Sometimes, I feel that in bringing up Aidan, I am constantly battling both sets of grandparents.
Early on, they questioned my decision to breastfeed Aidan and insisted that we should supplement with formula for his own good. This, despite the fact that he was piling on the kilos and hitting his milestones.
Currently, they are on a mission to start Aidan on solids, despite the fact that he is only 4.5 months old. Now that both sets of grandmothers are taking turns to look after the little man in the day while I am at work, they have had a taste of how little he naps and how my days used to be like. Them being them, they jumped to the conclusion that he doesn’t sleep much because he is hungry and breast milk is no longer enough to satisfy his needs. And them being them, they have taken to exerting pressure on us to feed Aidan solids, believing that doing this will improve his sleep.
Complete. Utter. BULLSHIT.
Babies who eat solids (and/or formula, for that matter) are NOT better sleepers. Also, the idea that babies’ appetites for milk increase as they grow is hogwash. For the first six months of their lives, the breast milk intake of babies remain constant; it’s the composition of breast milk that changes to keep up with their needs.
This means that medically, there isn’t any basis for me to feed Aidan solids before he reaches six months.
There are many reasons why breastfeeding Aidan is important to me. For starters, the World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first six months of their lives, up to two years of age and beyond. And on a personal level, I want to ensure that my baby’s gut flora flourishes.
In a nutshell: babies have an “open gut” up to about six months of age. This is where the space between the cells in the small intestine are large enough for big molecules to move into the bloodstream. While this allows all the antibodies and goodness of breast milk to be absorbed by baby easily, this also means that bad stuff like allergens and pathogens have an easy path too.
The “holes” in the intestines are covered by gut flora, which contain loads of good bacteria and prevents the bad stuff from passing through. Breast milk helps to promote the development of these good bacteria, which inhibits the growth of bad bacteria and improves digestion.
But – and this is a huge BUT – once formula or solid foods enter the system, the entire gut flora is stripped, allowing allergens to flow freely into the bloodstream. Susceptible babies are more likely to suffer from common allergies like asthma and eczema.
(This is not a scientific explanation and here are two in-depth reads.)
Can you blame me for wanting the best for my baby?
Honestly, it irks the shit out of me when well-meaning grandparents try to run our lives. What makes it worse is the lack of appreciation and respect towards me, the mother of their precious grandson. They complain about Aidan’s lack of sleep in the day – have they not realized that this was what I had to deal with, on my own, for 3.5 months? My mother has the helper for company while my mother-in-law has TWO helpers to handle ONE baby.
What’s more, as any working, breastfeeding mom will assure you, pumping milk is one of the more tedious tasks in the world. It really sucks – pardon the pun – to have to take time out to express. And let’s not forget the amount of work required to wash and sterilize the pump parts.
Rather than bemoan the fact that the little man is only on breast milk, how about showing some appreciation to this poor cow here?
I’ve already told both sets of grandparents firmly but politely that we will NOT be introducing the little man to solids until he turns six months. I would tell them to STFU too but unfortunately, that would be a little too much. And it drives me nuts that they are not giving us the space to bring up our child the way we want to.
And this is only the beginning.