Saturday, February 24, 2007

Food and Sign Language

A while ago I wrote that a lot of things about Limelet--some ill-defined--seemed to change at once. I think there was some kind of developmental step that influenced a lot of aspects at once. I think another such change is in the works right now.

I have had the feeling that his hmmmm-y behavior is related to food. At least, he seems to do it a lot more when he sees us eating. And he's been desperately trying to grab our food, to the extent that we both feel guilty when eating in front of him. Since I'm around him all day, this makes it hard to eat or drink anything at all!

He's also started nursing a lot more during the day and night--sometimes all night long, in fact. I don't really mind the nursing-all-night thing so much. I do mind his hmmmm-yness, though, because I can't bear to have him be unhappy all the time like that.

Now: I know, I know---the new guidelines recommend not giving any solid foods at all before six months because of worries about food allergies, though it used to be four to six months. And even Limelet's pediatrician--a "holistic" practitioner--told me not to give him anything before six months. But as a researcher, I know about the normal curve of biological events. I know babies' iron reserves begin to run out at about six months. As a mother, I have made the decision to listen to my baby instead of the calendar.

I've done a lot of homework about what things to feed babies, and what kinds of things to watch for. It turns out that the conventional wisdom about what to feed, when, is more cultural than scientific, and recent research suggests that babies can eat a lot more different things than Americans have thought--at least after six months.

There are hardly any good guidelines for parents between ages six months and two years, especially research-based, and "especially-especially" based on research that is not funded by baby food companies if you follow the money. I couldn't believe how much of it came down to the public being hijacked by commercial interests at some point, and then it just snowballed until we all believed it. Not to go off on a rail like some tweaking loony on an anti-corporate tangent, but anyway...

Since it is before his six-month birthday, I'm strictly limiting the things I give him for now, and I'm doing systematic food introduction to watch for allergic reactions. But I am starting earlier than six months. And boy, is he ever happy about it!

What he's eating for now consists of purees of baked sweet potato and of baked (organic) chicken, and I have prepared steamed barley porridge (with expressed milk) to introduce next week. They are all in ice-cube form in labeled bags in the freezer, and all I have to do is to take out a cube, nuke it for 15 seconds (to room temp), and it's ready.

I don't hold with that highly processed white-rice cereal with the added cheap-o iron supplement, especially with what I read about its effects (blood sugar, digestive tract) and potential effects (America's processed-starches addiction, etc.). I wanted him to start getting some iron, but not in supplement form, hence the chicken. I also baked it in a cast-iron skillet for extra iron traces. However, his favorite is still the sweet potato, of course. Wow, does he ever love that.

In a few weeks, when he actually is about at that six-month mark, I'm going to give him some avocado and steamed fruit, probably apple or pear. Oh, and of course banana. And perhaps parsnip! The baby food recipe books that Auntie Argot sent have a lot of good ideas about preparing even single-ingredient foods.

Okay, the other big thing is that he has made his first sign.

I've been doing a few simple signs since about four months. I knew he recognized the signs for up and for nursie (it's the sign for milk, really). But I really didn't think he'd start doing it himself this early. I was picturing seven months, maybe. In fact, we saw what he was doing with his hand for the last 10 days or so, but neither of us recognized it as the sign. This was partly because we weren't looking for it, partly because he doesn't have the best control over his hands and so it didn't exactly look like he was pointing.

I finally got it yesterday morning when we were lying in bed. I knew he was impatient to get up (6:20, after all!) but I was stretching it out because I was still half-asleep. He kept doing this thing where he was holding his hand in front of his chest, staring at it in frowning concentration while he held it in a claw position. (He'd been doing that for a bit more than a week: "How cute," I'd been thinking, "he's noticing his hands," or ironically even, "Awwww, he's distracted himself from his wish to get up, by playing with his hands!")

This time he finally grabbed my hand and made annoyed grunting sounds. I said, "Okay, you want to get up?" and made the up sign, and he broke into a huge toothless smile and stretched out his arms and legs (as he does when he's trying to be picked up).

I suddenly made the connection between his concentration on his hand, and this obvious attempt to make me make the up sign. Duh! Why hadn't I seen it? I hadn't been looking for it. It's still almost unbelievable, but there he is, signing up, all the time.

Even since yesterday, it's become a more obvious finger-point, and I've noticed now that he also points at other things he wants, or wants to do, such as his bouncy swing.

Things he appears to understand now also include the spoken words Daddy, nursie, and up.

I can't believe he stayed asleep long enough for me to write all this; I thought I'd just get it started and he'd wake up, and I'd save it and continue some other time. But he's having a really good long morning nap today. If I'd known it was going to be like this, I'd have taken a shower!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

We used sign language with the Niblet and it has been AWESOME. A friend loaned us Baby Signing Time on DVD and she loves them. Plus, it teaches me signs to teach her. She's 19 months old, talking in complete sentences and I think the sign language has a lot to do with that because she had so many successful experiences with communication early on.

6:20 AM  
Blogger liz said...

That's so cool! I think they are a lot smarter than most of us give them credit for. I think a lot of us just aren't paying attention.

1:26 PM  

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