The Care and Feeding of Small Humans
It seems simple. Have a baby/babies. Feed them. Repeat. Watch them grow, achieve, succeed and be happy. The End.
It seems like how and what you feed your child, from the newborn stage until they leave for college, has become one of the most contentious and heated topics in the parenting wars. And thus, it becomes one of those issues where parents can get caught up in the argument, or worse, lost and overwhelmed.
I had always intended to breastfeed my babies, and not just for the requisite 12 months, but until they politely asked me to stop. Just kidding. Mostly. I approached motherhood with a strong desire to breastfeed, exclusively (of course), for as long as possible. I was armed with books, classes, the internet and a supportive husband and circle of friends.
What I didn’t know is that breastfeeding is hard and for some women, impossible. You see they don’t tell you about that in the classes. Most books and websites use words like – “rarely” or made up statistics like “less than 1%” when referring to issues like low supply. I get it. From a public health promotion standpoint, you don’t want to focus on the negative. You want everyone to give it a shot. But, this false information has resulted in isolation and guilt if you happen to be one of those women.
For me, my story involves challenges, guilt and eventually coming to terms with my inability to breastfeed exclusively and redefining my success as a part-time breastfeeder (we do exist). You can read that story here.
For the record, whatever you feed your baby – breastmilk or formula – from breast, bottle, cup, tube or supplemental nursing system, and however you made that decision – by choice or necessity – as long as you are feeding your baby and they are thriving, you are doing it right.
But the battle doesn’t stop there. When should you start feeding solids? What kind? Cereal? Purees? Finger food? Recently on Facebook, an acquaintance described baby-led weaning – giving your baby small pieces of soft table food to feed to themselves, versus spoon-feeding them purees – as dangerous, unwise and even worse – trendy (/sarcasm). What?! How on earth do parents all over the world feed their kids when jarred food is not available or affordable? I lived in West Africa. There was no “baby food”. There was food.
Disclaimer – while we gave our daughter purees (homemade, organic purees of course!), we haven’t with our son. He is a table food connoisseur. BUT, do I think that people who feed purees or cereal to their babies are wrong? Nope.
And speaking of table food. I am a vegetarian and so are my children. I recently reflected that being a vegetarian is even more difficult than being an Atheist in the rural Midwest. Seriously, the conversations I’ve had with relatives, child care workers, co-workers, friends and strangers would make you think that we were slowly killing them by not feeding them meat. I wish I were being hyperbolic. I hear about once a week: “But, if they don’t eat meat, what do they eat?” The answer: everything else.
Every day, we learn more about what we should or should not be eating or feeding our kids. Organic, free-range, vegan and the newest – GMO-free. Countless activists, celebrities, websites and friends on Facebook demand GMO-free food and question the safety of our food supply if we can’t limit GMOs. Despite the fact that there has never been a single credible scientific study which shows that eating GMOs or meat from animals who ate GMOs is harmful. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone, but I honestly believe that GMOs could have the potential to end starvation.
Both of my kids are growing, healthy and happy. So far, they are both meeting all of the developmental milestones for their ages and even passing their peers in some areas.
It really is simple: Have a baby/babies. Feed them. Repeat.
And the parenting wars? They are fought by insecure people who are just trying to justify their own decisions. Let’s all try to remember that.
Beautiful kid and boob image credit: Steph, all rights reserved