Here’s the situation: I’m at a social event and there is a table full of cookies and chocolates and sweets and juices. All the fixings. Olivia is charming everyone with her smiles and good mood. A lady picks her up and Olivia points to the table of cookies. “Oh! You want a cookie?” says the lady and takes a chocolatey cookie and gives it to Olivia. “No, thank you!” I say with a smile. “We’re going to go have lunch now.” However, that’s not the full truth. The truth is I’m upset this lady gives my kid junk without even asking me if it’s okay. The truth is that I feel like if I tell her what I really think, that this is not healthy for Olivia, that the lady will judge me or feel I am judging her based on my own lifestyle choices. Then the lady says to the other mom’s there, “Strict mama won’t let her baby have a cookie.” At first I’m a little offended. Maybe she thought that because she said it in Slovene I didn’t understand her or maybe she thought I didn’t hear her. Then I thought, maybe this was a compliment in a round about way. I am strict enough or strong enough that I don’t just give her whatever she points at to make her happy and make it easier on myself. I really believe that it’s just wrong, wrong, wrong to give babies cookies and sweets and here’s why:
First, babies do not know that a sugary cookie is more delicious than fruit or a bread stick. They learn this from us because we give it to them. They don’t know that a cookie with chocolate is SO good. They aren’t experienced. We introduce them to these experiences. They are usually attracted to cookies because they are decorated colorfully or we are all eating them or putting an emphasis on them and babies just follow our lead.
Second, one cookie for a baby is like making an adult eat 7 cookies. The ratio of sugar to body size is unbelievable. Now, imagine you give your kid two cookies. That’s like you having 14 cookies. If they have 3 that’s like making you eat 21 cookies. That is an astronomical amount of sugar! Do you know what that does to the brain? We see kids get a sugar rush, but we don’t see what that does to their insides. A rush of sugar hits their brain. This is when they become hyperactive. Their pancreas goes into overdrive to produce insulin to break down the sugar and prevent vein damage. Then comes the crash and they feel horrible. Their little body is desperately trying to recover from the overdose. This is the time when they are crying, hysterical, and miserable. The thing is, one cookie for an adult doesn’t do this. One cookie for a child can.
Finally, sugar is highly addictive. Once you begin giving babies and children cookies and sweets it’s very hard for them to stop and they don’t understand this process. They don’t understand why they are screaming and crying when you tell them, “No, you’ve had enough.” They only know they must have that cookie. I would rather deal with the very minor whine when I say no from the beginning and redirect her to something else than deal with the massive meltdown when I have to tell her to stop after she’s experienced the sugar high. Early on, I have the power to get my kids addicted to sugar and junk foods that will influence their health for the rest of their lives. I also have the power to influence what they eat to give them the healthiest start to their life I possibly can. But what if once they get older and start buying their own foods they go craaaazy with the candy bars?! Then they can get fat despite all the effort I’ve previously put into them to be healthy. But here’s the thing, children who get fat when they are young have a much harder time becoming healthy and fit again later in life. Children who are fit and healthy when they are young, even if they get fat later on when they are young adults, they will have a much easier time getting back to being healthy and fit. I see it as I am giving them the best head start on their life as I can.
Now, I know someone will say, “Oh, you cruel mom! Your poor kids! They’ll live a life of bland healthy foods! They’ll be left out when all the other kids are having treats and they are the only one’s who can’t!” Stop right there! When my kids are a little bit older I will, of course, let them have cookies and sweets. The key is that it is not something we keep at home that they have regularly as a normal part of their diet. Also, it is important to me that they are to the age where they understand this is a special treat and that it’s okay for us to have this because we live a healthy, active lifestyle. Before they begin to understand these things I would be giving her sweets and treat merely because it would give me gratification to see her go crazy over something sweet.
I don’t judge families who give their babies and kids all kinds of sweets. You may not believe me after this post, but it’s true. I know that the main reason they do it is because it makes them happy to see their kid happy. Also, it gives them a break. That baby with a cookie is not going to be demanding of you for a few moments and some days that’s all a parent wants. Many parents simply do not even think of all these things when they give their baby a cookie or sweet. Many parents just do not know the consequences this has on their child’s health. And what kind of person would I be if when I saw someone give their baby a cookie I went over to them and told them what terrible parents they were and that they were damaging their child’s health? Do you think they would appreciate that? Do you think they would consider making a lifestyle change? Absolutely not! They would hate me and rightfully so! The best thing I can do is live my lifestyle in a loving way and if someone is curious they will ask and that is my permission to say why I think this is a a good way to live.