Food Baby

24 Jun

Many of you know that Erica and I are expecting our first baby this October, so you can predict an increasing number of posts about the intersection of parenthood, babies, and food. Facebook clipHowever, instead of writing about baby food right now, I want to write about food babies.

In college, when we would gorge ourselves at the all you can eat dining hall (see this post for more on that phenomena) my friends and I would complain of feeling as though we had a “food baby.” Sometimes we even looked like it too.

However, I recently added a widget to my Facebook page which takes the notion of food babies to an entirely new level. Each week this little tool updates itself to track the growth of our baby. Both Erica and I agree that there is something really nice about watching the progress of our child as it develops. However, the creators of this widget chose food as the unit of measurement and comparison for tracking our baby’s growth. As I have watched our baby grow, comparing it to heirloom tomatoes (I appreciated the nod to heirloom veggies there), carrots, eggplants, and squashes I often wonder why the designers thought of food as the logical point of comparison.

I mean there is no one size of a tomato (especially heirlooms) and who knows how long the average carrot is. Food, and especially vegetables, seem like a unreliable measure of anything. So why food?

This got me thinking more about the incredible amount of focus food receives when you or your partner are pregnant. There are foods you are supposed to eat, foods your are not supposed to eat, foods you crave, foods you are repulsed by. And then, looking ahead, there is baby food, food that effects nursing, food allergies, and potty training (which is after all part of the food equation).

Some of these things have become cultural cliches – think “eating for two” or “pregnancy cravings” – that may have some grounding in truth but also serve to distort the actual experience of navigating the questions of food during pregnancy. Unfortunately so much of the hype around food and pregnancy focuses on fear. There is little out there that is empowering, that focuses on reclaiming our connection to food as part of the holistic pregnancy process.

What I did find online tended to focus on marketing or selling “natural” products to women, not educating families about the role of our food choices in terms of our children, our community, and our environment. One site was actually funded by the lobbying and marketing arm of the American Egg producers (see it here).

As I look at my Facebook profile and see my baby represented by a vegetable, I think that the designers were probably just going for something light and fun when they chose food. But I wonder if this comparison is an invitation to start a conversation about how we think about raising food and raising families. It seems that conversation is deeply needed.

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