Reinforcing privilege through maternal foodwork

Mother cooking in blender pure for baby

One of the most important aspects of being privileged — whether that is through race, class or the size of your bank account — is to make sure everyone else knows that you are privileged. That’s just as true about motherhood as in any other area. It can be accomplished through conspicuous consumption (extraordinarily expensive strollers, designer baby clothes, live-in help) but in recent years a more subtle form of demonstrating privilege has become popular. Maternal foodwork is an example of this new way to demonstrate privilege.

Organic food is a form of conspicuous consumption, albeit less flashy than designer clothing.

As Joslyn Brenton explains in The limits of intensive feeding: maternal foodwork at the intersections of race, class, and gender:

…[M]others today confront increasing social pressure to embody perfection through their foodwork… Extending Hays’ concept of intensive mothering, rich descriptions of feeding children reveal how mothers in this study are discursively engaged with what I call an ‘intensive feeding ideology’ – the widespread belief that good mothering is synonymous with intensive food labour…

Intensive foodwork is yet another expression of the intensive mothering ideal:

… that defines good mothers as those who invest intense emotional and physical labour, as well as significant financial resources, into maximising their children’s potential. This ideology remains the gold standard to which all mothers are held, regardless of their resources…

In a foodscape that encourages mothers to take individual responsibility for keeping children safe and healthy, middle-class mothers in particular may see engaging in expensive and time-consuming food strategies, such as purchasing and preparing organic food and making foods from scratch, as a demonstration of good mothering. Such acts are associated with a deep maternal love and commitment to protecting children’s symbolic purity.

Those engaged in intensive maternal foodwork may claim — and may even believe — that they are improving their children’s health, but the primary purpose of intensive foodwork is to demonstrate privilege.

Intensive feeding encompasses a combination of activities, including shopping at multiple grocery stores for the healthiest foods; finding ways to stretch the family budget to buy organic food; navigating nutritional information and expert feeding advice; negotiating food with children; and teaching children how to develop a taste and preference for particular foods.

Hence women are preparing their own baby food:

Homemade baby food, argues sociologist Amy Bentley, ‘signifie[s] a type of conspicuous consumption, an elite economic and cultural status conferred by virtue of having the option of extra time and energy to make baby food from scratch’.

It’s not healthier than commercially prepared baby food; it’s a demonstration of privilege. And it allows women who practice intensive foodwork to look down upon women who don’t.

For mothers who embrace the ideology of intensive feeding, it is not simply one of many feeding strategies. It is articulated as the strategy well-educated mothers would naturally opt for. Mothers striving for this ideal felt they were outliers compared to other parents, whom they constructed as less educated and less willing to put in the time needed to raise healthy children.

Though it is not discussed in this paper, breastfeeding represents the apogee of intensive maternal foodwork. Breastfeeding requires significant time, significant effort, the ability to remain out of the workforce for months/years or to hold a high status job that is compatible with privately pumping breastmilk multiple times per day. That’s why most of the supposed advantages of breastfeeding disappear when data are corrected for maternal educational and socio-economic status. Breastfeeding doesn’t improve infant health; being privileged enough to be able to breastfeed improves infant health.

Purchasing organic food is another example of the way that maternal foodwork reinforces privilege. Organic food is not healthier than conventionally grown food, but it is far more expensive. It is just a form of conspicuous consumption, albeit less flashy than designer clothing.

Not surprisingly, black mothers may associate intensive maternal foodwork with “whiteness”:

…[M]any black mothers implicitly associated healthy eating with white spaces – like expensive grocery stores – or white foodways, such as the kind of self-deprivation that leads to disordered eating commonly associated with white middle-class women…

When women feed their families they are often reproducing … dominant norms about white middle-class femininity and motherhood. These narratives of foodwork demonstrate that feeding strategies are about far more than health; they are intimately linked to race, class and gender hierarchies…

The author concludes:

Current discourse surrounding health and ethical consumption often promotes expensive ways of eating, and is also ‘linked to ways of performing Euro-Canadian whiteness’. To the extent that embodying these feeding practices defines good mothering, intensive feeding marginalises not only poor mothers, but all mothers of colour, regardless of class…

Intensive foodwork doesn’t make a woman a better mother, just a privileged one.

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  • Maryann Long

    Can’t we ALL stop trashing mothers? They all do the best they can for their kids. Amy just wants to extend her ‘breastfeeding isn’t best, do whatever you want’ mantra to feeding kids beyond the liquid stage. 40 years ago I made my own, because I didn’t see why a baby needed special ‘baby’ food. She ate whatever we ate. Big deal. Leave it alone, Amy.

    • Lilly de Lure

      I think that’s kind of the point of the post – I don’t see Amy anywhere saying that malking your own baby food, for convenience, enjoyment or whatever reason is a bad thing at all. As you say, whatever works, no big deal.

      As I read the post she merely comments the problem arises when women start demand gold stars for doing it, presenting it as a better option for children as a whole (as opposed to one that worked for them and their children as you have done) or as the only correct way that any good mother should follow or aspire to follow. At this point they are actually merely congratulating themselves on being privileged whilst by implication denigrating mothers who are feeding their children just as healthy meals in the form of shop bought purees.

