Even if you never gave much thought to nutrition before, chances are it's top of mind when baby arrives — and especially so once she starts eating solids. Pediatricians offer some guidance, but for the most part, they leave it up to us to decide what goes into her three squares a day. This means your child's early meals are heavily informed by your tastes, your culture and, as a new study discovered, your socioeconomic background.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Buffalo, examined findings from a two-year Infant Feeding Practices Study that involved 760 boys and 795 girls aged 6 to 12 months. Based on that data, UPI reports, scientists found that a mother's household income and level of education play a significant role in how well her baby eats (as if we didn't have enough reasons for mommy guilt!).
The numbers break down like this: Moms who earned more than $60,000 a year and/or completed at least some college were more likely to feed their babies nutritious meals, which includes solid foods and breast milk. On the flip side, moms who made below $25,000 a year and weren't as well educated (defined as "some or all of high school") were more likely to give their children foods high in fat and sugar as well as more cereal.
As researchers point out — and moms of toddler can tell you — there's a short window of time to establish good eating habits. You usually only have the first year to get them hooked on the healthy stuff. "There is substantial research to suggest that if you consistently offer foods with a particular taste to infants, they will show a preference for these foods later in life," said lead study author Xiaozhong Wen, an assistant professor in Buffalo's Department of Pediatrics. "So if you tend to offer healthy foods, even those with a somewhat bitter taste to infants, such as pureed vegetables, they will develop a liking for them. But if you always offer sweet or fatty foods, infants will develop a stronger preference for them or even an addiction to them."
While I think the findings are a great reminder to introduce baby to all sorts of healthy fruits, vegetables and grains — especially while they're still open to it — this can be easier said than done. I believe most parents would prefer to serve their baby the most nutritious food out there. But the reality is, eating well often hinges on two precious resources: time and money. When you're living hand to mouth, every penny has to count. And if your choices are a fresh avocado (good for two or three side dishes) or an equally priced box of cereal (good for a week's worth of breakfasts), which would you pick up?
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Image of baby eating courtesy of Shutterstock