Ah, the magical time in an infant's life when they get to try solid foods. Parent’s first glimpse into the minefield that is Feeding Your Kid. Also known as the third item (behind breastfeeding and sleep training) on the list of things about which parents like to judge each other. Our baby girl is starting solids this month and boy does that bring back memories.
The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend only breastmilk (or formula) until 6mo. In 2005 they changed their position to state that complementary foods could be introduced between 4 and 8 months, depending on the particular infant. If you ask the internet when you should start to feed your baby solid foods, you will be given the conflicting advice to either start between 4-6 months or wait until after 6mo. Also, if you don’t start before/wait until after 6mo you are ruining your child, you heartless monster.
We started our older son on solids shortly after 4mo. Our pediatrician recommended it, our son did fine. Around 5mo I attended a “make your own baby food” class at a breastfeeding resource center near my home. Out of around 15 parents there, I was the ONLY one who was (or who had admitted to) starting solids before 6mo. During the introduction portion, when I said we had started solids at 4mo on the advice of our pediatrician, the guy next to me actually laughed. At me.
WOAH there, Daddy McJudgypants. Who, by the way, has brought 10 month old baby McJudgypants to a class that runs from 8-9:30 pm. Oh yes, I went there. I am not only a better parent than you, but also a better parent judger. You may be a heartless monster but I am a better heartless monster.
See how quickly these things can escalate?
I was really upset after this class, both by the jerk next to me and because this really hammered home for me that no one knows what the heck they are doing. With the exception of a few key issues (e.g. don’t shake your baby) we are all making this up as we go along. As a new parent, I wanted a definitive answer about everything. What do you MEAN I have to decide if I am ruining my child by letting him cry or by not letting him cry? How am I supposed to make that decision with no experience and everyone giving conflicting advice? What if I make the wrong call and then I am the heartless monster?
How am I going to justify my parenting decisions when someone accuses me of doing the wrong thing?
I have to say that for me, it is only with the luxury of time and experience that I have gained the confidence to brush off implications that I am making parenting mistakes. It was great for me to watch our friends with kids make different parenting decisions than we did. What do you know, their kids are fine. Huh. Perhaps the mom who lets her kid watch a bit of TV to unwind isn’t a heartless monster after all. Twenty-five years ago my mother in law mixed rice cereal into her babies' bottles the night they came home from the hospital. She loved her kids just as much as I love mine. I expect in another twenty-five years our kids will be advised to feed our grandbabies only avocado mixed with space-seaweed starting at 13.5 weeks exactly. These decisions are important, but we can only do the best we can with the information we have at the time.
My advice to new parents* is do the best research you can, and then go with what you think is right. You are the only one in charge, and if you are actually worrying about these things chances are you are doing a great job.
Besides, the people who question your decisions probably only let their kids play with gender-stereotyping toys and don’t buy organic grapes. They are totally heartless monsters.
*please humor me and pretend you asked