Why a Kale-Eating Baby Irks Us So Much
It’s Mother Nature’s fault, sort of.
I know Slate is an edgy site but what does the world gain with headlines like this one: “Your Kale-Eating Baby Does Not Impress Me”? In this saucy article, Jessica Grose describes the “smug” attitude conveyed by another blog post, this one in The New York Times’ Motherlode. When the Times writer adopted “baby led weaning” (giving babies soft finger foods as first foods instead of purees) and wrote enthusiastically about how easily her baby took to it, that was it. An e-fight practically broke out. She’s “adding more fuel to the fire of what she refers to as breast versus bottle 2.0,” laments Grose.
Maybe. The New York Times can definitely be myopic and even cloying in their coverage (remember the stressed out Upper East Side mom and her 13-page preschool application?), but Grose’s response to the Slate writer’s little brag about her baby “shoving fistfuls of steamed kale” into her doughy little mouth could hardly be called benign itself.
“Fistfuls of kale, people. Kale! The top of the Pollan pyramid! For the record, we fed our kid purees from about 6-8 months, then we gave her finger foods once she had teeth. Now she feeds herself pretty well, but I just call it “feeding the baby” and I am not giving it a fancy new name, justifying it with new World Health Organization guidelines, or making any money off workshops pushing it onto other parents.”
Maybe BLW is great. Maybe it’s not. But here’s my question: What irks us all so much about the food someone else is feeding their baby—even their older kids? Why does it hit such a nerve? Why is there even such a thing as breast versus bottle 1.0 anyway?
This is what I think. Feeding our young is about as primal as it gets. Must feed baby. Or baby will not live. Mother Nature instilled this in us long ago, and now something in that deep, dark part of our brains tends to react to these kinds of things faster than we can process them. The result isn’t always so civilized. It’s like a Flintstones reaction, when we’d all prefer to be doing our best Downton Abbey.
And there’s another thing. If we’re honest, maybe there’s some underlying insecurity there too. Options for parents today are wide open. Breast milk or bottle, make your own baby food or buy it—and either way, maybe you choose organic, maybe you don’t. We’re not all doing the same thing. And we’re not all sure we’re doing the right thing, at least not all the time.
For something that seems straightforward, food is this amazingly complex thing. It’s tied to health, emotions, finances, even time. But that’s why we all get to choose what’s right for us, for our families. I head up a blog about cooking for kids. It’s full of healthy kid-friendly recipes and behavior-at-the-table strategies we’ve tried, what works, what doesn’t. Here’s what it’s not about: why everyone else is doing it wrong.
This Slate piece is my nightmare. What’s the point of bashing someone’s happy discovery, something that’s working well for a mom and her baby—unless it’s making the writer feel a little bad? Why else lash out?
There are so many things parents have to decide, so many things we won’t agree on. Just this week I wrote two posts that inadvertently ruffled feathers: one about whether it’s safer to wear a baby in a carrier on planes than holding them on your lap, and the other on new research aimed at reducing the number of C-sections. From my perspective, most parents choose not to buy a seat for their infant but maybe the carrier is a good alternative to a loose baby in your arms. And no one wants a C-section unless it’s critical. Other moms quickly disagreed. The baby’s safety should come first they said, always buy a ticket. We should just listen to our doctors, who are actually saving lives, they said.
Without any sassy language intended, I made them feel bad. Then I felt even worse.
And there’s more. An old friend of mine is newly pregnant with her first child and I’m expecting our fourth in May. After our first few emails about her experience so far it’s gotten a little awkward. She’s signing up for natural birth classes while I’m happily awaiting my first epidural after three agonizing natural births. I asked her what appealed to her about hypnobirthing and she told me, along with the reasons she’s against epidurals. For just a moment, I was a little ruffled myself. Wait, is she saying she knows more than me? Is she choosing something that’ll be better for her baby? Is she already a better mom than me? Her baby isn’t even born yet, certainly isn’t eating yet, but there it is.
And that’s what it comes down to doesn’t it? If it didn’t, why would we care?
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