31 March 2012, by Tan Yi Lin
Weaning. There’s so much to say about it. Now, where do I start?
It’s tempting to launch straight into a laundry list of food that Coco is eating but before that, let’s talk about TIMING.
(I know, it’s not the most creative of sub-titles but it’s 11.52pm on a Sunday night and my brain got fried under the sun today)
People used to ask me how long I intended to breastfeed Coco for. Beyond fulfilling the six months recommended by medical experts and supporters of total breastfeeding, I didn’t really have a ready answer for anyone.
I am fortunate that the process of weaning fell neatly in place, although it wasn’t exactly due to clever planning on my part.
It turned out that I had two overseas trips scheduled for March: a short vacation to Bali followed closely by a work trip to Melbourne and Sydney, which I just returned from on Thursday. So I took the first day of my Australia trip as my target wean-by date, reasons being:
(i) I was already expressing twice daily at work. I simply did not have the time to increase the number of pumping sessions during the day. Nor did I want to interrupt my nightly sleep to pump and be a zombie at work the next day. So it would have been difficult to build up enough stock prior to my work trip to take Coco through five days of my absence. Plus, pumping was starting to feel like a real chore.
(ii) You need a huge amount of discipline to decline a hungry and fussy baby the boob. It was just too tempting to put her to my breast whenever it was time for a feed, especially at 7 in the morning or at midnight. It was easier to harden my heart and refuse her the boob with 6,000km between us.
(iii) Coco was a milk monster and downing close to 200ml of breast milk per feed. I was always concerned that she wouldn’t have enough.
(iv) I was sick of being limited to nursing-friendly outfits. Well, that’s not a good reason for weaning, but hey, I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t a reason – be it good or not.
Coco turned six months old in February. Come March, I started tuning down supply by pumping only to relieve pressure and replacing some breast milk feeds with formula feeds (we went with ‘Nan’). Being on partial breastfeeding when travelling to Bali with Coco was advantageous because I could enjoy the convenience of nursing (such as on the plane) while not worrying about not being able to meet Coco’s demand because she was, by then, used to drinking formula. By the time I set off for Australia, I could rest assured that Coco would be totally fine drinking formula only and that my supply was low enough for me to get through a full day of meetings without having to pump midway.
The timing also worked out well for another reason: Coco sprouted two little teeth – and boy was she eager to use them:
Okay, the bite marks look worse than they really were. Those happened BEFORE her teeth actually emerged so the redness is just due to broken capillaries from her sucking on my skin, which didn’t hurt. But if those were just from her using her gums only, boy am I glad that she’s off my boobs now that she has two teeth!
For the record, she has LOTS of teething toys. But none as tasty and succulent as mummy.
SOLIDS (yes, yes, another terribly unimaginative sub-title)
To manage her high milk intake, we started Coco on brown rice cereal when she turned five months. It took us a few attempts to get her used to the idea of eating, as opposed to drinking. She got very impatient with the break in the food flow when we removed the spoon from her mouth at each “refill” so we had to spoon cereal into her mouth really really fast otherwise she would just give up learning to eat altogether and cry for her milk. Now that she’s gotten the hang of it, she knows that just needs to open her mouth and food will come – even though she still grumbles at us to hurry up.
Rather than rely on us to spoon food into her mouth, she preferred to feed herself – under our watchful eye because she tends to stuff EVERYTHING in at once (takes after her father, I say).
We started with baby biscuits for breakfast and tea:
Some brands of biscuits leave more of a mess than others. We prefer rice cakes/wafers because they don’t get so mushy and sticky, and are thus less messy and present less of a choking hazard. Her favourite are the little Gerber’s star-shaped puffs flavoured with natural fruits and vegetables.
For dinner, Coco has porridge, which is usually a combination of brown rice, white rice, vegetables and fish, steamed together than broken down in a blender. I don’t cook, so I’m no position to share any recipes – I’m just eternally grateful to my aunt for cooking for Coco and feeding her while I make my way home after work.
Since Coco has her dinner before we do, we sit her down at the table for dessert while we eat, in hope of inculcating good table manners, such as sitting still through a meal with us. Plus, it’s easier to keep an eye on her too this way.
Sometimes, we give her fruit for its entertainment value so that we can eat in peace, and not so much for its nutritional value:
But most of the time, we do give her fruit that is soft enough for her to handle on her own. Her all-time favourite is the mango:
Papaya is a good finger food for babies too, and so is watermelon.
Letting her feed herself is great because it saves us from having to feed her by spoon while we feed ourselves. Just be prepared for the mess:
Just last week, she deconstructed a boiled chicken drumstick. Looks like she’s a chicken fan just like her father!
We’re really really happy (and relieved) that Coco has taken to food – and feeding herself (except for cereal and porridge) – so well. In fact, she enjoys “adult” food so much that when our dishes arrive, she rejects her cereal and demands for ours. She has also chosen to switch from drinking water from a bottle to drinking from a cup (yes, she chose. I presented her with both options and she kept picking the cup.) The only downside is that Coco is REALLY into her food… and can come across as rather greedy and unsociable while out on a play date:
While I’m excited about introducing new dining experiences to Coco, I feel a twinge of sadness that I’m no longer nursing my baby. Breastfeeding my firstborn was a treasured experience – and always will be. Despite the initial challenges, I’m grateful that I have been fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the privilege of nursing and that it was a smooth and pleasant journey for both me and Coco. (Plus, it’s a fabulous way to lose a good part of that post-baby weight.)
I will also miss the friendship and camaraderie from my colleagues at the office nursing room. I actually felt a little sad reading their goodbye messages that they left on our “Working Nursing Mothers” message board:
Well, hopefully I’ll be back in the club when Number Two comes along.
Till then, I’m looking forward to a reviving my non-nursing wardrobe starting from tomorrow. And I’ll be celebrating by wearing a full dress (no more separates!) with no front openings.