Reposted and slightly edited with permission from Mr. and Mrs. Wright by Tristina Wright.
When I wrote the post about Olivia being [perfectly capable] of sleeping through the night according to her pediatrician, a handful of folks zeroed in on my offhanded statement about rice cereal. I received a few questions via email, twitter and facebook asking about my stance on rice cereal or if I am “against it” or if I knew something about rice cereal that others don’t. Nothing argumentative – just all out of curiosity. At least I’m going to take it that way and proceed as such.
Firstly, and I want to make this absolutely clear: Everything I am about to talk about is my opinion and is not meant to be judging, condemning, or anything negative towards your opinion. Everyone parents differently and I do not make it a habit of judging anyone else’s parenting style. Is your kid healthy, active, happy, wanted and loved? Fabulous. End.
Secondly, here are some valuable links where I gleaned a lot of my information in addition to talking with my own mom, Stephen’s mom, Stephen, and other moms on Twitter and in real life:
Rice Cereal Can Wait – http://www.pediatricnews.com/article/S0031-398X(09)70296-6/fulltex
World Health Organization (WHO) Stance on Breastfeeding – http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Stance on Breastfeeding – http://www.aap.org/breastfeeding/faqsBreastfeeding.html
The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding – http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/breastfeeding/index.html
Here are the three rules I go by:
- Babies ideally shouldn’t have any solids before 6 months
- We will never feed Olivia (or any of our other children) anything that either Stephen or I wouldn’t eat and enjoy ourselves
- There is really no such thing as “baby food”
Now to break it all down. Sorry if I start to ramble.
1. Babies ideally shouldn’t have any solids before 6 months
This is not a hard and fast rule. However, on the whole, baby stomachs are not equipped to break down solid foods before roughly 6 months of age. Plus, until that age (and, truthfully, until a year old) they get more than enough nutrition from breastmilk or formula. Food is mostly for exploration and play at that point. I know a lot of people that wait until a year of age to introduce solids. We tried at 6 months, she wasn’t interested. We tried again at 7.5 months and she was interested. Even now, at 9.5 months, she eats but mostly plays and practices her dexterity. Her primary source of nutrition is still breastmilk and she nurses A LOT.
Ignoring the whole “timing” part of it, letting the baby show interest in food is usually the best way to go. It’s how my mom acted with my brother and I. She just waited until we showed interest in something she was eating, let us have a bit and waited for a reaction. Sometimes, we wanted more. Sometimes, we wandered off and did something else. Consequently, neither my brother or I had any solids until we were a year old. But that was us. Your baby and my baby may be/are different. The point is letting the child be all, “OOO WHAT IS THAT?” and proceeding accordingly. This whole baby thing is only around for such a short while – why rush it or hold it to some arbitrary general timeline?
I realize that solids, especially rice cereal, are recommended for aiding sleeping. Personally, I don’t agree with this. The reason why the baby is sleeping and not waking up hungry is because the cereal is just sitting in their stomachs taking a looooooong time to digest so they are missing out on breastmilk nutrients they would otherwise get by night nursing. I know, night nursing is not ideal. I spoke about this already in that blog post. I would love it (and do) if she slept through the night all the time but the fact is, her stomach is the size of a walnut and breastmilk digest really fast because she’s growing really fast – even in her sleep.
That said, there are successful uses of foods like rice cereal when used as a treatment for severe reflux to help keep everything down.
Exceptions to every suggested rule, yes?
2. We will never feed Olivia (or any of our other children) anything that either Stephen or I wouldn’t eat and enjoy ourselves
Here’s where my aversion to rice cereal comes into play. Honestly? I don’t believe it’s really food. Have you ever eaten it? If not, go into your kitchen and grind up some rice in a coffee grinder until it’s dust. Boil it in water or milk until it’s soft and goopy. No seasonings. Enjoy!
If I or my husband refuse to eat this then how can I feed this to my child?
If you didn’t read the “Rice Cereal Can Wait” article up top then go read that now. It explains how rice cereal is recommended now more out of tradition than anything else. That many many more foods have non-allergenic properties and are far healthier – rice cereal is empty carbs. And, also, that the iron in rice cereal (once thought to help the iron levels of babies who are primarily breastfed) is not the right type of iron readily absorbed by tiny bodies.
All the science aside, [for me and Stephen], it comes down to taste and enjoyment. I want to be able to eat something in front of her and [honestly] smile and say, “yum!” and get her to try it. There are so many foods out there in the world that are full of flavor and complexity and vitamins and minerals and the right proteins and all that good stuff. Why restrict yourself to a jar of bland food that tradition has basically dictated we feed our children?
A follows B follows C follows D…..
I don’t agree with that.
Which brings to the last point which defines my way of thinking.
3. There is really no such thing as “baby food”
Wait, what? But the aisle in the grocery store with the jarred—
There is no such thing as “baby food” just as there is no such thing as “toddler food” “kid food” “teenager food” “young adult food” “middle aged adult food” and “older adult food.” There is just FOOD.
Food, people. Food that comes in all shapes, sizes, smells, textures, and preparations.
So step one is to stop looking at “baby food” as that and start looking at everything as “food” and move from there.
Step two? Convenience food. That’s how I see the jars and packages on the shelves marketed to babies. Convenience food. And that food and its purpose is no different from the Bag of Pasta Dinner or the Frozen Pizza or the Pre-Made Bagel Breakfast Sandwiches a few aisles over. Convenience food. Food that has had all the work done for you and all you have to do is warm and serve.
And I’m not knocking convenience food. I have eaten my fair share of frozen pizzas, pasta dinners from a bag and bagel breakfast sandwiches!
It’s more about my family’s lifestyle now. Five years ago, when it was just Stephen and I and we were dating and working full-time, we were all about the convenience food and going out to eat. Sure, we cooked some but not a lot and it’s easier to throw a pizza in the oven when you get home late from work. If we’d had a baby at that time, I can pretty much guarantee you that you would have found Convenience Food for Babies in our apartment, too.
Now, however, he and I are [trying] to eat healthier and save money. We recently went gluten-free. We’ve cut back on things like sugar, caffeine and processed, packaged foods. We shop at the farmer’s market and cook A LOT. So, having a baby at this juncture means we continue that lifestyle with her. Cooking for her as well. Breaking off a bit of my chicken breast for her to eat. Making 3 servings of something and saving most of the third serving because she only eats a spoonful of it. It’s healthier. It saves money. Sure it’s more time consuming to cook dinner every single night but it’s worth it. And I can make three months worth of food to feed Olivia for about $1.50, which is how much 2 medium sweet potatoes cost at my farmer’s market. No convenience food anywhere can boast that.
So no convenience food? Not right now. That is not to say that we will never have convenience food for our whole family on a long road trip or day trips to Grandma’s.
It’s all about how you think about it. And I choose to see food as food and not “for a specific age group” because that just seems….odd…to me. I see it for what it is. Processed or not. Packaged or not. Fresh or not. Cooked or not.
Food can be fun. I know it can be time consuming and overwhelming but it can also be ridiculous amounts of fun. I’m still learning more about it every day. New ways to cook things and new foods I’ve never tried. I go back every once in a while to foods I don’t like to make sure I still don’t like them. And I want my daughter and all my future children to grow up with the same love and joy and fun for food and cooking and trying new things.