I browse a number of websites for parents of premature babies, and the topic of “when should I start my premature baby on solids” comes up time and again. Some people believe you should go by corrected age, others feel that actual age is appropriate because prem babies are digesting milk from very soon after birth. However, regardless of which side you take, the fact remains that if your baby is not ready to eat, no amount of coaxing and saying “yum, yum!” is going to help.
When Talia was not thriving on just breast milk, I consulted the lactation consultants from the NICU, who suggested I start Talia on solids at 4 months corrected (7 months actual) rather than offer formula. What a joke! Talia was nowhere near ready to start, and my efforts only ended in frustration for me and bewilderment for for my baby. In contrast, she took to the formula like it was nectar of the gods.
Time passed, and every few days or so I would patiently offer up a spoonful of Farex. Perhaps if I’d tried it myself I might have realised how unlikely Talia was to ever show any interest in it. Her expressions of disgust said it all.
I lovingly cooked up pear, sweet potato and pumpkin, pureed it and froze it into ice cubes. I could sneak a smidgeon past her lips – but no more and no further. I expanded the repertoire to include apple, carrot and potato, and suddenly she would eat a cube, and I would think “yes, we are making progress”… but then she would reject the exact same fruit or vegetable the following day.
Somewhere around 6 months corrected (9 months actual) Talia started to accept about 1-2 cubes per day. I had a hit with pumpkin and avocado, figured out how to put peas and corn through the sieve and was starting to feel I was making progress, although it was hardly going to put any weight on her compared to the formula, and her tongue reflex was still strong, so I was spooning in food then having it pushed straight back out again, even when she seemed to enjoy the flavour.
Then, at almost 7 months, something clicked for Talia. Maybe it was when I started to blend more flavours, maybe it was the introduction of roast chicken or maybe it was just the way the planets were aligned, but suddenly she wanted MORE FOOD and she wanted it NOW.
In the last week, Talia has eaten 3 or 4 meals a day, including at least 2 with meat and veg. (She seems to prefer this to fruit, either mashed with milk, with farex or with yoghurt). She demands to be fed, and leans forward with mouth open to take the next spoonful. It goes in and it stays in – and the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. I had her weighed on Monday and she’d put on 405g in 2 weeks. Not bad for a baby who regularly put on only 30g/week on breastmilk.
I feel as if a difficult chapter of Talia’s journey – the section where I worried myself to the point of depression about her lack of weight gain – is finally over. At the same time, our breastfeeding routine has dropped down to one feed per day, first thing in the morning. Its days are numbered, and I feel a tinge of sadness that this part of our relationship will soon be over, but I am happier to let it go knowing that Talia is making progress in other areas.