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When a Foodie Feeds Her Baby

When I got pregnant last year, food took on a whole new level of meaning. And for me, that is saying a lot: I love food so much I write about it for a living.

But pregnancy gave me reason to think even harder about food—and that's where I began to run into problems, too. I wanted every calorie to count. I had visions of vitamin-laced green juice and omega-packed sardine sandwiches, finished off with Greek yoghurt and homemade granola chock full nutrient-rich nuts and seeds. I thought of feeding my pregnancy as my most important job.

Then came the nausea.

The morning I began my seventh week of pregnancy I hurled my entire kale smoothie down the sink. Soon I was projectile puking several times a day. I didn't have it quite as bad as Princess Kate, but let's just say I couldn't leave the proverbial throne for long.

MORE: 6 Things You Didn't Know About Morning Sickness

The only thing I could keep down was carbs—and barely that. But because pregnancy is unlike being sick with the flu, I was also simultaneously starving. I wanted bowl after bowl of pasta. My family will never let me forget the time I ordered a second serving of spaghetti Bolognese at our favorite Italian restaurant after I finished my first plate and promptly vomited up its entirety in the bathroom.

But most of my diet was not so classy. I craved junk food, especially. Gummy candies, check. Boxed mac 'n cheese, check. White bread, check. Who was this baby that invaded my foodie paradise? I hated myself for betraying my highfalutin eating goals, but that didn't stop me from making my husband run out for cherry pie and chocolate milk.

My pregnancy progressed without a hitch and nine months later my healthy baby boy arrived.

Of course I planned to breastfeed him solely. Even when my obstetrician's nurse gave me free samples of formula, I promptly donated them. Not my baby! Or so I thought.

Two weeks after my son was born my pediatrician suggested we visit a lactation consultant—immediately. My baby wasn't gaining weight fast enough.

Obviously I wanted what was best for my baby, but as a new mom I quickly learned that is never a simple thing.

We scurried over to our local breastfeeding support center and it was there, of all places, I was told we would need to supplement my low milk supply with formula. Eventually, with enough pumping and fenugreek pills, we could try to transition to solely breast milk, but for the time being, he would need formula to increase his weight.

MORE: Are Breast-Feeding Perks Exaggerated?

Obviously I wanted what was best for my baby, but as a new mom I quickly learned that is never a simple thing. Neither is letting go of the wishes and desires we harbor as parents for our children. And for me, many of those well-intentioned thoughts circle around food.

Within a few months my baby's diet consisted largely of formula—my milk supply had only increased so much, and his milk needs exceeded my output. So I reluctantly made my peace with it—after all, there were mothers all over the world who would kill to have access to the selection and quality of baby formula we have in the United States.

Yet once again my expectations were quickly overturned when we transitioned to solid foods. Even before the age of six months, when our pediatrician wanted us to begin experimenting with foods, I turned our kitchen into a baby food factory. I planned—though I now realize planning is clearly the problem—for our son to eat only homemade foods, and only organic at that. I became an expert in baby food cuisine and filled our freezer with individually portioned pureed mangos, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and green beans. I had visions of food-filled fun.

Was the universe trying to punk me with a picky eater, too?

But a couple of weeks after we started solid food, my son decided to refuse it—or at least, refuse to eat anything off a spoon. He shut his mouth the moment he saw a bowl and any utensil approaching his face. Was the universe trying to punk me with a picky eater, too?

Weeks of frustration ensued over my lack of control in this latest food situation. Because clearly for me, food is an expression of control. And as any seasoned parent knows, and I am slowly learning, how kids grow up is something we cannot totally control—much as some of us think we can.

Then one day at the grocery store recently I decided on a whim to give my son a packet of baby food from the shelf, the kind with a little spout for sucking. Even though it was just pureed bananas—a food I tried to feed him countless times at home by just mashing a fresh banana—he sucked it dry before we even got to the cash. He's downed countless little pouches of store-bought or homemade food since then (though he prefers store bought, of course). Turns out my son, of all people, is a control freak. He wants to control each bite of food as it enters his tiny little mouth. Go figure.

Images via Twenty20/yurikong21; Lara Rabinovitch

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