Feeding Our Children- Part 1

What is Normal Growth?

Where my growth seemed slow and I might have even fallen from my percentile curve of success.   Those years were a time when I was nursing myself back to attachment with Hashem. 

Aliza Neveloff

Tuesday, 29th of Sivan, 5775

A child has a natural way of growing that is right for them.  They know how much they need to grow the right way.  If you do your job with feeding and let them decide how much they want to eat, you generally don’t need to worry about normal growth- it will happen.[1]  There are many different shapes and sizes that are normal.  The fact that your child is short and stocky or tall and slender is determined mostly by genetics, not your wishes.  Children usually grow in a predictable pattern.

So what happened to my daughter as a baby?  She was born two weeks early and was given the label of Low Birth Weight (LBW), weighing in at 2.7kg (6 lbs).  My dream was to only nurse.  This dream was put on hold by my fears of my daughter’s size and my own strength after a difficult labor.  I decided to nurse and then supplement if she was still hungry.  I did this for two months and she grew well.  The doctors calmed down and this helped me calm down too.

One day a friend and neighbor came to talk and asked me how my nursing was going.  I said ok.  I told her I was supplementing and thought that I did not have enough milk.  She encouraged me and said the more I nurse the more milk I would have.  I decided to try.  I nursed night and day for a week.  I am not exaggerating!  I actually enjoyed all this bonding time with my daughter.  It was like a time out, just to work on developing our mother/daughter relationship.  My body started to produce more milk and I was able to attend to my daughter every time she showed signs of hunger.

Now let’s fast forward a few years.  I started to learn Ellyn Satter’s methods and wanted to put her theories to the test.  On our last visit to the nurse, at the Well Baby Clinic, I asked her to print out my daughter’s growth card. The growth card shows every time I took my daughter to the nurse, her weight, and her weight percentile.  At first glance, I could not help to notice how my daughter’s weight fell so low on the fourth month and sixth month visit.  I called my sister to share my discovery, “I knew I did not have enough milk!”

My daughter's growth chart from 0-24 months.
My daughter’s growth chart from 0-24 months.

A couple days later I sat down with the raw data I was given from the nurse and decided to plot them on a standard growth chart for girls from ages 0-24 months.   I also turned the page in Ellyn Satter’s book where she writes, “Breastfed babies may shift downward as much as a percentile curve in weight between 3 and 12 months.[2]”  I breathed a sigh of relief.  This is exactly what happened to my daughter.   Once we got over the breastfeeding hump and transitioned to solids, slowly my daughter’s weight jumped up from percentile curve to percentile curve.  My daughter is still thin and tall (no big surprise… both my husband and I are as well) but she has remained on the 60th percentile curve, which she has maintained for the last few years.

This made me reflect.  It made me think of the times in my life where I did not have much external success, when I had trouble conceiving or in my professional pursuits.   Where my growth seemed slow and I might have even fallen off of the percentile curve of success.   Those years were a time when I was nursing myself back to attachment with Hashem.

You may be asking yourself what is this attachment I am referring to?  It is the second stage of development.  As Ellyn Satter explains so well, “Feeding is so much a part of your child’s early years that feeding and development are inseparable”[3]Homeostasis is the first stage of development where a baby reaches a stable state of equilibrium.  This stage expresses itself in feeding; when a baby is able wake themselves up and ask to be fed and stay awake long enough to eat as much as they need. The next stage, attachment, occurs around two months, when the baby begins to smile and take delight in your presence.  Healthy attachment is encouraged when you share control with your baby by feeding them when they want to be fed.  This makes them feel loved and understood; they are seen, heard, and cared for.

Feeding during the first year of life is not only important to your baby nutritionally, but it is also important because of the love you convey to them and for their growth and development.  While breastfeeding is superior to formula nutritionally, whatever method you decide to feed your baby, remember that these are formative years where you are developing the feeding relationship with your children.  Other people can hold your baby, diaper them, and bathe them; but for feeding they need you.

[1]Satter,E. 2000: Child of Mine: Feeding with love and Good Sense. United Sates: Bull Publishing Company, pp. 34.

[2] Satter et al. 2000: pp 449

[3]Satter et al. 2000: pp 111-112

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