There have been many challenges in my first year of motherhood, but by far the biggest challenge I have faced is starting Aria on solids. Not because Aria wasn’t interested in food but because of my fear and anxiety regarding the matter. This is no secret; my friends and family know how I have struggled with this.
Before I start my story, I want to say that I did all my research before starting solids. Google and I were back on good terms by this time. So, I knew that in the beginning there would be a lot of gagging. I knew the difference between gagging and choking. I had even taken a first aid course previously, so I knew what to do in case she WAS ever choking. I was prepared, or so I thought.
The first solid food I gave to her was a teething cookie. She was around 6 months old and I was confident that she would suck on it and gum it slowly, which she did for the first 5 seconds. Then, a piece broke off in her mouth and my heart skipped a beat. She then proceeded to gag, for what felt like hours, but was probably like another 10 seconds and then finally, with a big gulp, she swallowed. Just as I took sigh of relief, she proceeded to throw everything up. Needless to say, I grabbed the cookie from her, threw it away and vowed that she was not ready.
That look on her face when she was gagging was the most terrifying thing ever. EVER. I knew she wasn’t choking, I knew there was no way she COULD choke on this (it melts as soon as it hits your tongue) but for some reason, I couldn’t get that face out of my head.
Whenever we would meet family and friends, they would question why I wasn’t giving her finger foods, and I would say “oh she doesn’t have teeth yet” or “she doesn’t really like it”. Which were both lies because babies use their gums to chew anyway and Aria would have loved nothing more than to eat some solid food.
Sometimes I would even tell them I was scared, but I could never really explain the extent of my fear. I, myself didn’t really know why I was so scared (I still don’t). I guess it was the possibility of not being able to do anything if she ever did choke.
It sounds like I’m being dramatic, but this was actually my reality for a long time. There were so many times that I would give her a teething cookie, and take it away as soon as she brought it close to her mouth, because my heart was beating SO fast.
Just thinking about giving her finger foods gave me a weird feeling in my stomach, it was a hurdle I had to overcome every day. It would break my heart, because I knew Aria was ready, she wanted to eat finger foods, I was getting in her way of growing and becoming more independent. I had to overcome this fear that I had let fester within me, so I decided to start slow… very very slow.
I started with the Gerber star shaped puffs. Let me correct myself, I started with 1/5 of a puff. Yes you read that correctly, one fifth (see I wasn’t joking when I said very very slow). Even then, I would only give it to her when Ali was home and we could both sit right in front of her and watch her like a hawk. From 1/5 I moved to 1/3, and then 1/2 and finally a full puff. This was not over a day or a week, more like a month or mayyyybe even longer.
From there I moved on to soft foods like avocado and banana, which I cut up very very small. The first few times, I would put the pieces in front of her, proceed to freak out, grab a fork and mash it up. Eventually, I let her feed herself the tiny cubes, and thankfully, she did a great job. Watching her maneuver the food around in her mouth gave me more confidence to try different foods and make them a little bigger each time. Again, this was a very long process, something that I am still working on!
She is going to be one next week and I have just recently started giving her crackers or cookies to hold in her hand (only when I can watch her every move). I know we’re late to the game, but we’re getting there! I’m still scared, my heart still skips a beat every time she gags or coughs while eating but I know I’m making progress. Going from 1/5 of a puff to a whole veggie stick in her hand? If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is!!
If you’re struggling with this as well, or anything else, just know that it’s ok to go as slow as you need to go. Follow your baby’s cues and don’t do anything that you’re not comfortable doing, it’s your baby, your journey, your rules. Stay strong and mom on!
Hugs and Kisses to all!