NOT a “Gerber Baby”!!

One of the facebook ads that pop up in the sidebar had a picture of a sleeping newborn, with the question, “Is your baby cuter than this baby?” Then something about being “a Gerber Baby.” Um, no thank you! I’m proud to say that my children were never “Gerber babies.” “Why?” you may ask. Well, I’ll certainly tell you!

  • Infant food is a new invention, and not necessarily a good one, in my opinion. It may be better today in some respects than it was 30 years ago or 50 years ago (I think they used to add quite a bit of salt, sugar, and perhaps other flavorings), but I still don’t like it. Babies survived (and thrived!) for millennia prior to the founding of Gerber Baby Foods. So, it’s not necessary, although some people may find it helpful.
  • For millennia, mothers somehow managed to keep their poor, starving children alive {sarcasm here — not intended to include children who actually are truly hungry, and would benefit from any food at all} without the help of over-processed, machine-puréed foods sold in tiny jars at exorbitant cost.
  • It’s wasteful — those tiny jars can be recycled, but how many are?
  • The food is processed and perhaps over-processed.
  • Even if the tablespoon of applesauce in the little jars is healthy (enough), there is now a whole product line of post-infant foods — Gerber Graduates, which perpetuates feeding children separately from the rest of the family, and perpetuates a cycle of feeding children food from boxes, jars, etc., rather than food from the ground and other “whole” foods. So, your child will go from breastmilk or formula to infant cereal, and jars of food, to jars of chunkier food, to individual-size packages of juice, yogurt, etc., to “2nd foods” and “3rd foods” dinners, to “Gerber Graduates”, to what when he goes to school — Kraft Lunchables? I consider myself to be fairly mainstream, — a little on the edges in a few different ways — but surely I can’t be the only one who has a problem with the possibility of children being fed absolutely no living and/or whole/natural food, subsisting entirely on cooked, processed, boxed/canned/jarred food, from infancy through adulthood. How many carrots can you buy, for the cost of one jar of baby food? How many “raw ingredients” could you purchase for the same price as the “finished product” of a week’s supply of “Gerber Graduates”? How much nutrition is lost in the processing of real food into fake food, that could be kept if you prepared the food yourself?

Ok, enough of that rant. On to another one.

Then, if the above-mentioned problems aren’t enough, you’ve got the fact that Gerber is now owned by the Nestlé corporation (although not mentioned in Nestlé’s website, which makes me wonder what other companies and products are also owned by them), which corporation has been under boycott (except for a brief time in the 80s) since 1977 for its marketing of formula in poor countries. Now, I’m not much on boycotts in some ways — I’d heard about this boycott a few times, but never realized it was about as old as me! I don’t say that I will boycott Nestlé, but I am going to be mindful of the boycott in making my purchasing decisions.

Today is Halloween (which I don’t celebrate), and Nestlé is bound to be making huge profits this year (as in every year) selling chocolate — that’s what I most associate with them — Nestlé Crunch and other foods that sport the name. The downside of this boycott, is that I often don’t purchase what Nestlé sells anyway — I try to avoid most candy since I’m overweight already and have a huge sweet tooth; plus most of the other foods are either junk, or have generic or other alternatives, so I won’t change much of my buying styles, even by a total boycott. But here’s the list from the Nestlé website:

Baby Ruth, Bit-o-Honey, Buitoni, Butterfinger, Carlos V, Chunky, Coffee-Mate, Dreyer’s, Edy’s, Frosty Paws, Gobstoppers, Goobers, Haagen-Dazs, Hot Pockets, Jamba, La Lechera Sweetened Condensed Milk, Laffy Taffy, Lean Cuisine, Lean Pockets, Libby’s Pumpkin, Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip, Maggi Seasonings, MILO powdered beverage, Nerds; A variety of “Nestlé” and “Nes****” labeled foods, like Nescafé, Nesquick, etc.; Nips, Oh Henry, Oompas, Pixy Stix, Raisinets, Runts, Sno-Caps, Spree, Stouffer’s, SweetTarts, Taster’s Choice, The Skinny Cow, Wonka, 100 Grand

I have bought about half of these items at one point or another — particularly the candy. But I will be more mindful of these in the future. The only thing I normally buy would be the canned pumpkin, and I almost always get that from the salvage store, so I’m not sure that counts.

As for Gerber, I don’t think I’ve ever bought any Gerber food. The only “baby food” either of my kids had was the following: someone had given me a couple of jars of baby food their child had outgrown. I happened to remember them about a month after introducing my son to solid foods (table foods — real, cooked carrots mashed with a real fork!). He took one bite, and refused any more. The next day, I tried again, with the same (lack of) success. I didn’t waste any more time, and never bought any baby food. I never did baby cereal either. Never gave my children one drop or grain of formula, but then, I was “blessed” with an oversupply of breastmilk, so it was never an issue.

