Among the gifts I received at my baby shower was a big box of flaky, snow white rice cereal. The gift-giver shall remain nameless, but she gave it to me with the best of intentions.
“Just use it to thicken up your baby’s bottle, and he’ll sleep all night. You’ll need it.”
At the time, I was still over a month away from even giving birth, so I nodded, said thank you, and put the box aside for later.
(Little did I know at the time that nearly 16 months later, my breastfed, bedsharing baby still wouldn’t be sleeping through the night. But you know what? It may be tiring, but it’s totally normal.)
Fast forward to spring. My son was turning 6 months old, and we were getting ready to start solids. One day, when the time felt right, I mixed up a bit of that dusty white powder and gave him a small taste. He showed zero interest, and the little flicker in the back of my head turned into a full-blown lightbulb. I don’t eat white rice, so why would I feed it to my son? Isn’t it just a super-refined carbohydrate with no flavor? I guess I knew it, but I’m a little ashamed to say that I was just following the lead of so many mothers around me. I’m still annoyed at myself for that.
In the meantime, my husband had been working diligently on a garden specifically designed for our son. The Baby Food Garden, he called it. I still remember the pencil drawings that littered our living room table while I was pregnant. Sweet potatoes here, beets over there. See, my husband knew I was going to breastfeed and he wanted his own special way to be involved. The garden was the perfect way to have a hand in providing for our son, and he put his whole heart into it. He’s a good daddy.
It just so happened that our boy turned 6 months old at the very same time our first crop of sweet peas were ready to harvest. One day, when I was still working part-time and had the day off, I grabbed a basket and my baby and headed out into the day’s sunshine. I spent a while picking pea pods from the vines while he played on a blanket in the shade. It was a no-clock kind of day, so I don’t know how long it took, but I sat and removed each little pea from its pod while my sidekick watched and giggled, as usual.
During naptime, I steamed the bright green peas that my husband put so much care into. I pureed them, mixed them with breastmilk until the texture was just right, and waited for my husband to come home. When the time came, our hungry boy happily devoured several spoonfuls of peas, adopting the “mmm…” sound that he still makes when eating something he likes.
There’s a certain feeling that comes from feeding your child good food. For me, it’s multiplied ten times over when that food is planted and nurtured by the hands of one parent and prepared with care by the hands of the other. The rest of our box of rice ended up in the compost. That bland sticky cereal might be food for the stomach, but we’re choosing to stick with food that’s rich in nutrients for the soul, too.
What was your child’s first food?
How do you handle it when you’re given poor parenting advice, like I was given at my shower?