Today’s Culture, Your Eating History And Your Baby
June 29, 2010 · Posted in Breastfeeding, Feeding, Infant Development · Permalink

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Food- we can’t live with it and we can’t live without it. This age old lament is sadly how many women experience their relationship to eating, weight and food. Food can be one of our greatest pleasures as well as our most oppressive jail. Once we become mothers we are highly influential in helping form our child’s relationship to eating. This excerpt from A Mother’s Circle takes a closer look at the topic of food and motherhood and all that it encompasses:

Food plays a powerful, elemental role in our lives. It is, and always will be, associated with deeply cherished rituals and celebrations. Tastes and aromas can unlock childhood memories. Meals and eating give a rhythm to the days and mark the passage of seasons and holidays. Feelings about food, eating, and mealtimes from your own childhood will affect your response to feeding your baby.

In addition to one’s own personal history about food, present day attitudes also affect the feeding of your baby. Our culture presents dual, incompatible fantasies: first, a “perfect” (thin) body equals happiness, and second, that fast food is all-American fare. Unavoidable images of model-sleek women pull the rug out from the average female’s respect for her own body and distort her natural appetite. For many teenage girls and women, diet soda and self-denial are a way of life and anorexia is the challenge that symbolizes this. For others, over-indulgence is a different form of obsession. Meanwhile, junk food, fast food and caffeine-laced soft drinks are staples of our national diet. Obesity has become a primary health concern across the country: sixty percent of Americans are overweight.

So even if you have not personally struggled with an eating disorder, it is impossible not to be affected by the cultural norms and expectations about weight and diet. As a mother embarking on the process of teaching another human being about food, it can be helpful and important to look at your own feelings about food, weight and body image.
Many mothers recall tremendous pressure to be thin or conversely, to finish all the food on their plate. By examining your own family of origins’ attitudes about weight and eating you can become aware of unconscious worry that may be provoked by feeding your baby. Many new mothers worry about under- or overfeeding their babies. Monthly visits to the pediatrician that confirm an average and steady weight gain do little to help. Sometimes this worry is set off when a mother and baby have a difficult time getting started with breastfeeding or when, for example, a baby has been extremely fussy and seems to find relief only when she is eating. If a mother’s preoccupations linger despite the fact that her baby is thriving, her own history may offer an explanation.

Many mothers confide that though they never had a weight problem themselves, a siblings’ struggle with food or weight has affected them. These feelings can get tangled up in the feeding process with your new baby and take away from the pleasure of nourishing your infant.
It is no wonder, given all these influences, that some mothers do not trust their babies’ appetites either. But they can. A healthy baby will naturally eat the amount she or he needs. Mothers offer a great gift to their children by giving them a sense of control over the eating process, as well as a natural, unencumbered appreciation for food.

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