Monday, August 6, 2012

Baby "Nutrition"

Before I begin tonight's post I will admit that I gave Felicity a pea-sized crumb of a vegan carrot cupcake today (the cake part, certainly not the frosting). She's eight months old, and looked up at me pleadingly when I didn't share my food with her. I acquiesced, I'm nice like that. But I didn't give her the whole cupcake.

I'm a member of BabyCenter, something I have in common with the majority of new moms I meet. Not familiar? BabyCenter is an online community of parents, mostly mothers, who join specific groups with similar interests or demographics. For example, I'm part of the November 2011 Birth Club (Felicity was due in November), December 2011 Birth Club (Felicity arrived on December 1st), several NYC groups, a PUPPPs support group, and a breastfeeding support group.

I spent a lot of time on BabyCenter when I was pregnant. With over 12,000 members in my November group, there were all sorts of interesting questions and thoughts about pregnancy and our coming babies. After Felicity was born, and as she's grown, I've gradually spent less and less time on BabyCenter, to the point where I didn't even check any of the group forums for about two months.

I accidentally clicked on the link to my birth board on my bookmark bar last night, and was immediately sucked back in. And I cannot even begin to relay my horror.

Numerous posts in the November group centered around feeding babies. While it's nice to check in with other moms to see how their babies are doing, I simply cannot believe what some of these parents are feeding their children! Above and beyond the disgusting, jarred purees, parents are introducing (with pride!) ice cream, packaged deli cold cuts, chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese (and I'm guessing it's not the homemade kind), pizza, etc. What frightens me is that, with the exception of cold cuts, which many moms are avoiding, all of these seem to be very standard foods.

It's not just these online moms, either. I former coworker told me her 7-month old's favorite food was marshmallows. The next day, I saw a baby who could not have been older than 6 months sucking on a cheeto while strolling down State Street. And I cannot help but recollect seeing a father scold his young daughter for not finishing her french fries on the subway a few months back.

And we wonder why our kids become picky! Maybe because we first shove canned vegetable mush at them, and then we give them processed and/or unhealthy garbage to eat. Are children even allowed to develop a palate for healthy food?

I write this as a woman who loves her comfort food and desserts. I'm a bit of a sugar addict, and before becoming vegans, Ian and I would enjoy pizza and ice cream most Friday nights. But, as Ian and I have Felicity at our dinner table with us for most meals, we are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of providing her (and ourselves) with balanced, nutritious meals. While I fully anticipate that she will love cupcakes and ice cream as much as the next child, I also want Felicity to have a love of whole foods. I want her to have a love of vegetables and fruits, and to like eating beans and lentils. I want her to appreciate creativity and thought in the kitchen. I want her to like colors (not artificial!) on her plate. I want her to see comfort food and sweet things as occasional treats, not the norm. I want her to think that juice and soda are too sweet, and to not see sweet beverages as a way to quench thirst.

I recognize that feeding your child well and thoughtfully is a privilege. It's a privilege to afford good fruits and vegetables, to have the time and energy to prepare nutritious and interesting meals, and to be able to control everything that is put in front of your baby. Many women, many parents, do not have these luxuries. Yet I cannot help but feel that there is something very wrong with the environment that even has "childrens" foods for the "picky eater," a phenomenon that apparently is rare in France.

I also recognize that, because I'm writing and releasing this post into the great wide world, I will be doomed with a future fussy eater.