Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Feeding a Baby the French Way (sort of )

Since the French are often held to be the world experts on eating well (and according to some, also on bringing up children!), I was interested to see what the advice would be when we moved SCB on to solid foods.

Confusing, would appear to be the answer.

To be fair, the guidelines in the carnet de santé are fairly straightforward. Fruit, vegetables and meat can be given from 4 months and should definitely be given from 6 months. Most cereals can and should be given from 8 months. (The exception is baby rice, which is possible from 4 months but never actually recommended.) For most things, there should be a gradual progression from purée to lumpier textures and then solid pieces.

Go beyond the carnet de santé, however, and the simplicity stops. My GP, despite the fact that SCB didn't start solids until nearly 6 months old, said that she should have a month of nothing but vegetables, followed by a month of nothing but fruit, then a little bit of meat, and finally carbohydrates. When I asked about quantities, he said, "Oh, just use the jars. They're very good." Laurence Pernoud, meanwhile, keeps suggesting putting baby rice and even purée into bottles of formula. From other research I knew that the most important nutrients to introduce for exclusively breastfed babies were zinc and iron, while baby rice is mostly full of empty calories and apparently arsenic too, so I wasn't too keen to follow either of their advice!

In the UK, the NHS advice is to begin solids when the baby shows certain signs of readiness which generally appear around six months. There is less emphasis on the order, although it is suggested to start with fruit and vegetables, and giving finger foods early on is recommended. Baby Led Weaning is also very popular. In France BLW (DME, la diversification menée par l'enfant) is almost unheard of - the only time I ever heard it mentioned was at meetings of La Leche League, and even there it wasn't common.

In the end, we did a mixture of what the carnet de santé recommends along with some finger foods as per the NHS advice. We were a bit more lax about the order we introduced things, but with hindsight I'm not sure that was a good idea, as I suspect some of the terrible nights we had in the 7th month were due to poor digestion. At the same time, SCB was clearly hungry for solid food by this point, so I'm glad we didn't try to feed her on nothing but fruit and vegetable purée for two months! I've read elsewhere that the World Health Organisation recommendation to breastfeed exclusively for six months is largely due to the risk of food poisoning in developing countries, and that introducing certain foods before that can reduce the risk of allergies, so perhaps the answer is to start a little earlier, but with smaller quantities. Unfortunately, whatever country you're in, it seems that nobody is totally sure what's correct (or if they are, they're probably being contradicted by official advice from elsewhere), so it's very hard to know.

Three months on, however, we have settled into a nice little routine. SCB has cereal and fruit for breakfast, then mashed up vegetables, carbohydrate and protein for lunch. With the nanny, she has some yoghurt because she isn't having as much milk. She has more fruit in the afternoon, then dinner is a bit more random, as it depends how hungry or tired she is whether she'll eat much or not. I liked the idea of BLW/finger foods, but I find if she does nothing but feed herself for a meal, she'll eat very little and most of it will end up on the floor, so we tend to give her bits and pieces to munch before or alongside the spoon feeding.

I guess only time will tell whether she ends up needing to drink Perrier after meals to help her digestion like a true French person or whether she'll have British-style insides that can stomach a big fry-up for breakfast ...

(Just in case you missed the link earlier, the Science of Mom blog has lots of interesting reading about studies relating to infant nutrition and other aspects of parenting.)

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Recently we have mostly been ...

Enjoying the springtime. The flowers are out, the blossom is on the trees and it's daylight in the mornings, meaning that I can now take the scenic route to work and breathe in less exhaust fumes. My new routine is super-healthy, as I'm fitting in an hour of walking every day. It makes a nice change from spending hours on the RER.

Getting more sleep. SCB is now on three meals a day and is doing much better at night, so juggling work, sleep and looking after her is much easier than it was a month or so ago. She's started to pull herself up on the furniture and wants to walk, though, so keeping up with her is becoming another form of daily exercise for us!