  • KeeperOfTheBooks

    I was thinking about this this morning.
    As many of you know, I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. One of my refuges was the local hospital, where I was a teen volunteer in the ER.
    While I never went hungry at home, no one ever seemed to care if I was fed–it was a very fend-for-yourself thing. However, at the hospital, the volunteer coordinator would sometimes give me a meal pass for the cafeteria, or the ER staff would make sure I had pizza, too, if they ordered some. Although I was perfectly capable of getting my own food at home, it made me feel so very loved that people simply cared enough to make sure I’d eaten a hot meal recently, even if it was just hospital food.
    A very roundabout way of saying screw the food nuts, just feed your kid already, preferably with some fruits and veggies tossed in when possible. It doesn’t have to be fucking organic quinoa-almondmilk-kale-whatsit for your kid to know they’re loved or for your kid to thrive, and I would go so far as to say that a kid who’s brought up on food associated with poor people but who has that mac-n-cheese served by someone who cares enough to ensure he has a hot meal is a kid who will do a lot better than a kid whose mom insists on making chicken stock from scratch because Only Uncaring People Buy It Off The Shelf–but who has no freaking clue where her 16-year-old is at 1 AM on a school night.

  • Gretta

    I don’t think it matters so much what or how you feed your baby… as long as you are feeding your baby…what matters is if you act like an asshole and try to either tear others down or build others up based on untruths and exaggerations or without taking into account the consequences and cost of your own choices.

    • Gretta

      Oops meant to say build yourself up…

  • Mishimoo

    Somewhat off-topic, but while researching for a uni essay, I found an article in The Journal of Academic Librarianship called “The Joy of Combining Librarianship and Motherhood” by Alexandra Gallin-Parisi. I finally had a chance to read it tonight and loved it so much that I had to share, especially since it fits with a lot of what is said here.

    • moto_librarian

      What’s the date on this? I need to read it…

      • Mishimoo

        September 2015, so it’s fairly recent. I accessed it through ScienceDirect, I’m not sure if there are any versions that aren’t behind a paywall unfortunately.

  • imogen

    This goes backwards in my community. My family struggles financially, we are well below the poverty line. I make my baby’s food from scratch because it’s much cheaper to buy the staples and make it myself than to buy packaged food. That is not the case for organic produce, I never buy organic because I don’t think it makes a difference and it’s more expensive. The fancy mothers around here buy organic packaged baby food from swanky companies. I think it’s just a matter of money. Produce is cheap where I live so it’s poor people food. Cute little pouches of organic beetroot and activated almonds is expensive so it’s “good mother who really cares about her baby’s health” food. The privileged will always find new ways to waste money.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    This is a fascinating and complex topic and I actually think there is a lot going on with it besides conspicuous consumption and class-signalling. But that is certainly one aspect of it and the, wow, the judgment of women who dare to let their children touch Gerber baby food or cheerios or, god forbid, candy, is strong. I tend to think a lot of it is displaced ambition that results from these frequently educated and/or intelligent women being kept out of the workforce, either because the demands of “natural” mothering are too great or because, in the case of crunchy conservatives, women in the workforce is discouraged ideologically. (And, of course, there are also many women who cannot prioritize pursuing their own careers because we continue to live in an unequal society and women married to men often can’t hope to bring in as much income as their husbands so their professional ambitions are often cast by the wayside.)

    Because, yeah, this type of foodwork is often a full-time job. I mean, my God, the Weston Price Foundation, which is a widespread food cult whose followers include Kate Tietje and Sarah Pope of “The Healthy Home Economist” (both have been discussed here), seems to basically operate on the principle of “it’s only healthy if the preparation and cooking involved makes it impossible to have any other job.” Eat more whole grains? Not unless they’re soaked for hours and, really, you should be grinding your own heirloom grains in your home grain mill if you want it to be really healthy. And you’d better be driving sometimes hours to a farm to pick up raw milk since pasteurized milk is poison. And if you are pregnant and breastfeeding? My goodness, I don’t know how anyone following those recommendations (some of which are dangerous) has time to think of anything else. (But don’t be stressed, bad for baby.)

    Seriously, it’s like some people sat down and said “How can we make various kinds of food prep as complicated and byzantine as possible” and, once they’d figured that out, they found ways to justify it as “healthy”–mostly based on anti-modernist fictions and idealized Noble Savage stereotypes. These are people who talk about the foodways of “primitives.”

  • SporkParade

    Let’s be thorough – women of privilege *will* buy packaged baby foods. But it has to a) be packaged in pouches rather than jars; b) be organic, non-GMO, and gluten free; and c) contain ingredients no one would actually buy on their own, like amaranth and purple carrots. Seriously, every time I visit my parents in the US, I feel the need to rant about the socioeconomic segregation of baby foods.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Oh believe me, there are people who would sniff at the women who buy those high-end foods. It’s make-your-own or bust for some.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        See, those who sniff at the ones who buy high end stuff can get all high and mighty about being cost conscious.

