I went to a first birthday party at the weekend, which was, as you might imagine, crowded with babies, toddlers and small children. It was actually quite hard to work out which baby went with which grown-up – I’m sure lots of the other guests were probably thinking some belonged to me too!
I've not been around children much since I found Paleo, but knew the whole junk food thing was likely to be an issue with small children. However, what I saw, was very different to what I was expecting. And sadly, not in a good way.
I expected to see babies picking food up from the floor and putting it in their mouth. I expected to see toddlers demanding brightly coloured and attractively presented party food. I expected to see some children being given junk food and some children being given real food.
What I saw was far more upsetting.
The infants were interested in gaining possession of the squeaky giraffe. Opening the door. Closing the door. Opening the door. Closing the door. Sliding on the wooden floor. My car keys. Trying to reach the toy at the very bottom of the toy box. They were not interested in the party food. A few of the babies were interested in the shiny colourful chip packets, but not the contents.
The parents however, continually gave the small children chips and biscuits and sweets. The children didn't ask – the parents just gave. The parents genuinely seemed to think they were being kind, giving the children something nice at a party. When given this food the children stopped their exploring, ate the food – clearly enjoying it (it’s designed to taste good after all) – and either resumed their playing, or indicated they wanted more. Hardly surprising once they’d been given that first taste.
What I was most shocked about was seeing parents giving party “food” to other people’s small children. In fact, this seemed to happen before they gave the food to their own child. It seemed to be done as an act of good manners, much like opening the door for someone instead of going through it yourself, first. I didn't once see a parent ask another parent if it would be ok to offer the toddler some (soy!) chips. I didn't see any parents looking concerned that someone else was giving their child party “food” either.
I would have loved to have seen the blood sugar levels of these babies throughout the party. Lots of the babies started to get tired and irritable towards the end of the party, which seemed expected and normal by the parents. I can’t help wondering how much of this was “normal” and how much was impacted by the huge (especially relative to their small size) sugar rush they’d been fed. Do strict Paleo-fed babies get over-tired as regularly, I wonder?
One mother decided her baby was teething and needed to chew on a breadstick to help, offering breadsticks to any other babies who might have the same complaint. I'm quite sure our ancestors got through cutting teeth without the need for bread; wouldn't bones be something more effective to chew on in this situation? Surely giving a teething baby bread, just creates other problems?
I realise when you have children you can’t control what other parents do. But I thought you’d be in complete control of what your own child ate. Are you supposed to make a speech at the start of a party, expressly forbidding any well-meaning friends from feeding your child? Should you hand out cards to everyone with these rules? Does someone sell baby-grows with the slogan “Don't Feed Me! I'm Paleo”?
I imagine it’s could be hard to explain to other parents why you don’t want your child to eat grains, sugars, dairy and processed foods. Particularly when talking to parent who feeds their child a CW “healthy” diet of organic whole grains and low fat foods. I’d hate to be perceived to be criticising other parents – though I guess this is exactly what I am doing in this post! Perhaps I would take the cowardly way out and pretend my child had severe allergies to gluten and dairy. People often seem to be a lot more sympathetic about allergies than they are about choosing to omit certain “food” groups.
I think my main issue is that at such a young age children are completely dependent on their parents for their nutritional requirements. It’s also, I’d imagine, the most crucial stage in their development. I just wish more parents would understand that their baby has no requirement for grains or processed foods. They've never had them before – they don’t know what they taste like – they certainly don’t crave chips! Once a child is old enough to think logically for themselves I think a degree of responsibility can pass over to them for their nutrition. But this certainly doesn't happen before they can run – or even walk!
I can’t remember if it was Sarah Fragoso or Chrissy Gower speaking at the Ancestral Health Symposium last year about their children and eating Paleo. One of the was describing how her child had been strictly Paleo since birth and the lady at the check-out had commented on her surprise that the child was not asking for candy. She replied that her child didn't know what it was, having never had it before. This really got me thinking, if you don’t know what something is, you won’t miss it – or need it. I think there is an argument to let older children try SAD food, but when the child is so young they can’t even speak or walk, I absolutely think these foods should be strictly absent from their diet.
Anyway, I don’t have children. What would I know? Perhaps when I do I’ll realise how completely impractical and ridiculous my nutrition ideas are and start buying bulk packs of bread sticks and cereal with pictures of cartoon characters on the box. I kind of doubt it though.
I’d love to hear your comments on this. If you have small children, how do you deal with other parents? Is it common for other well meaning adults to feed your child?