The New Gastronome
The Art of Feeding Your Tiny Human
by Sonia Polito
by Sonia Polito
When I enrolled in the master’s degree course in gastronomic sciences, they asked me many times: what is a midwife doing in studying food? So naturally, I hesitated several times, mainly giving vague and unconvincing answers. But, after a few years, I think that instinct guided me towards the search for a path that could put me on the side of the new generations.
Those who start the long road to becoming a midwife still do not know that it is a constantly evolving path, uphill and full of obstacles, but it is driven by the desire to see healthy and healthy children. With experience, I realized that the process begins long before the actual act of autonomous nutrition; from conception, our cells are influenced by someone else’s choices: mothers with behavioral and eating habits determine the well-being of the children they have in their wombs and influence their future.
Working in a clinic, a crossroads of “bellies,” languages and colors, you realize how each person has their own food identity, given by the union of traditions, habits and availability. However, every woman I meet faces the same question: “when my baby is no longer part of me, what will be the best way to make it grow?”. Doubt grips everyone; whatever age they may have, ethnicity they belong to, or social background they come from, they are constantly torn between the choice: breastfeeding or artificial feeding? The answer to this question is simple: there is no better thing than your mother’s milk for that puppy. Breast milk is species-specific, perfect for the new dyad: it adapts to the climate and the time of day and even varies within the same feeding.
Moreover, the first drops of milk are so precious for the newborn that they are called “liquid gold” as in a few millimeters, they contain a very high nutritional capacity associated with the possibility of protecting against disease as they are rich in antibodies produced by the nurse. During breastfeeding, the mother carries the baby in her arms, providing food, containment, consolation, reassurance, warmth, and help to regulate breathing and heartbeat. In this way, the mother not only nourishes the body of her child but also the soul and psyche of the adult of tomorrow.
The conflict arises in our so-called industrialized society: in recent years, they have led us to think that everything must be measured, controlled, and planned. That the baby does not have to cry and that he must be alone from the first moments after birth to be autonomous. The milk produced in a factory of which we know the exact composition is perfect for everyone, and the acquisition of a lot of weight signifies well-being. It is easy to understand how a woman can go into crisis when faced with the choice when she is told that breastfeeding does not have to have fixed schedules to work, that it is not us who decide when and how much the baby should eat but that the latter should self-regulation, which is more intense at night and that the evaluation of success is over the long term. In an industrialized society, it seems like a real leap of faith.
Doubts persist and multiply when you are faced with the need to switch from a liquid to a solid type. This obstacle is encountered around the sixth month of the child’s life, a period in which the nutritional needs increase, and there is the need to implement caloric intake. How much extra food should I give? At what time of the day? What kind of food do I start with? Homogenized industrial products or homemade preparations? Use of cutlery or free handling of food? These are just some perplexities involving mothers struggling with complementary nutrition. The difficulties increase in women who have experienced a migratory phenomenon as the foods they have seen used in their family of origin suitable for this passage are often unavailable in the final place of migration. The discomfort is compounded in the case of a recent transfer by the difficulty of understanding the language and the possible lack of a supportive network of friends or parents.
Supermarkets in industrialized countries have entire departments dedicated to food for babies; advertising always shows us smiling children who open their mouths and willingly accept what is proposed; in the images, the introduction of the food is always mediated by an object, in almost all cases a teaspoon as the diet for early childhood is always homogenized. The idea that it occurs at the time of purchase often contrasts with the reality that children spit food and do not accept the forced introduction of new foods. Instead, they try to grasp the food with their hands so that they can feel the consistency, bring your hands close to your nose so they can use your sense of smell and for. Lastly, they bring the food to the mouth to taste. This script repeats over and over again before a child accepts a new preparation or a new flavor. Other points on which children’s nutrition brands are strong are convenience, speed of administration, and safety from the point of view of biologicals. But are we sure this is the case?
The answer is clearly no. For families, changing the feeding of infants would be much simpler if time were left to nature to take its course: thinking of preparations that vary according to seasonal offers and availability on the market at affordable prices, allowing children to sit at the table with the whole family and giving them time to bring food to their mouths by playing to imitate older siblings or parents, allowing them to crush, manipulate and watch what they will put in their mouth, educating the taste buds of the future children and adolescents to the flavors of home.
The opinions expressed in the articles of this magazine do not necessarily represent the views of
The New Gastronome and The University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo.