It’s true. I give my baby sugar. I know it’s frowned upon, and I also have never been one to do things the way I am “supposed to.” But before you shake your finger at me, you need to understand a few things. It’s not simple. And at the same time, it totally is. The reasons why I give my baby sugar are endless, but I’ll take time to share just a few.
You see, there’s a lot of pressure around what we do or don’t feed our children. And I get that. What we feed our children is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle as we raise them. Not only is it up to us to sustain their nutrition in every way, it is also up to us to help determine their habits as they grow up. And in the midst of all that pressure is another pressure from society to do it a certain way.
On one end of the spectrum you have the crunchiest of crunchies— the ones who won’t let their kids have ice cream until they go to college. On the other end you have the ones who will give their children happy meals from McDonalds before they are even one. (I’m not judging you if that’s you, but I do feel that’s extreme). And while there should be a nice balance between the two, it’s more common to find parents on one extreme end or the other.
And the problem with the extremes is actually far greater than the nutritional intake (or lack thereof). Because nutrition can be corrected. It might not always be easy, and there can be serious long term effects of not properly nourishing your child. But, in most cases, nutrition can be corrected and the effects of poor eating habits can be overcome.
What’s more problematic is the emotional and mental effect that extremes can have on children. These effects are not limited to in-the-moment meltdowns over not being allowed an ice cream cone, or being given way too much ice cream. These effects can be long lasting and effect children’s relationship with food throughout their adult life. I know because I am an example.
The relationship I had with food as a child set me up for a long and exhausting journey of developing healthy habits as an adult. I had to literally redefine my relationship with food, create new habits, and trust my body to overcome years of unhealthy habits. And while that was extremely challenging and just plain hard, I can honestly say it hasn’t been the hardest part. The hardest part has been healing my mindset about my body. To trust that I am healthy enough that I can enjoy a piece of pie without instantly going up a size in my jeans— that has been the hard part. To believe that my body can metabolize food the way it was created to— that has been the struggle. To live in balance on that spectrum and know that I can raise my child with that same balance— that has been the victory.
And that’s where I find myself today— striving to live in that balance and raise my child in a healthy food culture. And that is why I give my baby sugar.
Let me explain it a little bit more. I made a decision, after much research and many conversations with our pediatrician, that our rule for feeding our baby would be, “if we eat it, she can, too.” There are several reasons for this. The first is that we have a very clean diet. We aren’t weirdos that don’t enjoy food. We also are not paleo or vegetarian or vegan (not that any of those are bad). We are simply a family that eats whole, clean, organic foods. We are a family that eats gluten free, and we are a family that minimizes sugar intake. We minimize it, but we don’t eliminate it.
And since we don’t eliminate it from our diet, we do not eliminate it from our baby’s diet.
I give my baby sugar because I want her to know that it’s okay to have sugar, and that it’s also okay to not have sugar. Because she gets to choose, and her ability to make good choices won’t just suddenly turn on when she is five. She needs to learn along the way, and have moderation be a normal thing.
I give my baby sugar because I believe in a healthy lifestyle that is balanced. I believe in a lifestyle that allows for treats in moderation. And I stick to that lifestyle as best as I can. And I want to raise my children to do the same.
And while I believe that my baby’s body can absolutely process whole, unrefined sugars in moderation, that’s not the most important thing.
The most important thing is that she grows up with a healthy relationship with food. I want her to trust her body to process food the way it was meant to. I want her to know that she can make positive and healthy choices, and I want her to know that she can also treat herself. And while she is treating herself, I want her to do it unashamedly and without fear. I don’t want her to swing from one end of the spectrum to the other, doubting her body’s abilities and worrying about one day of splurging.
And I believe that her ability to do that starts with us. It starts now as we model healthy choices, moderation, and even indulging. Teaching her that sugar is bad won’t do her any good. Teaching her that it’s okay here and there is the best place to start.