Sometimes I wonder if there's an inbox limit on how many messages I can send to our pediatrician through the patient portal of our electronic health record. Gmail gives me 15 gigabytes " how many messages about my kids can I send to their poor beleaguered doctor (and nurse pool) before I hit the equivalent MyChart limit? I'm hoping that I have at least until they hit kindergarten before I run out of space.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products? Should I take the anti-anxiety medication I'm going to need to deal with all this with my meals, or theirs?
The main problem is that you'll get different information depending on where you're looking and who is talking to you. The pediatrician's office says to start solid foods after six months to ward off ear infections as well as choking hazards, but reviewing the most recent scientific literature suggests that between four and six months is the safest window to minimize Junior's chances of developing food allergies. And then of course there are the well-meaning older folks in the store or at the park who pop over to recommend calming your shrieking six-week-old by putting rice cereal in her bottle. Okay, that one, at least, I think it's safe to disregard.
And when is Baby supposed to get exposed to peanuts or pollock or other foods that may cause an allergic reaction? The printout from the pediatrician's office says to wait until age two, but I just saw an article that talked about how the American Academy of Pediatricians has changed its stance and stepped back from this "avoidance" policy. All right. I guess I should be making peanut butter and jelly toast for the twins? Nope, hold the phone (and the toast). Apparently there's nothing wrong with peanuts qua peanuts, but peanut butter is so sticky that it could still be a choking hazard. (I'm hoping this need not be said, but just in case: actual peanuts are also very much a choking hazard.)
If I don't give my kids enough textures and flavors to experiment with now, some of the literature says they'll refuse to eat anything but beige-colored paste as toddlers. (The rest of literature says no matter what I give them now, they'll refuse to eat anything but beige-colored paste as toddlers.)
If I give them too much texture, I'll get the opportunity for hands-on practice of the pre-birth class we took on the Heimlich maneuver. Too much spoon-feeding means the little ones won't learn to listen to their body signals about whether they're hungry or full; giving them too much free range to self-feed (and all the inadvertent dog-feeding that entails) means they could wind up iron deficient. Sometimes I joke that it would be easier if I could just nurse them till they hit school age, but they're starting to get teeth coming in, so that prospect is losing its appeal, too.
Rationally, I know that all of these choices can be handled with a liberal dollop of common sense, at least as long as that common sense isn't doled out with a side of peanut butter pancakes. But sometimes when it comes to my kids, I don't feel like being rational -- I want someone in a white lab coat with a soothing voice to explain to me the best options.
Failing that, I'll just do my best to weed through good research and bad (a sample size of fifteen infants? No, thank you); and I'll try to keep in touch with the kids' pediatrician somewhere below the level of "terrifying helicopter mom." The twins are happy, healthy, and growing every day, and for now, at least I don't have to share my peanut butter and jelly crackers.