        They don’t waste money getting their baby food at Whole Foods

        • Petticoat Philosopher

          Yep, cost-conscious in the way that only people who are middle-class or above can be. “Buy in bulk!” “Get a chest freezer!” “Preserve your own vegetables!” All things that assume the feasibility of large, upfront investments, ease of transportation, and availability of time and space. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this if you actually are middle-class–then, yes, definitely make use of these cost-cutting measures if you want to! But they are themselves a privilege and lots of people don’t seem to realize that. Cutting costs as a middle-class person is very different from doing so as a poor person.

          I mean, I’m inclined to do lots of these things anyway just because I really enjoy cooking and old-fashioned foodways–I’m sort of a nerd about food history and I like to eat my studies. But try doing some of this stuff as a low-paid non-profit professional in a HCL city with no car and an apartment shared with 2 other people!

          I now have a car and my own place so I can be a bit more a mad scientist but a lot of common food cost saving measures still simply don’t apply to my life. And I’m still speaking as a person who’s always been relatively privileged even if I have never made (and probably, as a social worker, will never make) a lot of money. I’m not a single mom with a GED living in slum housing and working multiple service jobs. Yeah, she should definitely be canning her own produce. Everyone can afford to be a crunchy, urban homesteader!

          • myrewyn

            It’s become popular here to buy your meat in the form of, say, half a cow and I’ll be honest and say we have considered it (my next door neighbor raises beef cattle and I watch them from birth and know how they are treated) but that assumes you can afford half a cow at once AND a huge freezer.

          • Heidi

            That reminds me, back a few years ago, I thought I had found a friend that I had a lot in common with. She insisted I buy my meat like that, that it would save me sooo much money, but I’d have to have a deep freezer, and my brain is drawing a blank on what they’re called, but the machines that draw the air out of bags and seal them instead of shopping with the poors at my local grocery store. She insulted the people and the grocery store and the general area I live in. I found out quickly beyond liking to grow things in our yards, we really were different people.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            My wife’s folks are retired cattle farmers, and every year since we have been married, they have given us a part of beef (half a side, probably). They have continued even after retiring. I can count the number of times we have bought hamburger from the store on one hand, and, at home, my kids have never had anything less than about 95% lean (I actually have to add butter to hamburger in some cases to get some fat in it). I couldn’t even begin to tell you the price of hamburger today, much less steak or roast. I’ve never bought steak or roast from a grocery store.

            The point is that, nowadays, to make that work, we actually have TWO freezers that we use.

            And make no mistake, we are well aware how fortunate we are. Exceedingly so.

          • myrewyn

            Ooh, do you also have a generator to back up power to your freezers? I’ve heard at least two stories of power being lost and people losing an entire year of meat.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Unfortunately, no. And it’s happened once that we’ve lost a freezer full.

            Having a generator wouldn’t have helped because we were out of town when it went it (a breaker tripped)

          • myrewyn

            That’s so sad. Would your homeowner’s policy cover the meat?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            It would. If we exceeded the deductible.

            It wasn’t a new load, it was only about half, so didn’t reach the level of deductible.

          • Kelly

            I have found that saving money means I always have to put more time and effort into whatever I am doing. It is a time vs. money trade-off and unfortunately those in the lower incomes have neither.

    • Lilly de Lure

      Quick question (from someone who buys both pouches and jars and does occasionally make her own) why are pouches supposed to be better than jars according to the crunchy crowd when jars are much easier recycle than pouches?

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        We used the pouches because they were a lot easier when we went out to eat. Who know we were being hip?

        • Lilly de Lure

          That’s what I was thinking – I just buy whatever flavour looks like my son will like it (or that he hasn’t tried before) – who knew the container was so crucial to my mummy cred!

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        more likely to be all organic?

        • Kelly

          I think that is true. When I bought pouches, I had to always look for the non-organic ones since organic was more expensive. I don’t have to look hard to find non-organic jarred food though. I do love pouches for the convenience.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        My guess is something to do with fear of toxins in the packaging. The pouches are probably supposed to have less of them or something. That’s usually what food-packaging fuss is about.

        • Amy

          That doesn’t make sense, though, because glass is one of the safest container materials in terms of non-toxic packaging. The pouches may seem metallic but are usually mostly plastic.

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            Wait, you want this to make sense? 😛

      • Heidi

        Glass isn’t really recyclable here in Knoxville (and probably especially not in smaller cities) so it makes not much difference to me as far as that’s concerned. I do prefer pouches now that he’s self-feeding. He can just suck out the contents. He is not interested in spoons yet.

      • Gæst

        I think it’s just what’s in the pouches that appeals to the crunchy types. And more generally, people like that they are portable and the baby can feed itself pretty easily. I mean, I *liked* the pouches for the portability, in particular. They were so expensive that I tried to only use them for trips when I really needed that convenience, because jarred baby food cost about three times less. And the variety of flavors appealed to me in way. Gerbers same old same old bored ME after a while, so to be able to get pear-pea-papaya or whatever seemed like it would add some nice variety (if it were more affordable, that is).

