While certainly sleep, clothing, and shelter are important components of raising a child, one of the more difficult things to adapt to as a new parent is food. Babies and young children, despite their relatively small stature and weight, eat surprisingly high volumes of food, probably due to the fact that they are constantly evacuating their bowels and always need to replenish. Understanding how to make meal time and food in general a multi-daily experience for a baby takes practice, as surely most adults are not intimately familiar with what or how babies eat prior to having one.
The initial few months of this food-based journey tends to be the easiest, albeit the most time-consuming. Basically anything can be turned into food for a baby. Young children, particularly the ones without teeth yet will eat almost anything that can be transformed into a paste-like sludge. The role of the parent is little more than adding some type of seasoning to it in order to make it as approachable as possible. You can use simple tricks to increase the consumption of healthy vegetables by adding things like chocolate and cinnamon to purified broccoli or something slightly less disgusting.
One of the biggest fears for new parents is how to identify food allergies. It is a legitimate concern for new parents who are not sure what potential food allergies a baby may or may not have. The silver lining is that because there is truly no way of knowing what allergies a baby is born with you can feel free to feed them anything and just be as alert as possible. If you feed your baby a small piece of softshell crab meat and he or she spirals into anaphylactic shock, consider that a learning moment and a win. You now know that your child may react negativity to shellfish. Trial and error is really the only way to go about it. Babies are remarkably resilient and can usually overcome the initial parenting screw-ups quickly because they’re small, flexible, and move their bowels virtually ‘round the clock thus eliminating toxins rapidly.
Early childhood is also a great time to introduce some of the more exquisite and advanced flavors of the adult world like sushi, curry, or Mediterranean cuisine. Babies typically are far more willing to try anything and this will prevent having to negotiate meal time later in life, as your child will already be accustomed to a variety of diverse flavors. As an added perk, many of these foodstuffs are extravagantly priced which will keep you, the parent, locked deep in a cyclical system of self-sustaining poverty thereby preparing you for the rest of your natural life as a penniless live-in housekeeper.
As children age, their acceptance and food-based development regresses as they slowly discover sugar contained within a wide variety of foods based purely on the idea of empty calories. Toddler-aged children and up will gradually be steered into a junk food-centric society as their exposure to popular culture and, namely, television increases. This is when the many months you spent stirring nutmeg into pureed sweet potatoes and forking over $9 for a tempura ahi roll will prove beneficial. Ultimately there is no stopping the relentless desire of a child to binge on candy all day but at least you’re adequately prepared to suggest a wide variety of real food alternatives you already know they like. Children can only eat so much oatmeal before it becomes forgettable.
Another one of the more frustrating avenues in the food culture of children is the downright refusal to eat. For seemingly no reason at all, a child will reject everything. There are two options for the parent in these scenarios. You can continually badger your child and make the act of eating a forced exercise which will result in a firestorm of rage, screaming, fighting, and crying that will have you praying for a meteor to strike your home and end the madness or you can let he or she sit there and be hungry. Eventually a child’s natural survival instincts will kick in and they will eat. Parents have a strange tendency to believe that missing a meal (or something similar like a nap or a bowel movement) will result in the immediate death of their child and because of this belief they are willing to go the route of forcing food on a child who simply doesn’t feel like eating.
The key in all this food-centric chaos is to remember the act of putting nutrients in your face hole is solely for the purpose of survival. Adults have transformed food and survival into a lifestyle based on sensory experiences and opulence. The food culture of a child is not in any way about these things. It is during this time that you must remember that food is about nutrition and is required for continuing life. If your child does not like your highbrow coconut-infused skin-on broiled Chilean seabass with artisanal brie methylcellulose mousse don’t get distressed, instead just fire up a bowl of instant rice with some crumbled oreos on top. After all, they have the rest of their lives to indulge.