In my 14+ years of raising children, I’ve witnessed baby-feeding fads travel from one end of the spectrum to the other…and back again.
Guidance is great, but when advice on how, when, where and what to feed your baby becomes overly restrictive or directed by fear instead of fact, it can turn something that should be a lot of fun into an anxiety-riddled chore.
Here are three counterproductive baby-feeding myths you may be fretting over (and why you shouldn’t):
Myth 1: Babies shouldn’t eat sweet foods. Or spicy foods. Or…
Depending on what medical journal or child-care manual you’re reading this week, the list of foods you’re “not supposed” to feed your baby might be quite extensive: Peanut butter, strawberries, citrus, spicy foods, sweet foods…the list goes on and on, and may leave you wondering “So, what CAN baby eat?”
In fact, these “do not eats” are hotly debated by nutrition experts and pediatricians, and as soon as the evidence seems to point squarely in one direction, a conflicting study knocks “common wisdom” 180 degrees. My point? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to which foods your baby will or won’t thrive on. Let your family history, your instincts, your baby, and your doctor’s advice guide you to make the decision that’s right for your baby. I love this pediatrician’s reassuring approach to starting solids.
Myth 2: Babies need to eat 3 square meals a day, otherwise they won’t get enough nutrition.
Freaking out because your 6-month-old would much rather snuggle up for a milk session than swallow mouthfuls of rice cereal? Or because your nine-month-old seems to enjoy playing in her sweet potatoes more than actually eating them? Let’s take the pressure off right now: for baby’s first year, breast milk, formula or a mix of the two should the foundation of her diet. Introducing solids during the second half of that first year is just as much about getting baby excited to eat, letting her experiment, and providing her with a range of flavors and textures to explore as it is about nutrition.
It’s not a bad idea to feed your baby three meals a day to get her used to the rhythm and routine of family meals, but that’s more about the social and cultural aspect of food than it is purely nutrition.
There is some evidence that exclusively breastfed older babies can eventually get low on zinc and iron. However, that doesn’t mean your baby is doomed to malnourishment if she prefers breastmilk to bananas. If you’re worried that your baby isn’t getting enough zinc, iron, or another necessary nutrient, consider a vitamin supplement and/or choose first foods that are high in those nutrients.
Myth 3: If you can’t feed your baby an all-organic, all-natural diet all the time, there’s no point trying at all.
My philosophy? Eat well most of the time so you can slack off some of the time (I like the 80/20 rule). And that’s how I’ve always approached feeding my babies, too. I do try a little harder to keep it close to 95% healthy and wholesome when they’re small, and make more room in the budget for organics, too – but in my experience, the pursuit of dietary perfection just leads to burnout and food obsession. So what if it seems inconsistent to feed your baby organic spinach puree and then let her taste a bit of your cake? The cake didn’t override the spinach! I like to think, in fact, that the spinach made room for the cake.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about feeding babies? It can be fun, rewarding, and flexible…if we just let go of perfectionism and fear.
Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist. But my opinions are backed by medical experts, baby-care experts, and just as important – my own experiences!
Did you stress out about any of the above baby-feeding myths?