The First Time
We Gave Our Baby Sugar

by Susan Fishman

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It was her first birthday. Not a drop of sugar had passed my baby’s lips until she turned 1 and shoved a whole fistful of cake into her mouth.

Yes, I was one of those moms. The new mom who wanted to do everything just right. Who made her own baby food using only whole foods, a food processor and the “Super Baby Food” guide as our Bible for the first nine months. Who vowed that her infant’s perfect, pure little body was going to stay that way for as long as humanly possible, and that her baby wouldn’t slip into the junk-food-junkie-of-a-kid her mother was. Not under my watch.

I remember being at the zoo one day with my whole family when our daughter was around 11 months old, and someone bought cotton candy for my 3-year-old nephew. I wouldn’t let my daughter have even a taste, and my sisters looked at me as if I was the meanest mom on the planet. Like I was denying my child this sugary right of passage into childhood.

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I guess I was afraid that if she tasted the sweet heavenly goodness of sugar, she would be hooked, never to return to an apple or carrot stick again.

Of course that didn’t happen. Even after the birthday cake.

Recently, we had some friends visit for the weekend, and I watched in awe as the mom fed her 10-month-old a small piece of a dark chocolate truffle. Wow, I thought, she did that without missing a beat. Didn’t even question whether her child was going to digest this incredible treat without ever becoming addicted to sugar, or chocolate, or caffeine!

I think I was a little jealous. Like she had it all figured out way before I ever did. Like maybe I wasted a lot of time and energy worrying and hovering over my baby’s diet.

Truth is, I don’t think either of us has it all figured out. Some might argue that monitoring the sugar intake so closely increases the intrigue and appeal. Others abide by the “what they don’t know (or eat) won’t hurt them” mentality.

We still maintain a healthy, mostly organic diet, but we’ve relaxed our regimen over the years, in part because our kids are older and are eating at their friends’ houses and at parties. We can’t control every morsel that goes into their mouths, and we wouldn’t want to. They need to make some of their own choices, hopefully good ones … but they don’t always. They are kids, after all. All we can do is get them headed in the right direction.

Today, my nine-year-old daughter has an insatiable sweet tooth. But she also will eat just about any vegetable put in front of her, and tries new foods all the time. She is a lover of sushi, raw oysters, quinoa and kale. And, ironically, the sweetest of all the healthy foods — fruit — well, it’s not really her thing. But my six-year-old son is the complete opposite. He eats more fruits, but his vegetable intake is sorely lacking. And don’t get me started on his sweet tooth!

I can’t figure it out. We do our best with our kids. We try to get them started on the right path and set good examples. But I do think, with a little perspective, that if we remain generally consistent, and introduce new, healthy foods as much as possible, a sliver of chocolate candy in the formative years is not going to hurt. Or send our kids crashing into the corn syrup oblivion.

Susan Fishman

SusanFishman

Susan Fishman is a freelance writer with a focus on health and wellness. For 20 years, she’s been promoting health strategies for clients like Schering-Plough, Turner Broadcasting, The Ritz-Carlton Ritz Kids program and the March of Dimes. She started her blog Kidprints when she realized her kids weren’t consuming any real fruit, and wouldn’t stay outside for more than 15 minutes at a time. Now she writes for moms (dads, too) who want to live well and inspire their kids to live well — making sure her own family is out there walking the talk.