Further evidence of our little man growing up at a clip far too fast for his parents was his entrance earlier this month into the world of solids, or at least some mushy stuff resembling food.
The first couple days of this new experience were not pretty. Rather than swallowing the oatmeal cereal-formula mix, he was simply storing it in his cheeks for a few seconds before refunding it all over his cheeks, bib, shirt and basically anything in the immediate area of his little mouth. The good news is he's getting the hang of the swallowing thing and actually starting to eat it.
Up until two weeks ago, he was on a pure liquid diet in the form of formula. His servings have gradually increased and once he hit the four-month mark, the pediatrician gave us the go-ahead to try some cereal mixed in with his formula once a day. That's something we have been doing for weeks, particularly in the last bottle of the night, but this is different. We are mixing the cereal with formula and delivering it via a spoon. Yikes!
So far, everything that's gone in his mouth I have tried at least once. It seems only fair to test it out. I found the formula is not all that different than watered-down skim milk. However, add the cereal to the formula and you have something that tastes like milk-flavored cardboard or at least what I imagine it would taste like having, of course, never gone that route. The good news is he doesn't seem to mind it because he has nothing to compare it to besides the straight formula.
The pediatrician said these first few feedings would be an occasion for the camera, and she was spot on because they were indeed messy. We have 36 photos and a few minutes of video to prove it. They will be great to show his high school sweetheart in 16 years or so, if you ask me.
Obviously, this is a major adjustment for the little man. The whole swallowing thing is all new to him. It takes a couple spoonfuls these days to remind him what he's supposed to do, but he quickly remembers and all indications are he likes it. The key is to give him the solids when he's not extremely hungry. When he gets to that point, he goes to the dark side and needs the instant gratification of the bottle. Indeed, our little 16-pound pride and joy has not yet learned patience.
It's also quite a change for us as parents. We never appreciated how easy we had it with the bottle, which you basically just stick in his mouth and let him go to town. As his appetite has grown, the time it took to polish off the bottle has drastically decreased. The little monster can typically put back a six-ounce bottle, mixed in with a burp or two, in about five minutes. He now holds it in his own two hands (round of applause), but he has not mastered the entire hand-to-mouth coordination thing yet.
With the switch to feeding him with a spoon, a little patience from the baby and parents is needed. I think I have been guilty of loading up the spoon a little too much in these early days. It's easy to tell when the spoon is too full because it creeps out the sides of his mouth, drips all over his chin and cheeks and makes it way down to the neck. It's not pretty, but it's worth a giggle.
There are lots of funny moments in parenthood, and if you can laugh at yourself, all the better you will be. For example, my wife seems to get a kick out of my feeding style. I actually do the mouth motions. You know, the whole subconscious mimicking thing where you open your mouth, stick out the tongue and swallow as the food approaches his little mouth. It's not intentional, but the more I thought about the more I figured he could learn by watching me. That's assuming he's actually looking at me and not focused on the colored spoon coming toward his face. The same approach works when I am trying to put him down. If I close my eyes and pretend I am asleep while he's looking up at me, he usually follows suit. I realize it's a little sad to resort to tricking the baby to sleep, but there are times when desperate times call for pathetic measures.
Regardless, the same results are not achieved with the feeding process. How do you teach a 4-month-old how to swallow? It seems to me the only way is through trial and error and repetitions. It's working because he is a professional now and really enjoys reaching out with both hands, consisting of 10 surprisingly strong cubby fingers, and pulling the spoon violently to his wide-open mouth. He throws a snort in every once in a while just to let us know how much he's enjoying it and perhaps to keep our attention squarely on him. Or maybe it's just to keep the spoonfuls coming at a consistent pace.
While his mom was running errands Sunday afternoon, I thought I would multi-task and feed him while watching the Ravens game. I figured this way we could take our time, while I got my fix of some football. It seems I underestimated the little man's newfound desire to eat because he was aggressive and could not get enough. It was just a couple weeks ago we had to play the airplane game or resort to the 'I have some, you have some' method to get him to open his mouth. Those days are long gone.
Like most guys, a football game usually gets my undivided attention, but it's got nothing on feeding a baby. After all, it's a little difficult to care about a silly regular season game when your son, with legs kicking in delight, is yanking arm hair out every time the spoon is removed from his mouth.