Random Thoughts / "Feeding the baby"
I spent my spring break in Miami. I danced, I ate in restaurants, I shopped, and I went to the beach with a good-looking younger man: my 1-year-old grandson. I loved being with him, especially because, as the grandma, I got to have all the fun and none of the responsibility. These days, the responsibility of being a parent seems more overwhelming than ever.
Parents now have more choices to make than ever before. They also have access to more information than ever before. In addition to the mountain of books written about any baby- or child-related subject, there are millions of articles to be found on the Internet. There is such a thing as knowing too much.
I was fairly clueless as a new parent. I read the books that were available, but there were only a few to choose between. Their different approaches boiled down to either let the baby cry, or pick her up. Now, the equipment alone is enough to keep parents on the Internet for endless hours of research about the best stroller, crib, high chair, activity center, car seat, sippee cups and diapers. There is too much choice, and yet there is also a sense among these poor young people that the "right" answer exists if they just search hard enough.
There are all kinds of new theories. There's one about the "fourth trimester" when you should say "sshhh" to your baby in very loud tones to duplicate the sounds of the womb. There are various sleep theories -- the old pick her up or let her cry question has multiplied tenfold. There are all sorts of new dilemmas: sunscreen or vitamin D? Pacifier or thumb? Mirror on the car seat or not? For every question, the Google search responses could keep the poor parents sitting at the computer until their little ones are old enough for college.
One area we older parents gave little thought to was feeding our children. There was the question of breast- or bottle-feeding, but after that, we just opened the Gerber jars until our kids were old enough to eat what the rest of us were eating. Now, even for adults, food has become an intensely pondered subject. What to eat is so confusing it's even the name of a new book by one of our food experts. The confusion is even worse when parents contemplate spooning something into their treasured babies' mouths.
My daughter is completely absorbed in deciding what to feed her baby. For example, as she approaches a year, she is agonizing over what kind of milk to give him. It seems sad that what we once regarded as a healthy necessity for all kids has come under scrutiny. We told our kids to drink their milk. It was cow's milk that we picked up at the grocery store. Our only quality control was to sniff the container and make sure it hadn't spoiled.
My daughter is rightfully concerned about the hormones, antibiotics and pesticides that come with that milk in the supermarket. And she doesn't know if she can trust the organic companies that claim their milk comes from cows allowed to wander in green (unfertilized) fields and listen to classical music while they are milked. She also wonders if human babies are even supposed to drink a beverage designed for calves. She reads too much.
This daughter was never much of a cook, but she is now. Over the last few years she's been learning about our food supply and has become pretty careful about what she eats. If she's careful about what she eats, she's vigilant about what her baby consumes. Lucky us who fed our young in those simple days when we trusted whatever was available in the grocery store. Few of us questioned whether our little ones should eat meat, or if their cereal was processed, or if the Wonder Bread had had all of the goodness processed out of it.
My daughter was driving herself crazy reading books about feeding her baby. Each book had a different answer to the question of milk, wheat, meat or eggs. Each book had a different formula for creating a healthy diet for babies. Each book made her feel as if she was poisoning her child if she didn't do what it told her to do.
Thankfully for her sanity, lately my daughter seems to be taking a more traditional approach to parenting. I've noticed that she's put some of her books away. She's talking to other mothers instead, as mothers have always done. And she's learning from her son, as mothers have also always done. He's letting her know what he needs, and it's about more than pure food.
My daughter makes soups with organic vegetables, and sautés wild fish for her son. She purees locally grown spinach and cuts up fruits from a co-op. She works hard to make his diet as chemical-free and nutrient rich as possible. But she has also learned to relax.
When we took my grandson out for lunch while I was visiting, we tore up pieces of the warm popovers (not whole-grain) they gave us and laughed as we watch him shove them into his mouth. We cut pieces of chicken (not organic) from our sandwiches and giggled as he gobbled up those too.
Like all good moms before her, she has figured out that you do the research, and make your best effort to figure out what is good for your child, but in the end laughing as you watch him enjoy a warm roll is more important than all the tofu in the health food store.