Weaning was one of my favourite baby stages with Max. I loved the exploration, watching his little face light up as he tried new flavours, and seeing his mouth wide open, like a baby bird, waiting for you to spoon in his favourite food. I had my first inkling that weaning with Ben might not be that easy when we were advised to try early weaning to help with his reflux, but he didn’t even seem to remotely understand the concept of food, and either refused to open his mouth, or gagged on whatever we gave him. We had two very tentative attempts before 6 months, both of which were resounding failures, so I abandoned the idea of early weaning until the traditional 6 months.
Purees or Baby Led Weaning?
At 6 months, I tried again, and this time we had much more success. We skipped the baby rice and went for pears, carrots, and sweet potato, all of which went down a treat. I take a fairly laid back approach to weaning – I use homemade purees, pouches, finger food, bits from my plate, all kinds of different foods to give them experience of lots of different textures and flavours. I don’t think I’d ever go down the baby led weaning route – I love making up all the purees! While Ben would pull funny faces at first, this time, after just a few tries he was opening his mouth, asking for more. He’s such a funny little guy – he’ll try everything, but he has very clear preferences on food. Despite trying many times with certain foods, it’s clear when he doesn’t like something. He’ll always try two spoonfuls of something before refusing any more, and despite offering him certain foods more than 15 times, he’s clear in his dislike for it!
Although I went with purees first off, it’s become clear that Ben very much wants to feed himself. He likes nothing better than to be able to grab a huge chunk of broccoli, or the little vegetable straws which just melt in his mouth. It’s been lovely to have this adorable dinosaur bowl and plate from Vital Baby for him to feed himself from – he loves to bang them when he’s finished and he wants some more! They’re BPA free, and non-slip, so slightly less at risk of being tipped onto the floor. And with the cute dinosaur design, poor Ben is in danger of losing them to his older brother, who I’ve seen eyeing them up.
Like most parents of a bad sleeper, I had been desperately hoping that once Ben started on solid food, he would start sleeping a bit longer. That was definitely what happened with Max, and when Ben started to embrace the idea of food, I had high hopes. But imagine my surprise when he actually began sleeping even worse than before. Whereas before, he would be up every 3 hours, now he would be up at least every hour, and on the worst nights, just 5-10 minutes after dropping off, screaming and writhing in pain. Ben has always struggled with tummy pain and wind, but after weaning it became unbearable for him. I tried giving him more pears and prunes, but even with a diet of just pears (sadly he’s not a fan of prunes), he was still really struggling with constipation.
Could it be Dairy?
I decided that it was worth trialling cutting out dairy. Cows Milk Protein Allergy had been something that I’d considered a few times in the past, but I’d concluded that since Ben only had a couple of the symptoms – constipation, excessive crying, and reflux, which he seemed to have grown out of – I wasn’t convinced that that was the issue. Given my love of milk and my daily vanilla latte, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stick to going dairy free if it did turn out to be the problem!
The great thing about blogging, is that I read a lot of blogs, so once I’d decided to go dairy free, I knew exactly where to go to research it all in more detail. Dilan and Me is a wonderful blog, full of heartfelt writing from Lauren, but with a real focus on CMPA and particularly breastfeeding with CMPA. Lauren also runs a Facebook group for Breastfeeding with CMPA which is a fantastic community resource that I can’t recommend enough. With the help of these two resources, I went from feeling like I wouldn’t be able to continue breastfeeding if cows milk did turn out to be the issue, to feeling thrilled at the number of alternatives out there.
For the first week and a half, I didn’t see any improvement in Ben at all. But at a week and a half, something happened. Suddenly there were glimpses of my happy little baby again – the happy little baby that I suddenly realised I hadn’t seen in such a long time. Poor Ben had been becoming more and more unhappy, and it had been such a gradual shift that it had crept up on us. You could still make him smile, but you had to work for it – there were none of the spontaneous giggles that he used to have for us. He’d become a very fussy baby, and an absolutely terrible sleeper. We are now 4 weeks dairy free, and the difference now compared to 4 weeks ago is incredible. He still has periods where he’s clearly struggling with tummy pain, but on the whole, he’s a very happy and contented baby. And it takes a good 6 weeks for the cows milk to completely clear from his system, so I’m hopeful that he will continue to improve over the next few weeks.
The sleep issue, I’m expecting will take a lot longer to correct. I think that we’ve probably built up lots of bad sleep habits now, but I really hope that once he’s not waking in pain, we can help him back to sleep far more quickly and easily than we have been.
Disclosure: We were kindly sent the Vital Baby bowl and plate to use for the purposes of this post