ControverSunday: Nom Nom

by Ginger on April 24, 2010

in Mom Thoughts, Oh Baby!

It’s that time again–ControverSunday! This week, we’re discussing food–proposed to us by Excellent Walker. There’s so much that can be said on this topic (seriously, we could have a whole subset of posts just on food!), so responses are bound to be all over the board this week. If you want to play along, just write something up, grab the badge from Accidents’ and then head over to Perpetua’s place to get linked up.

Before I get started, I want to put this post in some context. I have an almost 8 month old (I think I have one of the youngest kids in the ControverSunday crowd). He’s breastfed, but has had some “solid” foods since about 5 1/2 months or so, mostly purees, but we’ve started some finger foods in the last few weeks as he’s expressed interest. At this point he usually has two meals of real food per day, and has breastmilk 5-8 times a day. So my take on food is still about the early days–I’m sure I’ll get to the discussions on junk food, HFCS, family meals, etc. as he gets older but right now, I’m more about the beginning of adding food to his diet.

All that being said, I think that food (and on a more generalized level, feeding our kids overall) is the most complicated, least intuitive part of being a parent thus far. I find myself questioning my choices more about feeding than quite honestly any other decisions I have to make. One day, I’ll think I’ve got it figured out. The next day, I’ll think we’re doing it all wrong. Why is it so hard to just figure out what and how to feed him? Some days I just want to have someone come in and tell me what in the hell to feed my kid.

But the reality of it is that every family has to figure out food for themselves. This will be something that plays out over the course of his life with us–our rules and ideals about food will most likely be different, however slightly, from every family we meet. So we have to look at him, and us, and our family and figure it out ourselves. Just like every other thing in parenting, there is no one size fits all solution. But that doesn’t make it easy to ignore all the information out there: pediatricians, nutritionists, behaviorists, other families, our own families, and of course, the ever present internet all provide mounds and mounds of info to sort through.

But that’s part of the problem–there’s so much conflicting information about what to feed kids. From when to start solids and whether to use purees, to when to start adding seasonings and whether to use finger foods, to how much to feed and whether to make your own or use store bought–it goes on and on. And that’s completely ignoring the minefields of allergens, intolerances, organics, processed foods, and the “dangerous” foods like honey. When you start trying to think of it all, your head could very well explode by all the information.

Then there’s well-meaning friends and family, with their comments like, “well that’s what I did with you” or “we used to give you x and you were fine” or “why haven’t you given him x by now” or it’s corollary “why have you given him x already?” Everyone has an opinion–you’re either over-feeding or under-feeding, starting solids too early or too late, worrying too much or not worrying enough.

Of course, it’s no wonder that our attitudes about feeding our kids is so fraught with tension. As adults we have such a conflicted connection with food–particularly as women–that it’s no surprise that it permeates into what we do with our kids. In some ways the breast/bottle debate can be attributed there too–we hope we’re able to keep our kids thin and healthy and safe from the dangers of the foods in our world by setting them up correctly from the get go. Same when we start introducing real food. If we just do it the right way our kids won’t have allergies, or be picky eaters or succumb to obesity. If we just manage to get the right combo at the right time, our kids will be healthy, easy to please, with a varied palate. And that’s not to say there’s not a kernel of truth in all of that. But at the same time, do we end up creating more problems by being so focused, so obsessive about the whole thing?

I really want to make food enjoyable for Jackson. Food is one of the great pleasures in life–N.C. and I love food, love to try new foods, love to enjoy a good meal whether it’s a homemade soup or the finest sushi or a million dishes in between–and as Jackson grows I want him to find the pleasure in everything from a juicy apple to a perfectly cooked steak (unless he’s a vegetarian, and then obviously no steak). But what I DON’T want to do is be so worried about food in these early days that it becomes this big THING in our house. This thing that is worried over and stressed over and fretted about. Because I think that’s bound to create a scenario where food doesn’t equal enjoyment, but instead equals tension.

So for now, I’m just trying to go with my gut on what works and what doesn’t. I’m open to suggestions, but trying to not take them as gospel. I’m experimenting, and trying to let Jackson lead the way. In the end, he’s getting fed, he’s growing (holy crap is he growing), and he’s happy. And the rest will work itself out.

Now go check out more of the participants of ControverSunday–they’re all smarter than me, and have the posts to prove it!

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Perpetua April 26, 2010 at 7:58 am

You brought up an angle I forgot, which is the “We did x/Why aren’t you doing x?” that comes from family. The in-laws, for example, think E should have bread and soup every day, because that’s what they do.

