Whether it’s carrying my baby in a mei tai strapped to my back, allowing him to run sock-less or to (Heaven forbid!) read to himself, my style of parenting seems to conflict with traditional Turkish ways again and again. Sometimes, I rethink, maybe moderate my stance to slightly more conform; more often than not I stick to my guns and deal with the disdain. And more often than not, by sticking to my guns, and reinforcing the notion babywearing or reading to sceptics around us, their attitudes change and instead of saying, in the case of babywearing, “You’re going to kill him!”, we now hear “Oh he looks cosy!” Hearing the attitudes change is wonderful and gives me hope for future generations daring to step outside of the norm, perhaps adopt more international parenting ways: Babyled weaning, however, seems to be the exception to this rule – in our family at least.
M has been eating solids since five and a half months old. Now, nearly five months later, he will happily, with gusto, tuck into any food stuff within grabbing range. Just this week, he’s devoured chinese noodles with prawn crackers & beansprouts on the side, stuffed vine leaves, snacked on salami and quails eggs. His food is given to him on a plate in reasonable sized chunks and he bites it into pieces he can manage. If a piece is too big, he takes it out of his mouth and rebites it. Never once have I had to physically remove food from his mouth for fear of him choking. The only foods he struggles with right now, having only teeth (8) at the front of his mouth, is raw vegetables..carrots, lettuce etc..which require really thorough chewing; other foods he chews either by bringing the food to the front of his mouth, or using his gums. Gums are surprisingly strong!
Eating out with him is a dream as it is always possible to find something on the menu he will/can eat or to stop and grab him a snack from a greengrocer or deli shop. We never have to think about carrying jars of food or warming up stuff, though I do tend to keep a bag of dried fruits in the changing bag to deal with snack attacks. Turkish food is ideally suited to baby-led-weaning because the veg is soft cooked in olive oil, the meat tends to melt in your mouth and the meals can be tailored to your wants. However, my in-laws still struggle – rather, simply cannot fathom – this idea. It doesn’t matter how many times they see M eat, how often I tell them him daily menu, show footage of him hacking chunks off a drumstick, or photographs of him eating chinese food, they insist on feeding him as a baby. Just last week we argued over him eating a hunk of bread (pieces he was biting were too big), putting dried mint in his soup (may tickle his throat) and letting him drink from a glass (he’ll swallow too much). It’s frustrating for me, and even more so for M who can’t understand why people start screaming when he starts eating or trying to take food from his mouth. He looks to me for reassurance, I give it to him, and they react against us again.
I understand their resistance to the theory of baby-led weaning. For years the Turkish way of weaning has been baby rice, to milk pudding, to puree and then mothers fork feed children often until they begin to go to school — a primary school teacher friend once told me of her horror the first lunchtime seeing how many children (ages 5-7) were unable to feed themselves using cutlery. Even amongst G’s friends, there was an initial horror when we said M would join us eating kofte at a summer barbecue party – he was 7 months at the time. Thankfully, with friends, though they wouldn’t necessarily feed their children the same way, they do at least acknowledge that having seen it in practise it works perfectly for us, but the in-laws? Not a chance. I knew it would be a struggle to convince them to accept it, but I didn’t realise the resistance would be so severe – five months in, it’s really starting to grate and I dread having to be around anyone save eldest brother-in-law at meal-times.
Has anyone else experienced this kind of continual resistance to baby-led weaning – or any other parenting choice you’ve made? What did you do to solve it?