herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Mums, stop worrying -- it's okay to be 'good enough'

IT was never easy being a mum and now it's just got harder.

Scientists in the US have found that the tastes which babies experience in their mothers' milk between the ages of two months and five months shape their preferences for the rest of their lives.

We already know that what mothers eat during pregnancy influences the preferences of their babies later on. So Indian babies emerge from the womb with a ready-made yen for a nice curry. Irish babies emerge with a taste for whatever traditional Irish dish their mothers have been stuffing themselves with -- Chinese takeaways probably.

But this new research means that mothers who planned to take up a diet of chocolate, gin and tonic after birth now face a new challenge.

If you want your child to eat broccoli later on, then I am afraid you are going to have to eat it yourself so that the child imbibes the taste with your milk.

How will that gin and tonic you've been waiting for since you got the news you were pregnant taste alongside a big plate of broccoli? Oh dear.

You could give them formula milk I suppose and cheat but that's something else to feel guilty about isn't it? The US scientists fed bitter-tasting milk formula to babies during their first six months and found that they grew up actually liking the taste.

But you can't buy vegetable-flavoured milk formula for your newborn so it's breastfeeding and lots of boring food for you I'm afraid.

All of this is going to be a torment for mothers who are over-anxious about not ruining their children's lives.

You know the sort of thing: Should I let junior cry for a while or should I rush to the cot every time I hear a whimper? Should I praise my toddler so as to boost his self-esteem? If I praise him when he doesn't deserve it will he become a vain monster?

Should I let junior play with those rough kids on the estate? If I do will they bully him? If I don't will they bully him?

Can I get her into that posh school the Joneses have been sending their kids to? Oh dear, we lost all our money on the apartment in Bulgaria -- now she will have to mingle with all sorts in the local school and it's all our fault.

That's a lot of worry. To be told now that even your child's taste preferences will be shaped by what you eat, if you breastfeed in the first five months after birth, gives you still more to worry about.

But here's the thing: even if you come up with all the right answers to the dilemmas above, your child still won't be perfect. So far nobody, not even the most modern of yummy mummies, has managed to produce such a prodigy.

Take comfort from this: psychologists long ago concluded that what children need is not perfect mothers but 'good enough' mothers.

So quit worrying about the broccoli, Mum. Chocolate is good too, you know.

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