        There are some reusable pouches on the market so you can make your own baby food and still feed from a pouch (and presumably that’s better for the environment). I just didn’t have time for that.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      I’m privileged enough to be able to buy pouches now and then. Mostly because they are darn easy to use on the road, so to speak.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      Around here, at least, store-brand pouches are actually slightly cheaper per serving than the jarred baby food, though they have fewer flavor options.
      But yeah, I generally agree.

  • Alexicographer

    Embracing the fact that I do not enjoy food prep of any sort (but love rotisserie chicken, for which, thank you Costco) has felt wonderfully freeing.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      It’s funny. I genuinely love food prep and cooking and whatnot, but with a picky husband, pickier toddler, and baby, I have grown to hate cooking most foods *for them* because they usually get rejected after I spend ages making them.
      This week, I tried an experiment in which I spent the bare minimum of time on food prep for hubby and the kids, with most focus being on there being a protein and a fruit/veggie for dinner. I have been far more relaxed, the kids are happier because I am happier, and DH practically proposed to me all over again after I served him a grilled ham and cheese with a smoked cheddar/swiss blend and a minneola alongside.
      Verrrry interesting. I think I’m going to have to try this again more often.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Are the stories privileged women tell about good mothering just a way to assert that only privileged women can be good mothers?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/db013885663f087c9a2f76c7d75d7a65db9541438f7e61c81bafb76216105fa2.jpg

  • Kenya Coviak

    This is horrifically erroneous to purport breastfeeding is not advantageous for lower socioeconomically placed populations!

    • LaMont

      An activity that can be so onerous as to make you unable to work at your job would be actively *harming* you if you’re low-SES, so, “not advantageous” more of an understatement than “horrifically erroneous.” FTFY

    • Roadstergal

      Explain how it is.

      • Heidi

        For some reason, I think this is a parachuter who will never be heard from again.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Okay, show me how it has been demonstrated to be advantageous for lower socio-economic populations: actual data please, not theoretical models.

    • MaineJen

      Great, so are you going to start advocating for universal paid maternity leave?

      • Roadstergal

        She should also talk about how that will work at minimum-wage hourly jobs.

        • Heidi

          No, see, you get an ACA provided pump that only comes with one set of parts, that probably don’t fit your nipples so you end up forking over $30+ to get a set that fit, and heck, your nipples might even change and require another set or two. You also get no government help to replace tubing, membranes, or valves, but you know, let’s just overlook that. Then you pump during your 30 minute unpaid lunch break. Who needs to eat?! Also who cares that you probably spend 15 minutes or more setting up and taking down the pump stuff and washing it? Some people even have the privilege, if they work FULL TIME, to have a paid 30 minute break, but if you work in the medical field, no way! Also if you work part time, which we all know happens all the time so companies don’t have to provide stuff like breaks and health insurance, you don’t actually get a break. You are probably running back and forth between two or three part time jobs that offer no benefits at all. But Brooke said it was so doable so I’m sure it is! By the way, where’s she been?

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            I’m surprised the goldfish hasn’t returned either

          • Bombshellrisa

            Oh geez, I *almost* forgot about her. Her claim that your caloric needs for breastfeeding would be covered by your daily Starbucks frappucino were just too much. If she comes back I will just reply with Black Adder theme song lyrics again.

          • Young CC Prof

            A Frappucino costs about twice what a day’s supply of formula does.

          • Heidi

            And don’t forget, one slice of bacon according to her has like 300 calories!

      • Nicole Dake

        This is something we should ALL be doing!

    • Heidi

      So breast milk has the ability to go back in time and get the mother timely, high quality prenatal care? It’s going to magically lift women out of poverty and ensure their children live in safe surroundings with well-funded public schools? Somehow lactating will override the current national policy that doesn’t require maternal leave or living wages? It will give people affordable, high quality health insurance?

    • Dr Kitty

      Ok, thought exercise.
      You work as a waitress for $10/hr, working a 40hr week.
      Your boss is happy for you to return to work and pump for three 20minute unpaid breaks in every 8hour shifts.

      Every shift you lose $10, plus the tips you would have earned in that hour.
      That is a minimum of $50 a week.
      You also have to buy the extra 500 calories in food you need every day to sustain an adequate milk supply.
      As well as breastmilk storage bags, bottles, teats and the means to sterilise them.
      Let’s say those supplies code an extra $50 over a year assuming your breast pump was free with government assistance and you get some government aid in the form of food stamps to help with food.

      Do you honestly think formula and supplies would cost as much as $2650 a year, or make a woman work 260 extra hours a year to make up the costs of breastfeeding?
      Or is that not what you meant?

      • Nick Sanders

        I’d like to comment that $10/hr seems unlikely for a waitress. Thanks to some ridiculous bullshit laws, minimum wage is much, much lower for people who are expected to make tips.

        • Roadstergal

          You have to live in a commie state like CA to get $10/hr for tipped service workers. If you work in a state that stays with the federal minimum, it’s $2.13.

        • Spamamander, pro fun ruiner

          Washington has no tip wage, so you can do well waiting tables if you’re good at it. Eleven dollars an hour + tips. I worked for the $2.13 an hour in Ohio and it was a nightmare.

