Miracles for Mommy

I was a really lucky mommy. My only trouble with breastfeeding was oversupply. I swear, I could hit a target across the room. My poor babies were a bit overwhelmed at times. I could have guessed it because I have extra mammary glands under my armpits, which make them stick out instead of in, so I suppose they’re not technically “pits” at all. But I digress.

Not all moms are as naturally, um, endowed. And I worried about supply with the rest of them, even when common sense, my mom, and everything else pointed to me doing just fine. So I drank a ton of Mother’s Milk tea (great iced when you have a baby in June during a 100-degree blitz). But I did not learn about the magic of lactation COOKIES until much later, after I’d finished nursing #1 (by #2 I knew I didn’t need the help…bummer).

Lactation cookie recipes have been floating around for a while now, but they are usually pretty daunting, full of ingredients that are not likely to be found in your pantry – or even in your local store. Plus, what sleepless, hormone-addled new mom wants to be freaking BAKING?!

Enter Miracles for Mommy, a site I just learned about today (and am not being in any way compensated to recommend). This genius lady is baking the lactation cookies FOR others! and then this saint of a woman mails them!! Direct service! Cookies to the door! And they boost the boob power!!

Win all around, says I. Even if, like me, you have no personal need for the benefits of the cookies, what a fantastic gift idea for that new mom down the block – one requiring nearly zero effort on your part, yet is homemade and helpful.

Check her out! She is also on Facebook.

Raising a Foodie, Part 1

I’m a relatively new mom – I have two children, ages 1 and 3 (3 1/2, she would correct me) – and one of my primary goals for their physical and spiritual well-being is to raise good eaters – by “good”, I mean responsible omnivores who love all kinds of food. Unfortunately, at their current ages, I am failing at the non-picky part. But I try.

I actually started feeding my kids a varied diet before they were even born, and during their exclusively-breastfed months. I ate a wide variety of foods, particularly focusing on spicy foods and vegetables. I’ve read that babies whose mothers ate lots of broccoli while they were in utero come out liking it, so I loaded up on broccoli and spinach and whatever else seemed especially nutritious.

I read a lovely story in Nigella‘s fabulous How to Eat about when she was pregnant and had the chance to chat up an OB at a party. He told her that breastmilk changes not only in nutritional content as the baby grows and her needs change, but also it varies in flavor depending on what Mom’s been eating. So, Nigella concluded, breastfeeding is really the best way to begin introducing variety in eating to a child!

Isn’t that the coolest thing? As a species, our most natural way of beginning life has been designed to include variety, to begin priming the palate for future adventure. What a wonderful concept. But we probably shouldn’t make too big a deal of it, or we’ll wind up with flavored formula from scientists trying to replicate the goodies.

Most of the world’s babies aren’t treated with the kid gloves we use when it comes to  spices (though they are exclusively breastfed longer), and so I have held back on super hot but certainly not flavorful ingredients. The kids get lots of curry, garlic, onions, peppers, ginger, and so forth. I try not to give them bland foods – while maintaining the natural taste, of course. Can’t mask the flavor, or they’ll never truly love the food itself.

Which brings me to one of my biggest gripes: children’s menus at restaurants. Ugh! The same crappy, flavorless six or so items on rotation: chicken nuggets, hamburger, mac and cheese, hot dog. All designed to appeal to the least common denominator while teaching our kids nothing about food and offering them nothing in the way of nutrition. Yuck!

I once went off on a poor waiter who brought my kid neon orange macaroni and cheese. The adult menu listed a four cheese mac and so we assumed the kid version would be a smaller portion of the good stuff. So when it came out Kraft, I said, “What is this?” And he said it was the “kid’s” mac and cheese. I said, “What do you mean? Do you think my kid doesn’t like good food? That she wants something that tastes like plastic and cardboard instead of having flavor?” And on and on about the sorry state of children’s palates today, and how of course they only want that stuff because that’s all we offer to them – we never challenge their palates so they have no idea what food tastes like!

Poor guy didn’t know what hit him. He did replace the orange stuff.

Before my eldest was even a year old, some of her favorite dinners included beets with goat cheese, coconut curry, sweet potato gnocchi with rustic pine nut sauce, and potato-green garlic soup. She loves broccoli (only raw) and tofu. Recently we had a seafood paella and she was not that interested in the rice, but begging for, “More squid! More octopus!!”

Her brother will eat anything as long as it’s in mac and cheese. So I throw kale in there, bacon ends, tomatoes, asparagus, etc. He also loves pasta with tomato sauce, which is easy to puree greens into, or he’ll shovel in mushrooms, onions and sausage as long as there’s pasta with it.

Both my kids love plain yogurt to death, and of course fruits. They think a frozen puree of watermelon or cantaloupe (in a cute shape, of course, thanks to IKEA ice cube trays) is a treat. And for each, their first solid food was guacamole – not avocado, which they can kind of take or leave, but GUAC!

Of course, now the three year old in particular now often turns up her nose at most of the strongly flavored things we offer. When this happens, the “Party in my Tummy” song from Yo Gabba Gabba helps a lot. I once told her that her tummy was sad and waiting for its party, because only vegetables get the party started – and it worked! Now often when she eats a fruit or veg, she’ll say, “Mommy, the strawberry/broccoli/apple/etc. got the party started in my tummy!”

And yes, I do bribe with dessert. Often. But if it’s good dessert – and one me and Daddy are planning to eat anyway – I don’t see much harm in it.

The fact is, introducing a child to the wonders of food in all its variety, color, flavor, and creative potential is just about the funnest thing I’ve ever done. And I really look forward to the days when the kids will be big enough to help in the vegetable garden and the kitchen (they do try the latter, but it’s kind of more trouble than help right now). They love going to the farmer’s market, and spend many hours watching my husband and I cook.

Most importantly, they know that food doesn’t come from the grocery store. They’ve been to farms, they’ve met cows, they’ve picked strawberries and gathered eggs.

Because really that is the most basic lesson that we all must keep in mind: that food comes from hard work and a generous God. And for this we must be grateful.

In the Beginning…

If we are going to talk about kids and food, we need to start at the beginning. That’s with the boob. Insert photo here that FB would consider “pornographic” even though it shows less boob – and nipple – than J Lo did at the Oscars:

So…breastfeeding. The most natural thing in the world. The actual purpose of breasts. The way, for millennia, primates started off life.

And now, a fierce debate. Because science and progress have finally freed women from this time and energy consuming chore. And as with washing machines and the telephone, we ought to take what is offered to us with gratitude, knowing it will inevitably improve our lives and lead the species to new heights of perfection.

Ok, not really. As the formula companies never tire of repeating, the breast is best (followed always by that little rejoinder, “But if it’s not working for you…or you just need a break…or…or…or…” – without noting that once most babies try an easy-sucking bottle and super sweet formula they are more than happy to go with scientific progress over Mom).

Certainly for health of the child, if not always the mother. Certainly for the brain of the child, if not always the mother. Certainly for the growth of the child, if not always the mother (only that is a GOOD thing…dropping baby weight was a piece of cake for me when I nursed my children). Continue reading