fortification and the mom struggling to feed a toddler

When I first had my baby, I planned to nurse him exclusively for at least six months and to start "baby-led weaning" at that point. That meant I was going to start offering him regular foods to see what he took to and what he didn't like. None of this baby food nonsense for me, and the baby foods I WOULD give him would be hand-made by me, from whole, organic ingredients! And then my plan was to do a clean, all-organic, mostly whole foods diet. His grains would be whole grains. His sweeteners would be natural sweeteners, not the white refined stuff that we're all addicted to. So what if the vast majority of my budget was going toward housing and grocery bills. It's his health! Health is the foundation of life! This is critical stuff!

Enter: reality

My plan worked for a while. Sort of. My kid was one of those kids who is reluctant to give up the boob and start with the real food, so it wasn't until he was about 11 months old that he would get any significant amount of nutrition from food rather than milk. We did well combining eating and nursing, though I did end up getting organic baby food as a concession.

It took me more than a year to come to terms with the fact that my plan just wouldn't work. Not with this kid, and not in this situation. I was hitting up against severe constrictions that made it impossible to feed Gabriel the way I wanted. I simply didn't have the spare time to make his food. I didn't have the funds to buy everything organic. I constantly had to make choices between making his food and earning his money. Eventually I just resolved to make extra food whenever I did have the time, and otherwise to feed him my version of "convenience" foods, like pre-made applesauce pouches, cut up fruit and vegetables, and frozen peas. I'd also give him the organic crackers and puffs when I could get them. (So much for no refined grains!)

There was the complicating factor of him being allergic to dairy, which is a major source of fats, calcium, and protein for most kids. One thing led to another, and it became clear that he needed to be getting more calories. I went through an arduous phase of "trying harder," wherein I overdosed on reading materials and lost a lot of income -- and therefore food-buying power. Eventually I had to accept the fact that this was not going to happen the way I wanted it to happen. It became more important that he get enough to eat, no matter what, than that he never have fried foods, never have white sugars, never drink juice unless I juice it myself from fresh organic produce. It just was. not. happening.

So I let go of my expectations of the perfect diet. I stopped comparing myself to the mommy bloggers who have been foodies their entire lives, have nutrition degrees, have their own organic gardens and access to organic farmers and blogs that give them food budgets that were bigger than my rent, not to mention supportive husbands who bring in most of the family's income and put the kids to bed so that mama can have five freaking minutes to herself. Because I didn't have any of that.

Things are different, now. I am feeding him all kinds of things I swore would never be welcome in my home. He eats hot dogs. He eats tater tots. Everything gets drenched in ketchup. I buy nutrient-fortified things as often as I can -- calcium-fortified orange juice, protein-fortified almond milk, DHA-fortified eggs. Enriched, fortified, value-added stuff is everywhere. A far cry from the whole foods I theoretically hold as ideal.

I still feed him mostly organic produce when it's on the dirty dozen, and most of our meats and dairy (for me) are hormone-free and antibiotic-free -- these are two things I follow the 80/20 rule on. But a popular snack around here is (natural) peanut butter on (Aldi brand) graham crackers. He gets a tablespoon or two of Nutella once a day (he calls it "ice cream," which is completely adorable). He gets juice at breakfast and lunch. I spend way too much money on those pouches. Some days the only vegetables he gets are in a pouch and in the three bites of spaghetti sauce he'll tolerate before realizing I've loaded it with carrots and peas.

It's unbelievably hard to let go of expectations, especially when it comes to our parenting. In a lot of ways, I am the mom I always wanted to be. But when it comes to food, changes had to be made by necessity. What's more, I had to stop telling myself I should be able to do this really great thing of elevating and protecting my baby's diet at all costs. I simply lacked the capacity to pull it off. And I had to accept that, or die trying.

What is something you always thought you'd do as a parent (or as a grown-up), that you later realized simply wasn't possible?


  1. I can definitely see this happening to me. There is no area of my life that is more idealized than the sort of parent I will be. I think it will all come crashing down eventually! You were right to make the changes you did though--sometimes the best choice is not that (as we see it) obvious "healthy" choice. Sometimes formula is what your baby needs. Sometimes your kid had to eat all kinds of things that seem unhealthy because it controls his seizures. You knew what seemed "right" but it just wasn't going to work in your world and I don't think anyone would think he could be any less perfect for it!

  2. None of us are the parents we thought we would be. We ALL do things we swore up and down that WE never would. Everyone is a perfect parent until they have kids ;)

    1. I'm actually keeping a pen-and-paper list of things I swore I'd never do and have done/am doing. Keeps me humble :)


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