point, right?” She said on their first day of life, things are kind of exciting out of the womb so it wasn’t that unusual. Him not napping on the second day should have been a red flag. Him not sleeping for the next four months was truly hell. My brand became Exhausted Mom Who Complains About How Exhausted She Is on Instagram. It wasn’t cute. But when you’re going through it, when you’re falling asleep during middle of the night feedings and don’t feel safe operating a vehicle during the day because you’ve had so little sleep, you don’t care about cute.

“It’ll get better.” It’s what we heard from everyone. When? HOW?! How do I make it better tonight?? We tried all kinds of swaddles, we tried rocking, we tried him in a bassinet, we tried him in a cradle, we bought online sleep courses, and he slept way more nights on his Boppy than the “don’t let your baby sleep on this” tag on the Boppy Lounger would allow. Just never a great night of sleep. He’d be up every 2-3 hours to eat, long after everyone including his pediatrician said he should be able to make it much longer than that. After eating, he wouldn’t exactly conk immediately back out. Plus he had bad reflux, so we were instructed to hold him upright for 20 minutes after eating.

The longest stretch we once got was four hours, then it didn’t happen again. On the worst night, he was up crying about every 45 minutes (so never really sleeping) and I lost. my. shit. I entered our guest room, where my husband was attempting to get some sleep before work, sobbing so hard he thought something really horrible had happened to the baby. Headaches from lack of sleep were my constant companion. He wasn’t clocking a ton of daytime nap hours, so I truly was concerned that this kid was missing out on very important sleep.

I spent so much time awake at night with him thinking there’s no way in the world we could ever have another child because I didn’t want to experience this again. When you haven’t slept, everything else goes to shit. Lack of sleep absolutely contributed to my postpartum anxiety. My husband and I would do shifts between our room with the baby and the guest room, and I stewed in resentments towards him at 4 a.m. that he was in there getting good sleep because he had a job to report to in the mornings.

There’s not really glamorous advice for this period of your life, other than to ask for help and prioritize getting sleep when you can. If you have relatives or a neighbor who can watch the baby so you can attempt a nap during the day, don’t feel bad making the ask. It will make you proud and sad how you’re able to adapt and function on so much less than you ever thought possible.

Things did change for us at four months we when decided to try the Ferber Method. There’s many kinds of sleep training, and there’s many vocal opponents of it online, but it’s what worked for us. Our kid took to it so much more quickly than we’d imagined, and it completely changed our lives. As my husband said about a week in, “If there was a Ferber Foundation, I’d give them all of my money.” (If someone from the real or imaginary Ferber Foundation is reading this– that was a joke. You cannot have our money.)

We transitioned him to a Merlin Magic Sleep Suit at about three months, and while it wasn’t the panacea everyone promised it would be, it did help him create a sleep association with being put in it before sleep. He now sleeps in a sleep sack at nights and clocks about 11 hours at night with 3-4 naps during the day. It was absolute hell to get here, but like so many other things with parenting, the only way out is through. It’s not like we could give him back to the hospital because we’d created a sleep-hating demon (a cute one, at least) so we just did what we had to do. If you’re currently where we were and know me IRL, I’m not joking when I say you can shoot me a text and I will come hold your baby while you sleep. If you’ve got a guest bedroom, I can even do some night hours if they’re drinking out of a bottle (though that might cost you a six-pack of beer as payment.)

The One Your Partner Needs To Read

We have our VERY FIRST GUEST POST, YA’LL. Today’s knowledge is being dropped by Morgan, resident mom to us new moms because she had a kid first AND THEN another one *scary ghost hands to face emoji* She’s the wise old soul that shows up at your house with pizza and alcohol to listen to how it’s really going. (She did that! For me!) I told her she could write about whatever she wanted because her well of advice is vast and deep, and she chose to address your dear, sweet partner. Maybe passive aggressively send your partner the link to this if it resonates with you!

Hello to the partner who did not physically birth the baby yourself; this one’s for you.

I want to start by acknowledging that your life has completely changed. Your experiences that come with this baby are difficult. Your feelings on this change are valid. But I also want you to know that the birthing person is experiencing those feelings and navigating those changes on hormonal steroids. 

You both now serve at the pleasure of the baby. Mom is Chief of Staff and you’re a staff member. Because you’re probably a millennial, you want me to get to the “list.” I will cut off the 16 paragraph intro to the “best-chili-you’ve-ever-had!!” recipe here and get to it. 

  1.  Don’t make your partner ask for what she needs. Get used to looking for what she or the baby needs and just doing it.

That’s it. That’s the list. 

To drive it home, here are a few suggestions:

  • Is there a dirty bottle or pump parts somewhere? Clean them as this is now your JOB. 
  • Does baby need a diaper change? You’re on it. 
  • Is mom’s water bottle full? We become a dog in Pavlov’s experiment when it comes to nursing and needing our hospital-issued water bottle. 
  • Speaking of nursing the baby – is it taking an hour each time? Can you clean a bathroom or massage mom’s shoulders while they work that latch? If baby is bottle fed, can you do this feeding? (You can!)
  • Did someone drop off a gift for baby yesterday? Write the thank you note and put it in the mail. 
  • Do you have a plan for dinner tonight? Start thawing the enchiladas your coworkers sent over BEFORE it’s 6 p.m. and everyone is starving. 

But she won’t let me help!

Help anyway. There is a strong narrative out there that partners don’t always know how to help moms during this transition. Or baby only wants mom. Help anyway. 

