On Starting Solids

August 4, 2011. Posted in: Humor & Wisdom

by Eleanor Goulding Smith
from The Complete Book of Absolutely Perfect Baby and Child Care,
copyright 1957, Harcourt, Brace and Co. (chapter two)

“In the beginning, all you have to cram into the baby is milk and vitamins, but one day the pediatrician will say, ‘Now you may start the baby on mashed banana.’ Or baby cereals. Or something mushy. Here again, it is easy enough for the pediatrician to say it. He doesn’t have to come and get it into the baby. That’s your department. Should you feed him the mashed banana BEFORE he drinks his milk, when he’s very hungry and therefore much more likely to try something new? Or, if he’s very hungry will something other than milk make him very angry, and make him unable to take solid food as long as he lives? Or, if you give it to him after the milk, when he’s feeling full, will he reject it because he’s not hungry, and never in his entire life eat solid food? In fact, is it even possible to feed a baby anything but milk? This is a crucial moment. The baby cannot go through life living on milk. THE DOCTOR HAS SPOKEN. You have got to get that food into him. Get on the phone again. Consult all of your relatives who have ever had babies. Go out again and consult all the other mothers in your neighborhood. Ask the elevator man on the way.

You will soon find that you are the ONLY ONE who has any difficulty in the matter at all. The first mother you meet didn’t give her baby MASHED BANANA. SHE gave hers Pablum. What kind of a pediatrician do you have, anyway? And there is no problem about when to give it. She gave hers the Pablum before the milk, and the baby didn’t like it, but she got it into him anyway. ‘After all,’ she says, ‘the baby doesn’t know what’s good for him.’ The second mother didn’t give hers solid food till he was six months old. What kind of a pediatrician do you have, anyway? And she gave it AFTER the milk, and he loved it the very first time. The third mother gave hers strained liver when he was only four weeks old, and what kind of a pediatrician do you have, anyway? She gave it in the MIDDLE of a feeding. It made him throw up, but after all, it’s the experience that counts.

So you go home again, and you try it before the milk, during the milk, and after the milk. But yours doesn’t like it any time. So you try cereal. He doesn’t like that either.

Now a PROBLEM has developed. Here is this baby and he refuses to eat his solid food. (‘Solid’ in this case is a euphemism for ‘squushy.’) Are you a failure as a parent? Is he a failure as a baby? Is the pediatrician a failure as a pediatrician? WOULD the baby rather have a hot pastrami sandwich?

This brings us to the primary rule of baby raising, which is the solution to this and all subsequent problems. This rule must be followed faithfully, and practiced regularly, and you should make it a habit to repeat it to yourself ten times a day. It is the Golden Rule of raising babies. LIE. Lie to your mother, lie to your sisters and aunts, and above all, lie to all the other mothers you meet on the street. When a newer mother than you asks for your help, tell her you never had the least trouble. YOUR baby just LOVED his mashed banana on the first try.”

Other quotes by Elinor Goulding Smith:

It sometimes happens, even in the best of families, that a baby is born. This is not necessarily cause for alarm. The important thing is to keep your wits about you and borrow some money.

All good qualities in a child are the result of environment, while all the bad ones are the result of poor heredity on the side of the other parent.

More by Elinor Goulding Smith

How to Make Your Own Greek Temple from Elinor Goulding Smith’s Great Big Messy Book