Facing Criticism About Starting Solids: When Is Baby Ready And How To Respond
At a recent La Leche League meeting, the attendees were discussing parenting challenges they’ve faced while visiting family during the holidays. Michelle shared that last year, when her daughter, Beatrice, was about six months old, her mother-in-law was insistent that it was time for Beatrice to begin eating solid foods. Michelle’s mother-in-law had even prepared dishes that she thought Beatrice might be interested in but weren’t appropriate for a baby just being introduced to solids. Beatrice was still exclusively breastfeeding at the time and had shown very little interest in solid foods.
Michelle spent much of that holiday calmly explaining several times that Beatrice was still receiving all of the nutrition she needed even without solid foods in her diet and that Michelle was watching for behavior that would indicate when Beatrice was ready to experiment with solids.
Michelle is not the only parent to be questioned about her parenting decisions, and family gatherings over the holidays often seem a prime time to raise those questions by (usually) well-meaning family members. In today’s blog post, we’re sharing some information about starting solids as well as how to handle criticism about your parenting.
So, when is your baby ready for solid foods? The following signs typically mean your baby is ready to give it a try. (Keep in mind that experimenting is truly what starting solids is all about; human milk should still make up the majority of their nutritional intake.)
- Baby is around six months old.
- Baby can sit, unsupported.
- Baby no longer has the tongue-thrust reflex, which means they won’t push the food out of their mouth when it’s offered.
- Baby has a pincer grasp, which means they can pick things up between their fingers and thumb.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, page 251 of the 8th Edition, reassures parents that starting solids can be low key and low stress for everyone:
“Your baby can join the dinner table fun, even if she’s not quite ready for solids. Beginning whenever she can sit on her own, whether or not she’s truly ready for solids, you can bring her high chair up to the table next to you, or sit her on your lap at the table. Give her a spoon and maybe water in a sippy cup, and let her play Dinnertime. Is she looking enviously at your plate? Put some baby-suitable food in front of her and see what she does. Babies who aren’t ready for solids may play with food, maybe even taste it, but they won’t get serious about eating it.”
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding goes on to share more ideas for introducing solids, including which foods you might want to try when you’re starting out. You can find that information on the LLL USA website at lllusa.org/starting-solids/.
Responding To Criticism
Well-meaning family and friends – and sometimes complete strangers! – often feel perfectly comfortable sharing their thoughts on how *they* would do something, which can make you feel like the way *you’re* doing it isn’t good enough or is wrong.
There are usually three reasons why others may criticize your parenting, The Womanly Art of Breastfeedingsuggests.
“One is a [society’s] sense of investment in children…Another reason for criticism may be that not doing it the way our mothers or mothers-in-law did it feels to them like a slap in the face – a rejection of their own cherished ideas. And a third reason may be that some people are honestly fearful that what we’re doing is harmful.”
Both The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and the LLL USA website offer excellent tips for responding to criticism, including specific wording of responses. You can read more at lllusa.org/criticism/.
And, if you’re not sure of the exact words to use, the way you react physically is often just as important. The LLL USA website says:
“The most important parts of responding to criticism often lie in your tone of voice, your facial expression, and your body language. You may need to practice saying your responses in a mirror to ensure that you appear confident and non-threatening. Also, be sure that you take a deep, relaxing breath filling your lungs and brain with oxygen before you respond.”
Whether it’s responding to criticism about starting solids or about the length of time you nurse, it helps to connect with other parents who have made similar choices and understand why you are doing what you are doing.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding states on page 324:
“Showing that you’re confident will go a long way toward discouraging ‘helpful’ suggestions. Groups such as LLL are a great place to learn how others cope with criticism…Knowing that you’re not alone and being reassured that your instincts are solid will help you feel stronger in the face of any further criticism.”
In order to find a Group near you or to connect with a Group online, go to: lllusa.org/locator/.
Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].
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