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Feeding time (at the zoo)!!

You know the stage, when your baby moves away from exclusively milk diet to the blended, could be anything, probably is anything solids.

There is competition, yes, it is fierce, inside their heads mothers are wrestling others to the ground to stand proudly above them declaring in loud voices that their offspring eats 5 or 6 ice cubes worth of food at each meal. Victorious with the amount of food consumed but also in the knowledge that this measurement of food is evidence of home prepared food. Blended butternut squash and other puréed vegetables lovingly prepared and poured into ice cube trays for freezing, to be defrosted and fed to eager little darlings only to come out in poo that looks exactly like the food on the way in!

Guilt is born of imagine expectations and obligations. New mums, especially first time mums, often have a network of friends who are also new mums, often a legacy of anti-natal groups or made through various classes, usually based on shaking a tambourine while trying to keep your children from squirming away from the perfectly formed circle in which you sit. This can be a great source of comfort, people with a common understanding of what life has become but equally at some unconscious level these readily available comparison points can feed our negative narrative and consequential guilt.

My own daughter wasn’t terribly fussed about solid food. She was vaguely curious but would much rather have her milk. When her peer group were scoffing bowls of mashed avocado and banana (gosh how privileged do I sound, sorry!) she would managed about 1 ice cube worth of some blended indistinguishable vegetable. It didn’t get better as the other mothers moved to introducing lumps, a landmark jump heralding another development milestone and one that my daughter really had no interest in. Anything with even the smallest amount of texture, let alone lumps was spat or dibbled out, smeared on dresses or in hair but it was not ingested.

It is amazing that when when we let the negative internal dialogue take a grip we almost search out evidence and proof that we have failed, I believe the educated word is confirmation bias. I labelled myself as somehow deficient, unable to produce food that she wanted. I tried all variables from home cooking to jars and even powdered food, anything not to see my daughter fall two weeks behind her peers on the developmental comparisons chart, a made-up chart created internally in the minds of over fretful, tired, hormone crazed mothers. My eldest child was at this weening stage sometime ago and pre the invention of all sorts of delicious ready made and easy to go and organic concoctions there are now. Food was either lovingly and labour intensive produced at home, powered food or jars of food that smelt worse that dog food when you opened them. My daughters preference was powdered food, you simply added water and voila apparently you had created the baby equivalent to beef wellington. Frankly I gave her whatever she would eat but I was a little ashamed of the dehydrated powder I produced when other yummier mummies were producing other yummier food. I can remember being with out my mother-in-law and a friend of hers, my daughter was hungry and I decided there was nothing for it but to whip out my pot of powder and make up a meal. As this little pot appeared the friend reverted, as most people do, to talking in parentise (that slightly high pitched goo goo voice that babies seem to love). “Whose a lucky girl, what are you having today?” and leaned in to take a closer look. “Oh” and I watched her face drop, the unsaid sentence hanging in the air of “thats not real food”. I felt shame and felt that I had failed, I felt guilty that I had not produced some home cooked wonder packed with vitamins and minerals, I had simply wanted to keep up with what all my other mummy friends were doing and this was as close as my daughter and I could get to solids.

She remained reluctant, as others moved to “lumps” she was reticent, smooth and only smooth would do. A few people commented and I would retort “I don't worry, I don't think she’ll be on her first date at a restaurant and only eating puréed food”. It was said with a hesitant little smile and chuckle but inside I was dying, to have my failings as a mother so visible and out there. As I write this it seems nuts but that is the thing about parental guilt, it squirms its way into nooks and crannies of any “less than” worries, taking hold and turning them into significant issues, moments, days and weeks taking on a whole new timeline as to what is acceptable at any given moment of the fast moving calendar as your gurgling, belching, farting , pooing and eating creature (no not the fathers child, although the same may apply).

While I use food to highlight this it is true of any developmental milestone. When we put on our rational head we know that it doesn’t make sense to feel any emotion attached to the timing of when our children do these things. Yes we are right to feel that burst of joy and happiness as we watch our child take those first few unstable steps but the timing isn’t important and it is not a competition, there is nothing to be judge here. Here we need to stand together, this is not mothering one uppmanship. Frankly unless a trained professional such as a community nurse, midwife or doctor is telling you they are concerned please don’t accept the anecdotal evidence of your friends children reaching milestones earlier ahead of expert opinion. This is another one of those cases where it is importance to dial down the volume on the internal negative narrative and enjoy those moments of food smearing and mess, captured on photos for embarrassing your child later in life.

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