          • Roadstergal

            Is that recent? I was making $7.00/hr starting as a Starbuck’s barista in the early 2000s. (They did give amazingly good health care – full coverage, including vision and dental, with low co-pays for hourly workers. I had a lot of co-workers who were single moms working there for just that reason.)

          • Spamamander, pro fun ruiner

            We just upped the minimum wage to $11… 7 something sounds about right for the early 2000’s. It’s supposed to increase some each year til we hit $13.

          • FallsAngel

            It depends on how much the employee can expect to get from tips, and also the state. Here is a link: https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/tipped.htm

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            It’s different for baristas than for service workers who are expected to work primarily for tips. I’ve done both. It’s been almost 10 years since I did food service in high school/college but I was paid two dollars and change for waitressing and either minimum wage, or a little above for a more high-end place if I was a barista or a hostess.

      • Nicole Dake

        I am breastfeeding/ pumping, and based off of how much my baby eats per feeding, it would cost me $3600 to formula feed instead. So.. according to your math, breastfeeding saves me $1000 over the course of a year. Which is why I am doing it. With my older daughter, I did 50/50 with formula and breastfeeding, because I had a job where I couldn’t reasonably pump milk.

        So even though your math is wrong, I still agree with the original author’s point that being able to breastfeed still is an element of privilege because with most jobs, you won’t be able to do it.

        • FormerPhysicist

          $3600? How? Are you kidding me? Are you assuming a prescription formula?

          • Nicole Dake

            No, that’s the regular formula that you buy at the supermarket. We were looking at the portion size the other day at the store, and figured out it would cost $300 per month. Those formula cans now are $33 each. With my older daughter they were only like $10. I am not quite sure why the price has gone up so much.

          • FormerPhysicist

            Wow.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Yeah $300/mo is way more than people pay around here. More like $100/mo around here.

          • Poogles

            Yeah, everything I’m looking up for formula in the US shows the average cost per month is $100-$150, so not sure how you’d spend $300/mo without buying the ridiculously expensive “specialty” formulas?

          • crazy grad mama

            I priced it out for curiosity at Target, and even with brand-name ready-to-feed bottles it only comes to $250/month, assuming 32 oz./day. Generic powder is under $100/month.

          • Poogles

            I almost have to wonder, considering Nicole is breastfeeding and doesn’t seem to have any personal experience with formula feeding, if when she looked at the cans in the store and figured up the cost if she forgot to take into account that the oz of powdered formula listed on the can doesn’t convey the oz of actual formula that the can will make. I just can’t figure out how else she figured she would need $300 of formula a month for a 3.5 month old infant!

          • crazy grad mama

            Maybe, although I get something like $1000/month if I do the math that way, which is even more off! Maybe she lives somewhere where food is just really expensive. Her numbers are definitely not the norm for the U.S., though.

          • Heidi

            She said she combo fed her first.

          • Gæst

            I live in the third most expensive city in the US. A tube of generic formula cost $19.

          • Gæst

            *tub, not tube

          • Kelly

            Where are you buying this formula? My 40 oz a day baby didn’t cost anywhere near that a month. At most she ate $50 a month of formula. I used the Target brand and couponed when I could. My third child used Sam’s club basic formula and we spent at most $45 a month. The only people I know that are spending that kind of money in formula in the U.S. are those that have to have special formula.

        • Poogles

          “based off of how much my baby eats per feeding, it would cost me $3600 to formula feed instead.”

          Out of curiosity, how old is your baby now? Obviously a young infant eats less than an older infant, so taking what your baby currently eats and extrapolating that to the entire year wouldn’t give a very accurate price (not that any of these numbers are all that accurate to begin with).

          • Nicole Dake

            She is 3.5 months now. And from what I understand from reading elsewhere, babies have a pretty static intake of milk from about 1-6 months, with it going down after that. So I guess it could end up being less/ more. I just estimated each month at $300 based off of how much she is eating currently. I guess if you figure that it would cut in half at month 6, then you could come up with $2700 for the first year. Which basically, is the same amount that Dr. Kitty says you would lose by trying to pump at work. So maybe it really is a wash, and you are spending the same no matter which route you choose to feed. Babies are expensive.

          • Poogles

            “then you could come up with $2700 for the first year. Which basically, is the same amount that Dr. Kitty says you would lose by trying to pump at work. So maybe it really is a wash”

            Except it really doesn’t seem to add up that way for other people – the amounts I’m seeing for a year of formula in the US is in the $1,000-$1,800 range, no where near the $2,700-$3,000 you say you would have to spend. Your daughter would have to drink ~32oz every day of the most expensive brand of non-specialized formula (~$0.31 per ounce) to get to $300 a month. This just doesn’t accurately reflect the costs of formula for the vast majority of people.

          • Heidi

            If you end up having to formula feed, if you can do just regular default no special needs formula and you live in the US, I think Sam’s Club is the best deal around. The membership fee is $30, but you can a 48 oz tub of formula for $23-24 with free shipping. Target has a pretty good deal, too.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            I’m a bit confused here.
            You’re specifying dollars–are those US dollars, or somewhere else? Because my exclusively FF, 98th-percentile kid ate at most $120/month in formula. And man, can that kid eat!