Worrying about politics. Between Brexit and the upcoming presidential elections, there's a lot of significant change going on, and it doesn't feel like a good time to be an international family. While we're happy in France at the moment, UFM and I have always agreed that living in the UK would be an option for us in the future, and Brexit could make that much more difficult. SCB and I, as British citizens could move there whenever we wanted to, but to bring a foreign spouse, you have to prove that you can support them with a minimum income of more than £18 000, so if UFM was to come with us, one or both of us would need to find jobs before we arrived. It makes me so angry that Brexiters claim to be making life better for British people, when in fact for many of us, significant rights will potentially be eroded. And if Le Pen gets her way in France, similar things could happen here.

I'm very admiring of some of my American friends who since Trump's election have become extremely politically active and are fighting hard against every policy they disagree with, but, not living in my home country and having limited voting rights in France, I'm still looking for ways to take similar action myself. In the meantime, here's hoping that the French make better choices than the British did come April!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Parisian Public Transport with a Baby

When we lived in the centre of Paris, I quickly figured out that the easiest way to get around with a baby was to use a sling or baby carrier. Shops are narrow, pavements are busy, and accessing the metro almost always requires you to go up or down some stairs. Any time I took the pram, I felt encumbered and awkward, while with the carrier, I was light of foot and free, with the added bonus of permanent baby cuddles, better baby napping and no screaming fits on public transport.

SCB is bigger now though, and too heavy to carry for long on my front. Our Manduca carrier can also be used on your back, but it's not as good for napping because the baby's head isn't supported, so we now use the buggy more of the time.

It's been quite a learning experience. Our buggy is fairly lightweight, but it's not tiny, as we bought it when SCB was 3 months old and still needed one with a lying down position. (Tiny lie-flat buggies do exist, but they cost a LOT of money. With hindsight, if we were still living in Paris, I would say it would be a worthwhile investment though.) I can carry buggy + baby up a flight of stairs if needed, but together they weigh 16 kilos, so I would rather not! The buggy won't fit through the standard entrances in the metro, and as SCB can't stand by herself yet, I can't really take her out, fold the buggy and get us all through. It is possible to put in on an escalator, but you're not supposed to, and it never feels very safe.

So here is what I've learned about Parisian public transport when you need to bring your wheels:

- 90% of the RER A and B are pushchair and wheelchair accessible, with lifts from street to platform level and wide gates in the stations. You have to know where to find the lifts though - at La Défense, for example, you practically have to walk off the platform and into the tunnel, following a very discreet sign. Also, the lifts are frequently under maintenance, and there is only one at each station.

- The metro is very hit or miss. As well as surprising mini flights of stairs even in stations which have some lifts, there are lines where some stations have wide gates and others don't. Only the line 14, as far as I know, is completely accessible.

- Most (maybe all) buses have a buggy space next to the wheelchair area. This works well as long as there isn't another buggy already occupying the place (which there might well be, as none of them are on the metro!). Also, these spaces aren't big enough for some prams, as I found out to my cost early in my career as a Parisian maman , when I attempted an unplanned bus journey with a Maxi-Cosy car seat attachment.

- The tramway is by far the easiest form of transport to use, as everything is at street level and there's loads of space in the carriages. It's great if you need to go somewhere around the edges of the city.

So, it can all be a bit unpredictable. Every time I go into the city centre now, I think about people in wheelchairs and how on earth they cope. If everything worked the way it was supposed to, you could probably plan a way of getting most places, but I don't know what would happen if you got off the train at a station only to find that the lift was out of order. I believe there is an interphone system that people in wheelchairs can use to ask for help - I really hope it works! (There is more information about public transport for wheelchair users here.)

On the plus side, in my experience, people are really nice about offering to help you. The other week I was at Nation and all the lifts AND the escalators were closed, but a nice man waited at every flight of stairs between street level and the RER platform to give me a hand.