I read a fantastic post by the mom blogger Ruth Crilly on her top five mom guilts the other evening, after Mr. Magpie had fallen asleep, and was alternating between stifling laughter and nodding emphatically, especially when she spoke about her reliance on food pouches. She writes:
“My second source of ongoing guilt is what I like to call the Astronaut Diet. Baby food exclusively delivered via the medium of Pouch…I always thought that I’d be there at the hob, slaving away making delicious recipes and then blending them with a stick blender. HA! That’s happened all of once – it was when Angelica was a baby and she refused it for the whole week. The bits I had frozen in stupid bloody effing ice cube trays periodically came out to be defrosted and immediately (and violently) refused. Ella’s Kitchen Spaghetti Bolognese? Went down a treat.”
I completely relate to this one. Pre-mini, I remember telling everyone, rather cavalierly, “I’m going to feed her everything. Beets, caviar, liver — everything.” (Well, maybe not caviar. But there is a — potentially apocryphal — story my mother likes to tell: when I was a toddler, I waddled over to my parents’ spread of caviar and blini and started licking the lid of the caviar jar. “She’s always had expensive tastes,” my mom says, knowingly.) Pre-mini, I had visions of myself with a freezer stocked with fancy purees and baby-approved dishes, and a baby who would reach for kimchi over chicken nuggets.
It’s not that I don’t agree that a variety of foods is a good thing. I do. I try to expose her to as many flavors as possible and routinely give her bites of food off my plate so she can taste new things. But I suppose I never quite thought about how time-consuming a baby’s food preparation might be, especially when she decides, upon first blush, a certain flavor isn’t to her taste. I’ve spent entire mornings making turkey meatballs, tomato sauce, beef and broccoli smashes, turkey and cranberry sauce purees, etc, etc., only to have her scrunch up her face and promptly deposit said slaved-over entree on the ground for Tilly to eat.
Which nearly always leaves me reaching for an Ella’s Kitchen pouch, or pulling yogurt or applesauce out of the fridge. She loves yogurt — she smacks her lips and giggles (giggles! can you imagine giggling with glee over your next meal?) when she sees it! — that it’s become such an easy crutch for me: with one tear of a lid, I have a happy, protein-filled, full baby. But then I worry: am I overfeeding her yogurt? Is she becoming too dependent on it? Should I insist she try lots of other flavors before returning to it? Am I giving in too easily? If she refuses the entree I’ve prepared (and she does so, violently — pursing her lips and shaking her head and then gripping the spoon with uncanny strength or smearing the food all over her tray and onto the floor), should dinner just be over?
(One of you smart mamas wrote to say: “You decide what’s for dinner; she decides how much.” My pediatrician echoed this sentiment by saying that, in her first year, the amount she eats is not overly important; it’s more about exposing her palate to new flavors, as she’s still ingesting most of her calories from formula/breast milk. Literal food for thought.)
I enjoy preparing her food from scratch, and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when I present her with a new dish I’ve loving created for her. But let me be honest: I already feel harried and behind now that I’m responsible for planning and preparing more of my meals with Mr. Magpie (he used to take on the lion’s share, but now that he is in a more traditional job out of the home, the onus has — logically — shifted back to me), and layering in planning, shopping, and cooking time for mini can occasionally feel overwhelming, especially when I’d like to use her nap time to catch up on work or the pile of admin in front of me, and particularly when I have a sneaking suspicion said culinary forays will be met with stiff disapproval by its intended audience.
And that’s where another wave of #momguilt comes in: so what if it’s inconvenient? My most important job is raising mini, and that means spending time doing things I might prefer not to in order to care for her the best I can. A healthy and balanced diet is possibly one of the best gifts I can give her. And, selfishly — I’ll be setting myself up for years of frustration by way of picky-eater-syndrome if I don’t power through and introduce her to as varied a diet as possible now. Or, so say the experts, who also might change their mind next time the wind blows — suddenly, it will be en vogue to have babies eat “an all white diet” or “meat first, then vegetables, and — lastly, if you must — fruit” or “only meat broth for the first 9 months of life” or what have you. (On this note, I’m fairly certain that experts will also soon inform us that Puffs are impossibly bad for children and the root cause of all allergies and, yes, the devil’s offspring — and those happy stints of 5-10 minutes we earn by sprinkling a few puffs on the old highchair tray will be long gone.)
