The Fear of Cooking
Baby food is actually quite easy to make. Odds are it’s going to literally appear out of nowhere and come out of your chest within days of having your baby. Plus, it comes with built in convenience: hold your baby and feed it all at the same time. If you don’t breastfeed, good news! Formula is science magic and you just add clean water. Baby Food 101: Easy, right?
Nope! It’s the information age, so you’ll probably spend much of your time reading about bottle types, nipple shapes and types (both human nipples and the kind you attach to bottles), nipple shields, nipple cream, nipple damage, latch styles, nipple aversion, formula types, lactose allergies, spit up, reflux, burping, and all of the other ways you can mess this baby feeding thing up. Meanwhile, you are exhausted, the baby is crying, and you feel like even despite all of this effort you somehow must not be doing enough. Breastfeeding is a full time job. You hope that it’ll get better when you introduce solids. You find yourself feeling sorry for cows and questioning the dairy industry.
Then, it happens: your baby suddenly starts to take an interest in your food! Hurray! Finally! The blessed time has come to unburden yourself from the constant demands of the feed/pump/bottle schedule and start introducing baby to the world of flavors and textures! Ohhhh if only it could be as fun and enjoyable as it sounds.
Nope! Baby feeding seems to get even more complicated as you are bombarded with information about feeding schedules, types of purees, allergy testing, food stages, finger foods, choking hazards, stage 1, stage 2, and stage 3 foods, figuring out sippy cups, spoons, the dangers of plastic containers. One day, packing tiny custom-made lunches before the sun even rises so your little one has something to eat at daycare, it dawns on you that relief didn’t come with the introduction of solid foods, and somehow feeding your baby is now even more time-consuming and cognitively loaded work. You catch yourself thinking longingly back to the days of milk or formula being the simple single source of food. If you’re still pumping, you fantasize about throwing the breast pump into the ocean.
It’s just so much. Feeding baby and baby food prep the way we're told to (organic, made to order, lovingly crafted in the kitchen) is profoundly time consuming, and every step of the way we are hounded by the many ways we can mess it all up: your baby can choke, have an allergic reaction, not be getting the right nutrition… The pressure to get it right is unreal. It can be tempting to just give up on your culinary adventure. After being confronted with wave after wave of unreasonably specific baby feeding information, it suddenly becomes crystal clear why the baby food aisle is so big in the grocery store. It's hard to feed your baby, and those make it a lot easier.
But I wanted to do the thing. I wanted to figure out a way to cook for my baby without it feeling like a second (third?) job. I love food and I absolutely love cooking, and I wanted to share this experience with my baby. I have dreams of her hanging out in the kitchen as I make things - waiting to lick the bowl after I mix something up, or asking me if we could bake a cake for tea. But, something had to give - I couldn't keep up with all of the "rules" about making baby food I kept hearing about and reading about online, I always felt too stretched for time. I had to figure out another option.
So, I switched my own diet to baby food
...and I have to say, I’ve never felt better. I’m eating way fewer pasta dishes and fried foods (sigh) and way more oatmeal, eggs, fruits and veggies, and lean proteins. Basically, when I eat, baby eats; what I eat, baby eats. I now spend little extra time on preparing food just for her - I just make a little extra for her when I cook for myself and my husband. This shift has freed up a lot of time for me, and not a moment too soon. I was honestly getting pretty exhausted. Now, in addition to the free time, I am healthier - I can’t exactly feed this baby any of the crap food I allow myself. I’m doing my best, and it’s working for us. We’re having a great time discovering flavors and textures together. I get to do the thing without feeling like a full time baby-food chef! Win-win!
Obviously this isn’t advice because every baby is different and the warnings are there for a reason. But, I think these warnings and "well intentioned pieces of advice" and "rules" about baby food are stressing women out, and are making women have a bad time with whatever they choose to do. I felt like I was making the "wrong choice" no matter what I did. But, I think we can take some comfort in the fact that as soon as someone frightens you enough, they're going to be ready to take your money and promise you a solution to your baby food troubles every step of the way. Jokes aside, whatever you choose to do, don’t let the weight of the responsibility ruin the fun. Whatever you choose to do about baby food, own it, and don't let anyone make you doubt yourself.
Trust yourself, trust your baby, you’ll figure it out.