        • cookiebaker

          Good Heavens!!! $3600?!?!?! For 9 more months? I spent $500-$600 total for the entire YEAR on formula. (Maybe another $20 for Gerber bottles.) To offset the unexpected cost in our budget, I used cloth diapers on my 2 youngest (13 months apart.)

          I asked the pediatrician what brand of formula was best and he told me any brand. They all have to meet the same standards, so any of them are fine. With that information, I felt confident in the generic brand. Saved thousands apparently.

          • fishcake

            Yes, my daughter’s pediatrician, as well as other pediatricians (when her doc wasn’t available) encouraged us that generic was fine. It saved us a significant amount of money.

          • Gæst

            Yeah, I didn’t spend that much on formula for twins. Parent’s Choice for the win!

      • Roadstergal

        This is, of course, all assuming that the woman in question has no issues with supply or milk quality. Otherwise, she’s going to have to spend that money on pumping supplies – and then buy formula on top.

      • FallsAngel

        Why would you need to pump three times in 8 hours? It seems to me, if you pumped before you went, and as soon as you got home, you could get by with pumping once, maybe twice at work. I recall a doctor I worked with who pumped once, maybe twice some days and she had enough for twins.

        • crazy grad mama

          That’s going to depend dramatically on your supply and your commute.

          (I’m also side-eyeing the idea that pumping doesn’t “cost” anything if you do it at home. Ah, the devaluing of women’s time.)

          • FallsAngel

            Well, I didn’t say the latter. Presumably you’d just breast-feed the baby at home. Why pump and then feed a bottle if you don’t have to? That’s essentially feeding twice.

          • crazy grad mama

            “Presumably you’d just breast-feed the baby at home” Which… also takes time!

            It’s a bit of a side branch to my main point, though, which is that very few nursing mothers can produce enough milk for twins by pumping only once during an 8-hour shift. Just because you knew a doctor who did it once doesn’t make it a reasonable expectation.

          • FallsAngel

            Well the baby has to be fed, doesn’t s/he? I mean, if you pay someone to feed the baby that costs you money, too! How do you expect to have a child and it not cost you anything?

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            A lot of people depend on family(grandmas mostly) to take care of the baby while mom works. If you get home and have to do laundry and cook, you may trust your ten year old to feed and burp the baby but not to be able to prepare dinner, and throw a load of laundry in while also keeping the 4 year old from getting into too much trouble. If you are breastfeeding the baby you can’t really also operate the stove, drag the laundry to the basement and yell at the four year old to stop harassing the dog(well you can do that last one but the baby’s going to startle, stop nursing and cry.)

          • FallsAngel

            Thanks for telling me what it’s like to raise kids. I needed that. /s

          • crazy grad mama

            So tell me, where did I or Dr Kitty propose that having a baby was free?

          • Gæst

            Maybe the second parent stays home to feed the baby.

        • Gæst

          Um, no. I’m sure your doctor did do that. That has nothing to do with how it works for everyone else. While I was breastfeeding twins, I had to pump at least four times during a work day just to avoid being exceedingly uncomfortable with engorgement. Of course I could have toughed out the discomfort until my body adjusted – but adjusting means producing less milk, which in my case, would have meant not enough.

          There are breasts that have large storage capacity and breasts that have small storage capacity. Both types can feed babies just fine (barring other problems) but only one can store a whole day’s worth of milk for eight hours with no loss of production.

      • Cody

        Can we please have a conversation about why the woman in Dr Kitty’s example can’t have a reasonable mat leave though? Breast or formula feeding, this woman is going to work out of necessity, meanwhile someone is being paid to look after a newborn. Why can’t she be paid to look after her own newborn? i don’t understand why the US doesn’t have better leave for new parents.

        • Azuran

          Because then the USA would become a communist dictatorship or something. Like it happened to every other country that have maternity leave :p

          • Cody

            Yes. That’s how the Red Menace infiltrates. It’s through paid parental leave.

        • Valerie

          It’s also because there are enough fundamentalist Christians in this country who believe that a woman’s place is at home with her children while her husband works to support the family. Maternity leave and daycare are irrelevant if we would all just behave according to God’s plan. They don’t want to support that immoral lifestyle. Or something like that.

        • Heidi

          I’m gonna take a bet that more people in the US want it than don’t. But I’m gonna say between gerrymandering and the fact people have certain issues they vote on above all else, we don’t have it.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Remember, there are certain politicians who don’t think they need to pay for maternity care because, you know, THEY aren’t getting pregnant.

            You think they would do something like pay new mothers to stay home and not work? Not with their money…

          • Heidi

            I do remember that. I guess if they can’t say the word “vagina,” they probably haven’t figured out how conception happens.

    • fishcake

      Why do you think you know what’s best for this population of people?

  • EllenL

    One thing I’ve noticed about natural-everything people is that they get stuck on an initial impression or idea, and they won’t adjust their thinking or opinions based on new information.

