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(post, Cynthia Lair)
I was interviewed recently for an article about baby food. As those who have read my book Feeding the Whole Family know, I don’t really believe in “baby” food; I believe in “family” food. Therefore I thought it was very open-minded of the writer to have a conversation with me. A few years ago, several articles were published that debunked the measured way we feed babies. Basically the experts were saying that the idea of offering food in some particular order is silly. They agreed that serving babies food with no salt, no spices, and puréed smooth enough to feed a dysphasia patient is unnecessary. One doctor called the whole belief system about the way we introduce foods to babies “mythology.” A subsequent article from these revelations was called “Enchiladas not cereal.” I couldn’t agree more. [%image reference-image float=left width=400 caption="Babies can eat what we eat."] Around the globe, babies are started on solids with a variety of foods. In Oceania, babies are given pre-chewed fish, grubs, and liver. The Polynesians prefer a pudding-like mixture of breadfruit and coconut cream. Inuit babies are started on seaweed and seal blubber, while Japanese health-care providers recommend a thin rice porridge, eventually made thicker and topped with dried fish, tuna, tofu, and mashed pumpkin. Meanwhile, most American physicians and new parents still debate whether processed cereal from a box or processed fruit from a little jar is better. To the rescue comes a slew of nouveau baby-food products. One company takes a respectable dish like vegetable curry, purées it, and puts it in a jar for parents to buy. This, of course, begs the question: Why not serve baby the curry dish the parents are having for dinner? Another new product, called Homemade Baby (“homemade” — hello? Definition, please!), puts food in packages and trucks them in refrigerated units to your favorite high-end grocery store. There’s also a national brand of frozen certified organic baby food. We have a cool new store in our area called Eat Local, where you can pick up pricey refrigerated prepared food for your family made from local produce. They have a section for babies, too, called Local Baby. Stop the machinery! Feeding babies baby food is a really short-term project, maybe six months at most. The point is to get baby prepared to eat with the rest of the family, not be a cause for purchasing special prepared food so baby can learn to expect high-priced separate meals. Recently the dad of a 14-month-old who had just purchased a copy of my book told me that he is addicted to fast food and that ain’t gonna stop, but he wants his son to eat really well. News flash: Kids eat what their parents eat. Does he believe that his boy will munch on raw organic carrots while his dad throws back tater tots? OK, I’m ranting. But feeding babies can be such an intuitive no-brainer. Feed them a little of what you’re eating, mashed up. And if you’re not eating fresh real food — whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, eggs — clean up your act.