Bland May Not be Best for Babies by Talia Moore
Imagine that you have just given birth. Among the gifts that a member of your family or friendship circle has brought you, is a small basket full of herbs and spices: thyme, cardamom, cinnamon, mint, sage, clove, and ginger.
Maybe you think this is something you string together and hang over the crib to ward off the evil eye? Or maybe it’s intended for you; a reminder not to forget the things you love about food when your life was unencumbered by children.
Would you be surprised to learn that these herbs and spices (and a great many more) could be fed to your baby in around six months time, when he or she starts to transition to solids?
Many women are, based on my experience as a childbirth educator and doula.
In fact, babies are exposed to herbs and spices (and a great many other exotic tastes) while they are still in the womb. They receive these through the amniotic fluid and, after birth, through breast milk. Both of these represent remarkable pathways to a future of food exploration.
And yet in the US, the conventional wisdom for many moms is to serve their babies bland food when they introduce solids into their diet.
Maybe it is time we question that wisdom?
It seems odd to put a stop to an early established pathway, which has exposed our children to a world of food exploration and flavor enlightenment. This is especially important because early positive experiences with food help to set up our children for healthy eating habits throughout their lives. This is a valuable legacy we can give as parents, particularly when children are exposed to intrusive and powerful messages from the fast food industry.
Where once a baby would be fed instant baby rice cereal, Tummy Thyme offers a much broader and more balanced menu designed in association with a pediatric nutritionist. For example, our current range of purees includes banana, coconut & cinnamon; broccoli with thyme; zucchini & mint; and pear & cardamom.
These combinations offer babies an opportunity to experience new tastes, bright colors and a variety of smells, while receiving many important nutrients. Later, from around eight months, they will be introduced to textured and chunky meals in keeping with accepted developmental targets.
These combinations are a far cry from the bland meals that some parents still feed their babies.
You only have to look at what other cultures serve their babies to realize that there is no single ingredient or feeding regime that ranks above all others. For example:
The Japanese typically serve their babies Okayu, a rice porridge with dried fish.
In India, it is not uncommon for babies to eat salty tea boiled with dry fruit as their first solids or khichdi, a dish of rice, lentils and fragrant Indian spices.
Mexicans are happy to serve their babies fruit with chilli powder and lime.
The French like to serve bouillon, a thin vegetable soup, in a bottle mixed with milk.
While in Tibet, mothers serve Tampa, a mixture of barley flour with yak butter tea.
At Tummy Thyme we strongly believe in socializing babies into family meal times. One way is to introduce a hero ingredient into each meal, which can figure prominently in both menus. A good example is zucchini. This is a wonderfully healthy and adaptable vegetable that can be cooked and served in many different ways.
It is important to remember that babies eat out of curiosity, not necessarily because they are hungry. Knowing that can lessen the tension during meal times, and you can begin to enjoy the transition from the breast or bottle milk to solids.
Setting up positive feelings around food and eating is critical to your children’s future relationship with food.
Talia Moore is an LA-based doula, childbirth educator and co-founder of Tummy Thyme, a manufacturer and distributor of healthy and organic food for babies and toddlers.