As I sit here, struggling with a massive cold given to me by my granddaughter (ever notice how rosy-cheeked toddlers can look kinda cute with a stuffy nose, but grandmothers not so much?) I find myself reflecting on baby’s first foods. That may be because nothing appeals to my appetite at the moment, and I couldn’t taste much anyway.
Also, one of my BFF grandmother pals recently told me that her daughter was about to start her 6-month-old infant on solid food in addition to breast milk. We both immediately assumed that baby’s first food would be Cream of Rice cereal or something similar.
Well, we were wrong. This new mother was planning to start her infant daughter on mashed avocado, followed by cooked sweet potato in a week or so.
No cereal in sight.
Now, there’s nothing nutritionally wrong with that. In fact, vegetables may be a better way to go. But it did surprise my friend and me as veteran moms. For their first solid food, our babies got cereal, just like the “bowl full of mush” in Goodnight Moon. It wasn’t even a question.
And I couldn’t help thinking about the technicolor glory that mealtime was going to be for my friend’s daughter. After all, drool-infused cereal dribbling down a baby’s chin is one thing, but drool-infused green avocado is another.
But babies are pretty hardy little people, and their first foods reflect the culture of their parents. In Hawaii, a fermented paste made from taro root is a nutritious baby staple. In India, babies aren’t shielded from spices – a popular dish called khichdi combines lentils, rice, and ghee (clarified butter) with a dash of turmeric. And in Peru, babies slurp the seedless pulp of the vitamin-rich granadilla fruit, a variety of passion fruit.
Now, to paraphrase the poet Tennyson, as grandmothers ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die, or at least be careful not to criticize our kids’ parenting decisions. So, if we want to keep on the good side of our daughters or daughters-in-law, we smile and puree the passion fruit.
I remember that when I was a breastfeeding young mother in the 80s my mother was constantly questioning whether my boys were getting enough food. They were. All she did was make me doubt my own instincts. So, I vowed to be more supportive when I was a grandmother. And I swear, I do not give my granddaughter food that’s not mom-approved (well, maybe I did give her a raisin or two without checking first.)
There are a lot of good, nutritionally-sound options for baby’s first foods if you think outside the cereal box. Nowadays, parents have access to a lot of useful information on this topic, starting with their pediatricians and supplemented by books and websites like HealthyChildren.org, sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
So, bring on the avocado!
What’s the most surprising food you or one of your children has given an infant? More importantly, did the baby like it or did it need to be scraped off the wall?