When The Baby was born, she was big. I mean BIG. She weighed 9lb 9oz, was 53cm long and had a head so big it would struggle to emerge from the Channel Tunnel, let alone my vagina. OK, so it was 38cm, but still, 38cm. She was in the 91st or 98th centile for each measurement.
So when, at eleven weeks, and again at twenty weeks, her weight had dropped into the 75th centile, I was a little relieved that she wasn’t attempting to maintain these barrelesque proportions. At thirty weeks, she had dropped into the 50th centile, and this concerned me a little. So last week, when I took her to be weighed, I asked for her to be measured too, to make sure she was still growing well. She was, it looks like she will be tall and slim. As her mother I am in no position to be jealous or resentful of this.
I spoke to the health visitor regarding The Baby’s eating. I had started to feed her baby rice at around eighteen weeks in an attempt to fill her up and thus induce longer sleeping periods. I managed to wait almost until she was the recommended six months before introducing other solid food. I started with mashed potato; she loved it and wolfed it down. I introduced other mashed vegetables, along with pureed fruit, porridge and yogurt (not all at the same time, but I doubt The Baby would have minded either way). The Baby couldn’t get enough. She ate whatever was offered. A month or so after introducing solids, I started to leave more lumps in her food, encouraging her to bite and chew. I gave her toast for breakfast and made sandwiches at lunch. She never had a problem, she took to the whole eating thing like the proverbial duck to water.
Until a few weeks ago, that is, when she decided that veg was vile, fish was foul, and porridge was putrid. In fact, the only thing she would entertain eating was Petit Filous yogurts. She wouldn’t eat anything given to her at nursery (other than Angel Delight), and anything I or The Boyfriend tried to offer was met with a symphony of raspberry-blowing and melodramatics that would rival those of Greta Garbo. What had happened to our good little eater? What could we do, other than ensure an industrial-sized stock of fromage frais was always on hand?
I told the health visitor of the mealtime tantrums, of the refusal to eat anything containing even half a vitamin. She asked me if we had followed baby-led weaning. I told her we hadn’t due to the fact that on the occasion we had decided to let The Baby feed herself, her eyes, hair and the rest of the room were dressed in the food that was meant for her mouth. It had never been successful, and surely the point of feeding is that feeding actually takes place, as opposed to redecoration.
This, the health visitor told me, was where I had gone wrong. Gone wrong! Thanks, lady, like I don’t feel crap as it is. What we need to do, said the health visitor, is allow The Baby more independence when it comes to feeding. What we need to do, said the health visitor, is let The Baby explore the different textures, different colours and tastes, all by herself. What we need to do, I thought, is to buy several hundred metres of plastic floor and wall covering.
Despite my cynicism, I decided to fully embrace this new approach, and we started that night with the baby-led feeding. The Boyfriend peeled and chopped cucumber, tomato and avocado, and along with some grilled chicken, we put the food on the high-chair tray and allowed her to feed herself dinner. By the end of the meal (which took ten times as long as it did when she was spoon-fed), the bowl we used to pick the bits of chucked-around food was fuller than the bowl we had taken in containing her dinner. How could she possibly have had enough to eat when I was wearing more food than had hit her stomach?
We have persevered with it. Occasionally she eats well and obviously enjoys it. Other times, like today for instance, she derives more pleasure in picking the food up, squeezing it in her tiny paws until it oozes out the gaps between her fingers, and flinging it as far as she can see, than actually eating the stuff. She very often adopts the A-list approach to food: put it in ones mouth, chew three times, spit it out. All the taste, no calories. Fine if you’re Ms Beckham, not so if you’re a growing ten month old baby. I have to admit she is eating (well, chewing) more vegetables than she had in a long time. She is also eating chicken, beef and she enjoys pasta, which she never used to. I am convinced she doesn’t eat as much as she needs to, but I’ll never see her go hungry; the fridge is still stocked to the brim with Petit Filous. I will make sure her tiny stomach is filled before bed, even if it is only with strawberry flavoured yogurt.