The mouths of babes
It’s pretty great being a new mum in this modern, gadget-filled world: with our baby monitors, nappy disposal systems and self-rocking swing seats, we have all we need to ensure life for our little one is just so.
But there are some things about motherhood that will always remain as primitive as conception itself. Other than protecting our offspring from roaming predators (or rather these days moving vehicles, open first-floor windows, child-targeted advertising and so on) our ONE job, as a mother, is to ensure our children are fed. And it becomes, without you even realising it, quite obsessional.
Take heart, almost every new mummy feels the same! Let’s start with:
The worry can start from the very moment you press that little face to your breast (when you think ‘oh my god, my boob is bigger than his head!’). Even if your baby latches on straight away – and many do not, causing untold panic to new mums who feel it’s the end of the world – there will be the first niggling doubt, the first pang of fear that they’re Not Getting Enough.
With the fact that you can’t see how much they’re guzzling comes the inevitable doubt that your body has the ability to produce what’s required by your child. Every breastfeeding mother wonders at first, but all you really need to know is, if your baby is growing well, he’s getting enough.
If you’re bottle feeding, you can see exactly what they’re drinking and feel happy that they’re getting their quota bang on. Hoorah! But wait, what’s that pang of unease down to? Oh yes, that would be the guilt a bullish world wishes to foist upon you for not breastfeeding. You’re Not Doing Your Best for your baby, are you?
Then there’s weaning/
Oh dear lord, if I had a penny for every conversation I’ve had with other mummies about weaning… the trauma! The doubt! The hours wasted on creating delicious purees that are at once spat out, puked up or tipped on the kitchen floor!
That’s if you have opted for purees of course – you’ll have already made the nerve-wracking decision about whether to head down the puree or baby-led weaning roads. (Personally, I decided I probably wouldn’t be able to watch my babies chewing on a pork chop without my hair turning completely white).
Me?: ‘She’s not getting enough liquid! She’s dehydrating (honestly, I must have checked those fontanelles 30 times a day)! She’s lacking in calcium! Iron! She’ll be getting anaemia in a minute! Why won’t she eat porridge? IT’S FORTIFIED!!’
Well actually, neither of them ever had squidged fontanelles or went grey through lack of iron. Ruby did go orange, because she would only eat carrots and sweet potatoes for the first five weeks, but that calmed down once she discovered spag bol.
Just as you might be feeling suitably smug with the fact that your clever and healthy baby eats purees or ‘mush’ containing green beans, spinach, chickpeas, parsnips and all manner of other nutritious things, she’ll throw you a curve ball. That broccoli, pasta and cheese bake she’s always loved so much? Put it in her mouth and she’ll look at you like you just gave her a spoonful of wasp.
All babies have a few things they don’t like right from the start (actually, Ruby still refuses point blank to eat any sort of fruit, little weirdo) – but there comes a point where they perhaps realise they can choose between the things they like and the things they REALLY like. When haddock, spinach and potato puree becomes haddock, spinach and potatoes on a plate, prepare to start throwing out a lot of spinach.
I’m not qualified to talk too much about real fussy eaters, the ones who go days without eating solid food, but I have known mummies who’ve had them; one breastfed her son to the age of 16 months – not because she had planned to, just because he point blank refused to be properly weaned.
But even we lucky ones who have children that embrace food wholeheartedly are occasionally subjected to the age old baby trick that drives every mother to distraction – an off day.
I never found an explanation for why my babies, every so often, just didn’t fancy breakfast, or lunch, or dinner. They were pretty relaxed and groovy about surviving 24 hours on water and six Cheerios. Me?: ‘Teething?! Tummy bug?! Sore throat then?! Just eat one tiny Petit Filous pleeeease!’ And by 6pm: ‘She’s going to STARVE!’ Dan talked me down off the ceiling several times when I’d climbed the walls over it.
And forever after…
Given the way my own mum still packs me off home after a visit with six carrier bags full of food (sandwiches, fruit and water for the journey, something for the freezer, a cooked joint of meat, numerous bags of vegetables and often a surprise treat I didn’t know she’d put in there until I get home) I can only assume that the desire to see our children well nourished never ever leaves us.
With that in mind, when either of the girls has an off day – they still do every now and then – I pretend I haven’t noticed. Instead I mentally put an extra potato and carrot into the bags they take home with them when they visit me, 20 years from now. I wonder if my mum did the same.
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