My niece (we’ll call her Ashley) will deliver baby #1 (hereafter referred to as “Blimpey”) in January. I’ve already covered “sleeping,” and this column is about “food and eating.”
I understand at the present time you are not concerned much about Blimpey sleeping and eating; the focus is on your expanding waist line and the occasional kick. Mark my word, keeping Blimpey quiet will soon be Job One. Sleeping is quiet time; eating also is quiet time because you can’t eat and scream at the same moment. So here’s some Uncle Bill advice on food and eating.
Best nourishment right from the get go is breast milk – readily available, inexpensive, and very healthy. Continue as long as you can. Then comes the bottle with milk from Mrs. Cow or formula from J&J. Continue as long as you can.
Moving to solid food is often done too early by new parents. We tried at six months with the following result – food in, food out, food in, food out. Someone told a friend to start at month one so the baby would sleep the night. Didn’t work; baby still up at night and baby unhappy with the hard stuff. Cereal is usually the first solid food. Next should come vegetables, as disgusting as cream peas may look. Critical point: don’t ever taste Blimpey’s food; it tastes just like it looks. If early on you give Blimpey the choice of creamed vegetables or fruit puree (with sugar added), he will choose dessert over vegetables for the rest of his life.
I believe dinner time (for you farmers, dinner is the evening meal in the city) should be a happy family time, not a fight over eating food. I grew up with strong parental pressure to finish everything on my plate because “there are people starving in China.” To this day I remember those poor kids in China, and by habit I try to eat everything on my plate. Not a good idea as you age and your metabolism slows and leads to unhealthy extra pounds. The portions at most restaurants are huge, and it has taken me years to understand that I should cut the meal in half and take the rest home “for the dog.” “Finish your vegetables,” still rings in a corner of my mind. Your Mom and I had to sit there at the table until those cold, unappetizing green things were gone. And gone went the vegetables – to the dog (thanks Taffy), in the napkin, in the milk (didn’t work), on the floor, and even down the metal table leg. No dessert until the plate is clean. Or from others – nothing to drink until the food is gone. Not good memories. My recommendation after years of seeing and doing the wrong food things is for Mom and Dad (working together) to put a small portion of each food group on a child’s plate. Once everything is finished, Blimbey can choose more of anything with no pressure to finish the second helping. Eating all of the initial small portions qualifies Blimbey for dessert.
For best results, raise your child to eat at mealtimes and mealtimes only – OK, it’s permissible to provide an occasional healthy, between meal snack. Although others may disagree, I suggest you work to prevent raising a “grazer,” someone who must eat every few hours. Life is better for those who think “food” only three times a day. Breakfast is the most important meal and fresh (or frozen) fruit should be a part of each breakfast.
Healthy food is best. Avoid the bad stuff whenever you can. Bad stuff is everywhere. Watch the levels of sugar, salt, fat, and preservatives. Instruct toddlers to taste the food first before automatically putting salt on it; teach grade schoolers to read food labels; teach your high school students to do the dishes. Remember, kids do have taste buds. Work on making the food taste good (your husband will like this part also); make sure the milk is really cold. Fresh is better than canned. First cooked is better than leftovers. Start a small garden; Blimpey can help plant, water, pick, and eat whatever grows.
My son (your cousin) perhaps said it best – “The earlier you start good eating habits, the more likely the kids are to eat right for the rest of their lives.” And be a good example when it comes to eating, Blimbey will be watching.
Love, Uncle Bill
PS – And don’t call her Blimpey!