These lessons have informed the choices our family makes about how to feed our Henry. I hope I can remember them as we delve into this journey.
1. There is no one right way to raise a child.
There are few absolutes when it comes to raising a child. This means we have lots of choices and decisions to make about Henry’s upbringing, which is both freeing and terrifying. Many of the supposedly standard child-rearing practices are actually based on cultural norms. I found the book “How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting” by Mei-Ling Hopgood to be a very inspiring look at parenting in other cultures.
Food traditions are no different. In North America, we tend to think of rice cereal followed by several stages of puree as the standard first foods for babies. Before these products were mass marketed and produced, babies tended to eat what their parents ate. In many cultures around the world, they still do. And most children will develop normally and grow up to be healthy adults. In the end it probably doesn’t matter whether you begin with rice cereal, pureed fruits or steamed veggies.
2. Trust yourself and your child.
Even the experts seem to disagree on just about everything, so follow your intuition and use common sense. It seems like no two people have the same parenting recommendations, and the spectrum of advice on how to feed your child is no different. It really is up to you to decide when, what, how and how much to feed your child. Every family has their own food traditions, eating habits and allergy histories. Every child has their own personality traits, quirks and opinions. You have to pay attention, do your research, and make decisions about what works best for your family.
3. Be flexible and willing to adapt.
Don’t expect Plan A to go smoothly. Don’t even expect Plan B to succeed as intended. Often the best of intentions just do not work out as planned so try not to get too attached to your initial ideas. Before Henry arrived, I said I would never use disposal diapers, but now we use them for overnights and traveling. I said I would never use baby formula, but when Henry was born early at only four pounds four ounces he had to stay in the NICU. Supplementing breast milk with formula was our best option for helping him gain weight so he could come home quickly. Circumstances change and what was unacceptable in concept may become acceptable in reality.