    About 50 years ago, jarred baby food did have added starches, sugar, coloring. I’m old enough to remember that. But it’s not true anymore. Today, baby food is simply the food (some have Vitamin C or citrus acid added).

    I see this a lot in the natural birth and parenting community, a refusal to accept or acknowledge current information about medicines, procedures, food, etc. To some people, if it was true in 1950 or 1975, it’s still true today. They’re stuck in the past.

    • myrewyn

      I think you’re right. We get commenters who won’t have a hospital birth because they don’t want to be strapped down, knocked out, and shaved and won’t listen to anyone who tells them that doesn’t happen any more.

      • crazy grad mama

        Ha, my mom likes to tell the story of her friend, who *wrote a letter* to their local hospital insisting that she did not want to be shaved during labor. The hospital politely wrote back that shaving was not a standard procedure and had not been for some time. This story happened 30 years ago.

        • Merrie

          My mother tried for a natural, low-intervention birth with me. She got pitocin but avoided the epidural. She had a nice LDR room and supportive staff. This was in 1982. Honestly her experience doesn’t sound so different from what one might have in the present day.

          • crazy grad mama

            Same with my mom’s experience. No epidural during labor, but was offered several different lower-level pain relief options. She ended up with a C-section for failure to progress, but only after the nurses had her try pushing in various different positions. The doctor gave her the choice to keep trying for another hour, but she decided nope, she’d had enough. Rooming-in with the baby wasn’t the default, but it was allowed when she asked. Heck, she says the nurses were even overly pushy about breastfeeding – just like today!

          • Amazed

            Talking about moms… My mom – scratch that, my grandmothers were probably part of the reason it even occurred to your mothers to ask for non-medicated births. You know, when in your part of the world the work to make birth as pain-free as possible was going, in my part of the world there was no science at such level. But evil capitalism couldn’t be allowed to outpace socialism, so there were broad efforts to convince mothers that they didn’t need any pharmacological relief, that there were other ways to cope with pain. As we know, “scientists” tend to find each other to science together, so this model spread a little over the Iron Curtain, helping the natural movement by showing that yes, in other parts of the world they do it and it works! I daresay natural childbirth and its tenets would have been the state’s dream at the time my grandmothers and my mom were having their births. And yes, they were encouraged to breastfeed as well. Reason – formula was too expensive, let alone hard to find here, why?

            There is nothing wrong with a woman giving birth in any way she wants to but I can’t help but see NCB movement as a step back because it’s organized. I am not sure I even make sense…

          • another Laura

            That’s because it is a step back. Read “The First Four Years” by Laura Ingalls Wilder and see what a blessing pain relief was considered in 1886. It was worth the hefty bill even to poor struggling farmers. 130 years later, women are refusing better, cheaper pain relief than what was available on the prairie. Our great-great-etc-grandmothers (who actually knew nature firsthand because they had to scratch a living from it) would be astonished.

    • 3boyz

      I see this with antibiotics. There’s this insistence that doctors don’t know how to do anything other than write antibiotic prescriptions. This certainly hasn’t been true in the 6 years I’ve been a parent! One of my kids had constant ear infections before getting tubes, but of the 7 or 8 infections he had as an infant, he only got antibiotics once. All the other times the doctor said just pain medicine for a few days and see if it clears up- and except for once, it always cleared up. Another child got his tonsils out because of repeated strep infections and the doctor was concerned about the frequent antibiotics. Doctors today are well aware of the concerns of antibiotic overuse and are quite judicious about prescribing them.

      • Nicole Dake

        I agree, this has changed quite a bit in the last several years. Even for some illnesses that they used to prescribe them, they don’t anymore. Honestly it makes going to the doctor kind of useless quite a bit of the time, since all they tell you to do is drink hot soup and rest.

        • Melaniexxxx

          literally, people shouldn’t be going to the doc or ED with simple viral illnesses though. Stop wasting peoples time and exposing others to your germs and stay home with your soup.

          • Dr Kitty

            http://www.selfcareforum.org/fact-sheets/

            True.

            Most sore throats, earaches, coughs and colds are viral and will resolve in 5-10 days without treatment.

            If you aren’t sure what to do, or when to seek medical attention, the above website has some leaflets for common conditions that can usually be managed by self care. The leaflets give you warnings signs which should prompt medical assessment.

            Do you know how many fit and well adults call me on a daily basis with “I woke up with a sore throat/ cough/ cold this morning!” ?
            Too many.

            I am happy to see pregnant women, kids and the elderly or chronically unwell, in case they do need antibiotics- fit adults just need over the counter cold remedies, rest and fluids, and I’ll see them if it looks like a complication has developed.

      • Young CC Prof

        Depends where you go. If you go to a doctor that you have a relationship with, you’re likely to get appropriate antibiotics use. At an urgent care clinic, you’re more likely to get a script whether you need one or not.

        • Roadstergal

          I had an urgent care doc recommend acupuncture. :

          • Merrie

            We go to one particular acute care clinic with some regularity because I get a good rate there on my insurance. This one nurse practitioner has twice told my husband that “whole food vitamins” are preferable to standard vitamins.