Bread and soup? Really? Bread isn’t a problem, but realistically, if I have to get E to sit still for a meal, it’s going to be something “useful,” like yogurt, not freakin’ broth.

It sounds like you guys are doing great, though. If it helps, jars and a few finger foods were exactly where we were at J’s age.

Ginger April 26, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Soup? Really? That seems to be…less than useful for a toddler.

Obviously, the family dynamic can be problematic. I’m sure it will get harder too as the kids get older–I’m sure my mom will be spoiling Jackson’s dinner (as I guess is the purview of grandparents) with treats–so I figure learning to deal with it now is helpful in the long run.

Mama Tortoise April 26, 2010 at 9:11 am

Great post.

I have a 5 1/2 month old and a four year old. When the Bear (the four year old) started solids, I was SO stressed. I read everything that I could get my hands on and worried about combining foods, organic or not, etc. Now Banana (my infant) is ready, I have forgotten everything. MJ and I sort of turned to each other yesterday and said, ‘so, should we start her on solids?’ And we decided on bananas since that’s what we call her. So little stress this time around. I guess it is because we know how much kids change when it comes to food and preferences. It’s great to read about you just experimenting and not so obsessive. Wish I had been more relaxed four years ago!

Ginger April 26, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Yeah, I read a LOT when Jackson was about 4-5 months old. And then I got really tired of all the conflicting info and figured, eh, it’s just food and we’ll figure it out. I try really hard to not be obsessive about it–I’m not sure I always succeed of course (I’m sure my husband would say I’m more obsessive than I need to be), but at least I try.
And experimenting has worked out great–except when it hasn’t, like last night when we think a new food gave the kid a tummy ache that resulted in much screaming and no sleeping. Remind me to not experiment at dinnertime again!

carrie meadows April 26, 2010 at 11:27 am

Funny you should post about this topic, because it’s been on my mind, also. Just did a post about some ideas for feeding babies and toddlers, if you want to check it out.

http://thesweetest3.com/?p=1897

Ginger April 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Carrie, I read your post multiple times this weekend, because I’ve been looking for more finger foods for Jackson–he’s way more into those right now than something we spoon feed him. I’ve bookmarked that post as a matter of fact, it’s got lots of great ideas!

Partial April 26, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Your baby is a little older than mine, who is just over five months. I actually started with the cereal TODAY, so I’ll be perusing your blog in hopes of picking up some tips and perspective.

I have to admit, I’m excited to bust out the Baba Cook I got for a shower gift and try my hand at making some of those purees.

Ginger April 28, 2010 at 2:57 pm

We actually started with avocado (which he loved and now hates), and then moved to cereal. Rice cereal was a no-go, but he digs on the oatmeal (still, he just likes it thicker now).
I make some of his purees–the blender is our friend–it’s so easy and so much tastier (I’ve tried them). I will warn that I’ve never been able to get green beans to be smooth when I make them myself. Maybe there’s a trick I don’t know, but I finally gave up and just buy the jars for that.

Megan April 27, 2010 at 6:52 pm

There isn’t too much I can say about the stress of feeding a baby about Jackson’s age except that I was stressed, too. And it gets better. It’s one of those things I don’t even remember gradually getting better. It just sucked, and then it…didn’t.

Charlotte was the same with finger foods, little independent thing that she is, and it was a bitch to find things besides bananas and teething biscuits.

Some things we eventually discovered: avocado chunks (not quite ripe), pieces of chicken, tofu (extra firm), acorn squash (cubed), pieces of toast, and whole grain pancakes.

This too, shall pass!

Ginger April 28, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Thanks for the encouragement. Some days it’s totally easy–others it’s the hardest thing in the world. Hey, kind of like parenting!

I’ve been hesitant to start meats–dunno why exactly–but we’ve got some tofu sitting in the fridge waiting to be tried out. Sadly, the kid loved avocado in the beginning and now acts like we’re trying to POISON him if avocado so much as touches his lips. I keep trying to explain to him he can’t possibly be my child if he doesn’t like avocado 🙂

Megan April 28, 2010 at 6:32 pm

There’s no reason to rush the meats; some kids have trouble digesting them, anyway. Charlotte never had any trouble, and she loves chicken. But, I haven’t been offering it too much lately because I’m trying to find some more organic, farm fresh, pastured stuff. Or, at least something without hormones.

Charlotte still likes avocado, but not with the fervor she used to. Now, it’s ALL about the banana.

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