[No, I don’t think you’re a horrible mother if you gave your child formula, nor if you fed him or her baby food. To each her own. Had my child liked baby food, I might have been tempted to get other kinds, to use during an emergency, or during traveling or something. I present my views as balance to the over-processed culture that has forgotten that billions of babies grew just fine without getting a single food from Gerber. What I’ve done is different from most people I know, and that’s okay. I haven’t fallen out with any of the other mothers I know who are religious about feeding their children the “proper” baby food, much less my sisters and sisters-in-law who have circumcised their sons, nor my sisters-in-law who ignored their infants by doing the Baby Lies, um Wise method, so don’t think I’m judging you about this when I don’t even know you. :-)]


8 Responses

  1. I’m with you on the not one drop of formula or one spoonful of jarred baby food! Interesting list of Nestle foods – I wouldn’t have ever guessed about the pumpkin!

  2. WIC now provided jarred baby food. I wish they’d just give veggie and fruit checks. I like to cook my baby’s food and use a processor to grind it up. Then I can add things like chicken or broth, brown rice, etc. I do use jars too sometimes, but it’s not my favorite or normal.

  3. They do give veggie and fruit checks. They’re brand new this month and I LOVE it! I do wish though, that we could opt out of the jarred baby food and instead receive a larger amount check for the fresh fruit and vegetables.

  4. Do your sisters or sister in laws read this blog:-). I have wondered that a couple of times.

    I am very proud to say that my son has never tasted formula in his 16 months of life. I got three free canisters and posted them in the free section on Craigslist. As for the baby food, I was a sucker for it. I did make some of his food, but I guess I really loved the convenience of baby food. He actually wouldn’t eat any solids until he was about 8 months. With my next I will try to use less baby food. I do recycle though and it does bother me to realize how much waste goes into baby food containers. The stages and graduates are a crock of crap. It reminds me of the formula after the formula. “Here’s a formula for toddlers with DHA”. Blah blah blah.

    • Do your sisters or sister in laws read this blog:-). I have wondered that a couple of times.

      I don’t think so. As far as I know, none of my “real life” friends read it. No, I take that back, I just checked my poll at the top of the left-hand margin (how did you find my blog?), and I finally have 1 vote in “I know you in real life.” One of my SILs (the one that had a home birth and thinks “Baby Wise” is as bad as I do ;-)) did read it when I first started my blog, but she stopped when she had her second baby (20 months ago), and I don’t think she’s started again. I’m not sure who the one voter is that knows me in real life, but I have a couple of ideas, since I’ve shared some particular posts with friends who needed it (like morning sickness or turning a breech baby). It’s one of the main reasons I blog – to organize information into something helpful for others. But just in general, most of the people I actually know are not birth junkies, so this blog wouldn’t interest them. Weird, I know – there are actually people living in the world that don’t find birth fascinating. 😉

      • Hm, I’ve heard really good things about BabyWise and have been reading the books, hoping to implement them with my impending firstborn. What are your reasons for disliking them?

        • I’ve not read the books, although I have read excerpts of the book that people have put online, and I’ve seen it in action with three of my sisters-in-law. It just seems to be completely unnatural, and it is antithetical to attachment parenting which is what I favor.

          One set of in-laws start their children on the BW program basically at birth; we visited with them when their youngest child was just a few weeks old. The baby was in a swing, sound asleep; my BIL looked at him, grinned, and said, “This is his awake/play time.” Several minutes after that, he looked at his watch and said, “Now it’s nap-time,” and took the sleeping infant from the swing and put him into his crib.

          I’ve heard many women say that they had to supplement with formula, because they didn’t make enough milk. Well, breastfeeding is about supply and demand; and if the baby doesn’t “demand” enough — isn’t eating enough — the mother won’t produce enough milk, which is why supplementing with formula frequently leads to complete cessation of b/f-ing the baby ends up nursing less and less, instead of more and more. Also, physical contact between mother and baby helps improve milk supply; and the BW program dictates that children never nurse to sleep (my SIL said she “had to” wake up her children when they fell asleep nursing, so that they could learn to fall asleep on their own), and also has set times when children — infants — are to “play” or be on their own, alone in their cribs – why? So they can become accustomed to amusing themselves and not bothering mommy, I suppose. The reality is, that infants do best when they are with their mothers and with their family basically as much as possible – they learn more by observation, they feel comforted and cuddled when held, etc.