To be clear, mom may have legitimate postpartum anxiety. She may overbear, not allowing another to handle baby’s needs. Whether anecdotally in my own and friends’ experiences or scientifically speaking, postpartum syndromes are real and serious. The hormonal plummet that occurs in those first weeks is the subject of much research and has given rise to some amazing Instagram communities. Research shows 80% of mothers have some form of the baby blues (which in my opinion is an incredibly diminutive term). PPD and PPA are prevalent and warrant attention and conversation. In fact, it’s likely mom may need your help identifying and working through these conditions. But that’s an entirely different blog post.  And if the above rings true, it’s all the more reason to start honing your ability to read the room. Take the initiative because you truly have the ability to make things a little easier on the people you love during this time. 

Bonus Tip: Do not suggest that baby is hungry every time he fusses. Especially if his saint of a mother just got done feeding him 10 minutes ago. 

Current Faves

My son is in the babbling, active, “this is so fun!” phase at 5.5 months right before he learns to crawl and upends our lives. Here’s some things that he’s recently been loving and/or have been super helpful as his parent. Again, not affiliate links because I just don’t care.

  • Dr. Brown’s Formula Mixing Pitcher– How you feed your baby is you + their doctor’s business. If it involves formula, I can’t recommend enough this pitcher. It saves so much time to make a bulk batch of food instead of mixing individual bottles, plus you can pour out just a bit at a time for a top off or refill instead of making a whole bottle. At first I was like, “Uhhh can I use a regular pitcher?” Which, you could, but this one has the ounces printed on the side for easy measuring + a special mixer handle that really gets the formula incorporated vs. a giant spoon or whatever you’d have to use if you just pull out the ol’ lemonade pitcher from the cupboard.
  • Jumperoo– Fairly certain I birthed a toddler instead of a cuddly, lazy infant. This kid has been trying to move since day one, so my parents gifted him this apparatus for Christmas, and it’s increasingly been a lifesaver since. The music buttons aren’t overly annoying (and have an off switch if you don’t agree with me!), and there’s 360 degrees of stuff he can put in his mouth, stare at, and spin. What I especially like about the one I linked over other exersaucers is that it’s suspended in the air so he can also fling himself back and forth horizontally instead of only vertically jumping up and down. For an already rough and tumble kid, he’s getting the feeling of being Crash Bandicoot while still safe and snug so I don’t have to be right there engaging with him.
  • Wonder Weeks app- New parents! Your baby develops in mental and sensory leaps, and The Wonder Weeks has all the info about them. I’m notoriously cheap and rarely pay for phone apps, but this is one I reference often and was definitely worth the one time price of $4.99. It’s uncannily spot on with whatever baby is going through at the time. Our sweet, cooing baby turned into a non-stop fuss machine last week, so I pulled out the app and sure enough, he’s smack in the middle of the “Fussy Phase” of his fifth leap. The Wonder Weeks info not only makes me feel like I’m not going insane (other babies around the world go through this phase, too! Put down the wine!) but it also helps my husband and I better relate to what’s changing in baby’s world. The app has suggestions for how you can help engage them in play to develop whatever it is they’re currently learning about the world.

Pockets

If you don’t yet have sweatpants with pockets for your postpartum period, get thee to your local store (or, you know, Amazon. But support local!!) A robe with pockets, hoodies with pockets– you’re gonna need a lot of pockets. I have one pair of comfy sweats sans pockets and one with two; I don’t need to tell you which I prefer wearing.

Your hands are going to be full of a baby that 1) you’re terrified of dropping and/or 2) doesn’t have control of their motor functions and is prone to jerking nearly onto the floor. You will need pockets for bottles, pacifiers, your phone, snacks, tissues… all of those supplementary baby things that shouldn’t take priority in your hands over your actual child.

You WILL start to amaze yourself with all the things you can carry at once, and once you get some confidence you might even start stacking things on baby… within reason, of course. An empty water bottle balancing on baby’s chest while you’re carefully carrying them down the stairs isn’t going to hurt anybody. Reminder to not carry hot things and baby at the same time: always set baby down and then go get your coffee cup.

Interview with a Dad

My friend’s wife is a Natalie (due next month!) and he’s been tweeting some half-joking-but-probably-also-serious cries for help. My dear husband, who is as private as I am shameless, has agreed to a little interview to share what he’s learned over the past five months. This interview is pretty heteronormative; perhaps interviews with non- married/ straight/ WASP-y/ Midwestern people will come in the future!

What’s your biggest piece of advice for new dads during the birth?

Just be supportive. Be adaptable. A lot can change from when you enter the hospital to when you leave that you can’t control, so roll with the punches.

What’s your favorite thing about being a dad?

Waking up and spending time with him. As of this week, really playing with him. (Mom note: He has gotten so much more interactive! It can be hard to engage when they don’t really smile at you for the first two months, but it’s coming.)

What’s the worst part about having a kid?

Not sleeping. And the fact that most places don’t even have paternity leave. You’re just expected to go to work the next day.

What was your paternity leave situation? Was it enough? What were your thoughts when you went back to work?

One week that my boss made up for me. He said to tell HR I was working from home, if they asked. No, it wasn’t enough– I was too tired to be driving into work! It was weird being away when you’ve been with the baby every day before that.

What’s been the most surprising part about being a father?

Nothing really surprising, just stuff you know is coming but you can’t prepare for & then you’re actually living it. Like, you’re told about all these things, but until you live them you don’t really know what they’re like.

What do you wish you knew before becoming a dad?

I don’t know. I feel like I haven’t found any secrets. <– that means he’s done with this charade. It was good while it lasted, dear. Thank you for your reticent participation.