No, no, we’re not starting Owen on solid food just yet. He’s only 3 months old, people! BUT I did get to take part in an incredibly interesting discussion about babies and food led by Dr. Greene, a pediatrician and author of “Feeding Baby Green“.
It was all part of a pre-opening event generating buzz about the new Isis Parenting store opening on the South Shore. For those who are not local to the Boston area, Isis Parenting is the place where I’ve done both of my Mommy Groups, and the #1 reason I consider myself to be a sane, healthy, happy mom. It is, first and foremost, a community of the most knowledgeable and helpful early childhood development experts and new moms in the area. They have a retail store, classes, drop-ins, playgroups, support for breastfeeding and sleep issues, prenatal massage and yoga, postnatal workout classes and on and on. There are 4 centers around Boston, and now there’s a new center in town, on the South Shore. I got a sneak peek at the blueprints for the new store and it looks amazing! Anyway, Nancy, the lactation consultant who has been immensely helpful working through Owen’s issues with me, invited me to join her for this event with Dr. Greene.
Although we’re at least a month or two away from starting solid foods with Owen, Dr. Greene’s philosophy really inspired me to think about exactly what is going in his mouth. And my mouth. He explained that babies’ tastes and food preferences begin to be imprinted and established even before they enter this world. The foods that I ate while pregnant have a strong impact on Owen’s future eating behaviors. It’s a darn good thing I’m such a healthy eater! No, really. (Remember this post?) I firmly believe that my habits of eating mostly whole, natural foods, and cooking almost all of my food myself (rather than eating it out of a box) will set Owen up for a lifetime of eating well and being healthy. And even now, since he’s eating my breastmilk 99% of the time, he’s experiencing a variety of flavors and natural nutrients.
I have always heard that when you start babies on solid foods, you have to a) wait until 6 months due to possible allergies and b) starts with grains and then move to veggies and then to fruits, giving just one new food at a time so you can see if the baby has some reaction to it. Dr. Greene challenges both of these beliefs. First, he believes we are doing a great disservice to our children by offering them processed, bland, white rice cereal as their first food. He cited a study that was done generations ago that found that simply switching from white rice to brown rice cured many of the diseases/conditions that were killing people at the time. Apparently white rice, back then, was stripped of important B vitamins and simply adding those vitamins back into their diets completely reversed the damage that they had done to their bodies. Although nowadays those B vitamins are added back into white rice, it still stands to reason that we shouldn’t be giving our children something so processed and stripped down from its natural state as their first food.
In fact, he advises us to start solid foods with fruits and vegetables that babies and children can experience with all of their senses. Give them a banana that they can hold, see the color of, see you eat a piece of, and finally taste. This way, in addition to getting totally natural nutrients, they are also learning where food comes from and how we eat it, rather than learning that it is white, tasteless mush that comes from a box.
In a world that is scared silly of allergies, I tend to side with Dr. Greene on this one. Years ago, no one would have separated foods the way that we do, and jarred baby food didn’t even exist. People just mashed up whatever they were eating and gave it to their babies. Although I wouldn’t start Owen out on highly allergenic foods like peanuts, I feel strongly about starting him out on REAL food, and not mush from a box.
Dr. Greene’s talk was very timely for me, as I am struggling with the breastmilk vs. formula issue. He mentioned that formula fed babies are at a slight disadvantage in the world of eating because they are only tasting one taste for many months. Because of this, he would opt to start formula-fed babies on solids earlier than those fed exclusively breastmilk. He thinks that the more tastes you offer your baby, and the more times they are offered, the more likely they are to eat lots of different foods.
I will not stand for having a 2 year old eating only french fries and macaroni and cheese. In fact, I’m not even sure my 2 year old will know what french fries (except the kind I make at home from sweet potatoes!) will taste like. But it’s amazing how many parents say, “My kid will only eat X”. Granted, I have not been there yet, but I like to think I can win that battle before it’s ever fought by exposing Owen to as many whole, natural, healthy foods as possible, starting from the day I saw that little plus sign.
Addendum and apology: I realize, after reading many of the comments below, that my words were not well chosen in the post above! I apologize if they were taken as condescending or judgmental of others’ decisions or experiences. I did not intend to make a statement about anyone else’s decisions or choices, only my own hopes for Owen’s future. I absolutely realize that, as with everything else parenting-related, I have a lot to learn! And, more importantly, it will never turn out as I planned. My passion for this topic came across as absolute and unyielding, and that’s not really how it is at all. I definitely eat french fries and macaroni and cheese once in awhile, and I still consider myself to be a healthy eater. I realize that once Owen starts solid foods, he will develop his own tastes and preferences (hey, he probably already has them now, although it’s harder for him to show it). And it will be beyond my control! I simply meant to say that I hope to give him the best foundation possible.
Again, apologies if anyone felt offended by my wording. I blame having to write the post as fast as possible so I could get a shower before naptime ended :)