Last week we took a step and started giving Emma rice cereal. She seemed to love it – we propped her up in her high chair (she can’t sit yet) and made some Cream-of-Wheat consistency rice pablum (Milupa brand). With great anticipation, we gave her a spoonful. From then on she seemed to gobble it down. We kept feeding it to her once a day for five days. Then I had a change of heart.
Kellymom.com is one of my favourite resources for breastfeeding. It touches on every aspect of breastfeeding, from the very first time, to extended nursing (even five year olds!), pumping, ages and stages etc. So I went there when I decided to do some research into solids. Most magazines and books say that starting solids between 4-6 months is fine, given a few developmental signs in your baby: can sit up with support; is interested in food on the table; has doubled birth weight; lost tongue-thrust reflex; can hold head up. Emma can do all of these things. But out of the five times we fed her, only one or two times was she actually "eating" properly. Of course, I know that learning to eat from a spoon is a new skill she’s learning, but I know my baby, and she wasn’t ready for cereal. She appeared ready, but she wasn’t really. How do I know? Mother’s instinct. I couldn’t really put it on paper but I just know she wasn’t ready.
About a month ago, I felt like we were finally settling into a nice pattern of nursing and sleeping. Emma was usually going for a 6 hour stretch at night, and sometimes up to 8 or 9 hours. Then she suddenly started waking up for her 11pm dreamfeed. Then again at 2. And 4. And 6. After a few days, it settled into her waking at 11, 3 and 6. This was the same time that we both had bad colds, so I thought it was because she was sick that she was needing more milk. Her weight also dropped slightly the week she was sick. And I felt (physically) like my milk was down, maybe due to being sick. So after 2 weeks of constant waking, we tried cereal. After 5 days of cereal, her night wakings were the same, and her daytime nursing was settling into a pattern again. So we stopped the cereal, and her pattern stayed the same. So the cereal wasn’t doing anything for her in terms of giving her a boost to sleep more at night. And I would rather just nurse her an extra time or two than start foods before she’s really ready. And so, with the extra nursing, my milk is back up and Emma continues to be the happy, hyper baby that she is.
But there’s more to it than that. Why did she suddenly start waking up at 4 months? I’ve heard of lots of other babies having the same thing, and a number of their parents also started solids at the same time, to help with that. I did some digging (as I am known to do) and read many different articles and opinions on why it’s better to delay solids. Around 4 months babies become very aware of the world around them, and therefore incredibly distractible, even during nursing. I find that during the day, if I’m not nursing Emma in a quiet room and holding her hand, she is constantly trying to look for the different noises, touching everything within sight, kicking, talking (yes, with a boob in her mouth) and generally doing everthing but eating. So when nighttime comes along, her little body wakes up because she hasn’t eaten enough during the day. She also seemed to be going through a growth spurt that coincided with her cold. When a baby goes through a growth spurt, it’s not that she suddenly eats and eats and gains a bunch of weight at once. She demands more nursing to increase mom’s milk supply. This can go on for a week even, and it feels like constant nursing sessions. But once mom’s milk catches up to the demand, the pattern settles down again. But it’s not that after the growth spurt Emma’s back to drinking what she was before. No, mom’s milk has increased, in volume and calories. So even though she may be back to her 3.5 hour eating habits, she taking in more per feeding.
So we’ve settled into a new pattern. Emma really stretched out her own feedings during the day to about 3.5 to 4 hours. And sometimes, even after 4 hours, she isn’t demanding to be fed, so I just pick her up and feed her anyway. Sometimes I feed her after only 2 hours. I really try to follow her cues and just enjoy our nursing times. She doesn’t bite anymore (even with 2 teeth!) so that hasn’t been a problem… she does have another tooth on the way though! And she’s only waking once or twice in the night again, which I can handle, because she started taking wonderful, 2 hour naps during the day! I have truly found that when I worry about what I’m doing with her and try to read too much, or make her "fit" into the models presented in books and magazines, I get more frustrated and worked up and then the worry compounds itself. When I relax, go about the day, pray about it, and listen to God, Emma, and myself, things work themselves out.