Last week, I decided to pick one morning each week to make a range of home-cooked items for mini — a few simple steamed vegetables tossed with a little butter and some spice (carrots seasoned with ginger and cut into little pieces, spinach with nutmeg, etc), a roasted sweet potato, and then something more involved: last week, these meatballs. (She was not a fan, but she liked being able to hold the meatball in her hand and gnaw on it. Incidentally, they were pretty good — I snacked on many of them once she decided she was anti-meatball.) The one-designated-baby-food-cooking-day made things a little simpler for me, but I realized with a start that the entire operation was designed to make me feel better (less guilty!) than it was about anything else. What is wrong with me!? There I was, stocking the fridge with micro tupperware full of food I’d prepared myself, feeling like a success — and then it hit me: why am I making this about me?!
#MOMGUILT #MOMGUILT #MOMGUILT
So that’s where we are. Dangling somewhere between home-cooked food and yogurt, feeling guilty about it all. HA.
Post-Script on Baby Feeding Gear.
I’ve already shared a lot of my favorite baby feeding gear, and a thorough review of her high chair. (Which, incidentally, I continue to love — my only update to this is that I wish it had wheels. But do I? I don’t know. Sometimes I wish I could just drag it across our hardwood floor to the kitchen so I can keep an eye on her, as the dining room is separated by a wall in our new apartment — but then maybe it would be annoying to have to lock the wheels and I’m not sure I think wheels on those spindly legs would even work. Hm. You can’t have it all, women.)
At any rate, a few other feeding-related discoveries and thoughts:
+A Jewish girlfriend of mine told me that a recent medical study found that very few babies in Israel have peanut allergies, while a disproportionately high number of Jewish babies outside of Israel do. They were attributing it in part to the fact that a lot of Jewish babies in Israel eat these peanut snacks called Bambas — they’re like puffs or teething crackers (they dissolve in the mouth), but they are peanut-flavored. We’ve introduced almond and peanut butter to mini many times already, as our pediatricians have been on a similar tack, the current thinking being that introducing them to nuts early may prevent allergies down the road, but I just snagged some of these snacks as an alternative to mini’s Puff obsession, and she’s HOOKED. (Thanks, A!)
+I am OBSESSED with this new-to-me French line Baby Cie. They sell all of these precious melamine trays, bowls, and sippy cups with the cutest expressions and illustrations. I bought mini this birthday set for her March birthday, but am already using the plate, and I pretty much died over this robot one. SO CUTE. How PRECIOUS are the patterns?! And I love the messages — “Imagine the World,” surrounded by books?! and “Follow Your Rainbow”? Ugh too good. I am having to restrain myself from ordering one of each.
+This snack catcher will be in mini’s stocking. (I read about 93823 reviews on various snack catchers, and this seems to be the best.)
+Mini still hasn’t figured out how to drink through a straw. I just bought this straw cup to see if helps. Any suggestions?
+I’ve tried a bunch of different bibs, but I think my favorite are Superbibs. I love them because you can toss them in the laundry so they get a good cleaning every few days, and they don’t get in mini’s way when she’s eating. I find that her Baby Bjorns — though useful thanks to their little troughs, which catch the bits and bites that don’t quite make it to her mouth and therefore keep her high chair cleaner, often get in her way, and she’ll be struggling to maneuver around the hard plastic to get to a stray strawberry chunk or noodle. I also love that you can fold a superbib into a tiny square and toss it in your baby bag for eating on the go without needing to bring a spare suitcase to accommodate her feeding gear. Finally, they’re well-priced, and they last!
Finally, unrelated to food:
+This toy manger set! SO CUTE! One of my lovely magpies reached out and commented that she appreciates when I talk about being a Catholic and that she specifically wondered about my thoughts on raising a baby in the faith. Oh man — I wish I had the answers. My sister (mini’s godmother) has a much better head on her shoulders when it comes to this, and I’m following her suit. I think that a gift like this might help, though!
+A few of you saw that I took mini to Peter + the Wolf at the Guggenheim museum (narrated by Isaac Mizrahi! SO wonderful) last weekend, and asked about the boots she was wearing in the photo I posted: these from Gap. TOO CUTE. And she was wearing this coat and hat set by Spanish line Foque.