I was thinking about Munchkin's food yesterday. He loves his solids and we have been gradually trying lots of new tastes. This week, he tried out silverbeet and peaches (an odd combination, I know!). For his dinner last night he had: carrot, potato, kumara (sweet potato), silverbeet and peaches (to sweeten up the silverbeet!). Yesterday I bought our fruit and veges for the week. Half of my shopping was for Munchy baby. There was the box of baby rice, which I use to thicken up his pear and apple for breakfast and sometimes mix with his mashed banana at lunchtime. Then there was some broccoli and zucchini to try in the coming week or so. And some pork and chicken too. He's tried fish recently, so I thought we could try a couple of other meats now, along with some lentils and rice which I still need to prepare. I spent awhile cooking, pureeing and freezing it all in tablespoon-sized amounts.
So what I was getting to with all this, as that as I fed him dinner, I thought about this very careful process of introduction to solids. The way I'm trying to introduce him to varied tastes and textures. And the varied nutritional value each food provides. Banana gives potassium. Silverbeet has good iron. Each food offers him something special, and that is why we are encouraged to give babies a range of foods, even when they are little and just starting out like this.
I thought about other families in the world, and found myself wondering what babies in Africa or India eat. I realised how blessed Munchkin really is. He gets to have all these different foods. So many babies of his age would be having just one. Rice, maybe? Or corn? I'm not sure. I just know that for so many mothers around the world, meal times is not a matter of choosing what to feed baby, but rather wondering if there IS anything to feed baby.
The World Food Programme identifies the first 2 years of a person's life as critical in terms of nutrition. I've read in some of my Child Development paper this past year that nutritional deficiencies in infancy and toddlerhood contribute quite a lot to a child's future growth, in terms of physical size, but also in terms of their ability to relate to others, manage emotions, perform mental tasks...the list is phenomenal - basically, early nutrition sets the stage for a child's later abilities in all areas of life. I had no idea it was so crucial. I'd not thought about whether nutrition could affect a child's brain capabilities, their grades in school or their socialisation skills, but now that I think about it, it makes sense. Our bodies are highly complex organisms. They are incredibly adaptable. Amazingly so. Just look at the ability of the brain to compensate for damage to parts of itself. But the body can only adapt so far. It relies heavily on receiving the fuel it needs to function.
In all this thought process, I find myself more aware. Firstly, more aware that Munchkin has dietary needs and that he is very much relient on me. My knowledge of food. My eating habits. These all greatly influence how he will treat food. I can't expect him to eat well if I am not providing a good eating example. I can't hope he avoids lollies and chocolate and all that, if I eat it in front of him constantly. I can't expect him to be able to make good food choices if he is constantly presented with salty, faty or sugary foods...of course he is going to want to eat those, they taste so good (after all, our bodies are hard wired for these foods - not God's fault that we happened to create a whole lot of them!).
Secondly, I find myself more aware that food is in many ways a luxury. It is a luxury that far too many people cannot afford. I can't even begin to imagine the trauma of having to decide which of my family will eat or not eat today (something I think many mothers do have to choose on a daily basis). And I can't imagine being able to give my baby only one food, and precious little of that. And hope that somehow that one food will provide him with everything he needs to grow into a strong, healthy boy when I know full well it can't possibly do that. I can't imagine not seeing those funny faces as he tries something new. Seeing his wide open, gaping mouth waiting for some more banana or apple, and his slightly shocked, questioning look when he tasted silverbeet for the first time (what on earth is this, Mum, and are you really sure it is meant to be eaten?!?!).
Well, my baby has managed to roll himself off his plastic mat several times while I have been typing. I think it might be time for a nappy and his apple and pear. He will, no doubt, sit there with mouth wide open, arms waving madly, gulping each delicious mouthful. And I will think about how blessed we are to eat today. Opps, there he goes again...carpet, carpet, carpet, please do not pee on the nice new rental carpet! Better run.
Wednesday, 15th December, 2010