          My brother and his wife started implementing the BW program when their children were each a few months old. I remember one time when their older son was about 4 months old, and he was screaming and screaming and screaming. He was hungry. My SIL looked at her watch and said, “15 more minutes!” and ignored him for the next 15 minutes (by that, I mean, she did not respond to what he needed, even though she was holding him, I think). By the time the clock reached the magic number, my nephew had nearly cried himself to exhaustion, and he only nursed a little while before falling asleep. Of course, he woke up hungry before the next magic three hour nursing time. 😦

          The female body is designed to nurture her babies, to give comfort and sustenance — the maternal hormones dictate it, for one thing. Labor is started and helped on by oxytocin coursing through the mother’s body — oxytocin is also the hormone that is released during breastfeeding, as well as during orgasm. It is a bonding hormone. Nursing our babies makes us feel bonded to them; natural labor (and particularly a vaginal birth) floods women with oxytocin, which is one of the reasons why women have such a strong maternal response immediately after birth, and just want to hold their babies for hours. When a baby cries, nursing mothers experience milk let-down. (Some are worse than others – I recently read a humorous story about a woman running to the store for something and leaving her baby at home, and a baby in the store cried, or she called home and heard her baby crying in the background, and *whoosh* she started leaking.) That is the normal, natural response. It is an artificial response for a mother to hear a baby cry and look at her watch and see how many hours and minutes have passed since the last time the baby ate, to see if the baby might be hungry.

          Sometimes babies just get hungry or thirsty oftener than every three hours. Don’t adults frequently want snacks or a little something to drink? It is not physiologically normal for a newborn to sleep through the night, yet that is one of the big benefits pushed by the proponents of BW. An alternative is to have the baby with you in or near your bed, so that when the baby wakes up for nourishment, you can get him without having to get up, and you can basically “sleep-nurse” — with neither you nor the baby fully waking up. Studies have shown that both mothers and babies get more total sleep and mothers wake up more refreshed when they have their babies sleeping close by, rather than having to get out of bed, go down the hall, nurse the baby back to sleep, and walk back up the hall, and back to bed.

          Another “selling point” of BW is that babies are learning to be disciplined, and scheduled — specifically so mothers can plan their days around their babies scheduled naps, instead of having uncertainty. Well, this much I can tell you — with children, there *will* be uncertainty! 🙂 Many children self-regulate or self-schedule — you can practically set your watch on their sleep-wake schedule (even without BW); but there will always be *something* that could disrupt your plans. Even the most scheduled child will have days that are “off schedule” — something will happen that will wake them up early, they’ll go through a growth spurt, have an earache, be teething, whatever, and it will throw everybody for a loop. And, boy, let me tell you, when scheduled, BW children have a schedule disruption, they are **horrible**. Every BW parent I’ve talked to will admit this.

          Frankly, aside from sleeping through the night at an abnormally early age, I don’t see any of the supposed benefits of BW, in any of my nieces and nephews. Disciplined? Scheduled? Hah! I think that the way you raise your children in the toddler years have a lot more to do with how they act in life, than how much they are scheduled as infants. If anything, I think that BW will produce children who are more angry and less self-reliant, because their needs were not met.

          Several years ago, I read a description of a study scientists did, in which they took a dog, and put it in a large box, that was rigged so that it would give an electric shock on one side of the box or the other. Whichever side of the box the dog was on, the researcher would shock; of course, the dog would jump over to the other side of the box… then the researcher would shock *that* side, and the dog would jump back. The dog would do this for some time, until it finally figured out that it was useless to try to avoid the shock, and finally it just laid down on the box, and let himself be shocked repeatedly. Psychologists call it “learned helplessness.” That, to me, is what BabyWise is. Somehow, I think that when children learn that they are helpless, that’s not a good thing; but when they learn that their mothers love them and care about them (which infants learn from being held, cuddled, loved, nursed, having their needs tended to), they build self-esteem, and feel valued.

          Granted, some people let their children walk all over them, which is probably one thing that helps to swell the ranks of the BW contingent. I’m not necessarily advocating that women drop everything at the first hint of a whimper from their three-year-old to tend to his every whim! But it’s not like you have to choose between being ultra-strict and ultra-indulgent — there is a lot of middle ground, and plenty of room to find the right balance of tenderness and strictness.

  5. Kathy, I appreciate your insight here. While I’m not sold on attachment parenting, I am NOT sold on baby wise either. I think it comes down to instinct. I loved “feeling” like it was time to nurse my son. Even if I had just nursed him an hour or two before. Obviously there are cues to follow, but I sometimes just knew when it was time. There is so much information out there pertaining to our children. Vaccines, how to get them to sleep, schedules, etc. I can get very overwhelmed, but then I remember to yes, do research, but then trust my instincts. I never realized how many things there are to worry about as a parent. I have learned SO MUCH.

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