      • Jen

        I hate that farmers can pump as many antibiotics into their healthy herds as they want, but I had to go to Urgent Care, my primary care, and then an ENT before I finally got the antibiotics that cleared up my ear infection. That was three weeks of unnecessary pain! At least I’m an adult and could insist on treatment. I feel so bad for kids who are suffering and not receiving the medication that would make them better.

    • SporkParade

      I thought about that when I was reading the Hypnobirthing book. Ignoring the fact that most of the women of that generation I’ve spoken to *loved* twilight sleep or would have loved to have had access to it, I don’t quite get why, “I faced a lot of resistance for not wanting to be sedated” translated into, “Therefore, I am very proud my daughter gave birth without an epidural.”

    • jitters

      Yeah, like when I told my mom I was dreading the maternity ward because of the pressure to breastfeed, she said that the nurses actually pressure women to bottlefeed. Which was true for her in the early ’80s, but certainly isn’t the case today.

  • Dr Kitty

    OT: Serena Williams has announced her pregnancy.
    There are already internet commenters bemoaning the fact that she’ll be labelled AMA and “high risk” just because of her age.
    Obviously she’s amazingly fit and well and exercises and eats very well, but people seem to genuinely not get that her age and race still put her and her baby at higher risk of complications.

    • Mel

      I was labeled AMA – high risk during my pregnancy.

      I found it handy. I got any sort of screening I wanted without any argument from the insurance company.

      My bigger annoyance was the number of non-medical people who acted like conceiving at 34 was some sort of miracle. I know that more women have issues with infertility as they get older, but that doesn’t mean that all women will have problems conceiving if they are over 30.

      • Angela

        This is my limited perspective. I’ve noticed that women who don’t use birth control (like my grandmother and mother-in-law) seem to have their last baby in their early 40’s. So, if you don’t have any fertility issues I don’t see how conceiving in your 30’s would be so amazing!

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

          that would be my grandmother, who had her first at 17 and her last at 40. The last was a surprise baby that came 8 years after her next oldest sibling. My grandmothers 2 oldest kids were both married at the time of their baby sisters birth.

          • Dr Kitty

            Eh- my maternal grandmother was married just before she turned 31, had her first baby 10months after the wedding , her second at 33 and her third at 35.

            Given she was Catholic and my grandfather was Jewish I have no idea what they did for birth control, but clearly it was effective because those pregnancies were planned with military precision.

          • Dr Kitty

            And my mother had four planned, spontaneous pregnancies between 32 and 38…clearly, it’s a family trait.

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            Yep, this is the women in my family too–except for my mom who had us at 29 and 32, which makes her a young mother in our family. Her sisters conceived easily and naturally between the ages of 34 and 38 and their mother had her last birth at 37 and didn’t try to have anymore. Her first was at 29. That was late for that generation (The “Greatest Generation”) but being imprisoned in Nazi death camps does tend to get in the way of things like planning for a family.

        • Merrie

          I think the percentage of people who can get easily pregnant with their first at 35 is slightly lower than those who can get easily pregnant with their first at 25. Probably in some part because that first group doesn’t include any of the people who were so fertile that they got accidentally pregnant earlier than that. Then there is the added wrinkle that if you don’t try for a baby for the first time until you’re 35, and you find that getting pregnant does not happen readily, you are racing against time to do ART, particularly if you want to have more than one kid. But there are certainly plenty of people who don’t have fertility problems who get pregnant easily in their 30s.

          • Mel

            Somewhere – and I do not remember where – I found a study that found that people in their thirties often had similar rates of conception to people in their twenties.

            It turned out that people in their 30’s were more likely to take proactive steps to get pregnant like tracking their cycles, using OPK, reaching a healthy weight, quitting smoking etc than people in their 20’s and that was enough of a bump to make up for the fertility decline.

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            I mean, is it really that surprising? In societies where birth control is unavailable or taboo, women go and go and go until their 40s generally–whether or not they want to. Most of my Irish friends have older female relatives–if not their own mothers–who had double-digit numbers of kids and didn’t really slow down much if at all in their thirties. Many of them would have been thrilled if the scare-mongering hype about your ovaries turning to stone at 35 if not earlier were actually true!

            People act like women having children in their 30s or even 40s is something new that feminists invented. It’s not. Women have always done that. It’s just that they often–but not aways, especially in the 19th century–had a whole bunch of kids before their 30s too.

          • maidmarian555

            My great-grandmother (who was born in the late 1800s) had her 13th baby at 48 (they all survived to adulthood too, which was fairly uncommon back then).

          • Who?

            My grandmother had 14 children in 21 years, all singletons, all survived. The first seven were a year apart each, so she slowed down a little after that but still cranked them out.

          • Merrie

            I can see some advantages to that scheme. When it’s 1850 and you’re 39 and on your 7th pregnancy and your ankles are swelling and your doctor tells you to stay off your feet as much as possible, at least you know your 14 year old and your 12 year old can run your entire household, make the younger ones help with their chores, and your sister and her brood can pop over from the next farm to help. Of course, this is assuming you didn’t die of childbirth or disease at some prior point, which would render the whole thing moot.

        • Young CC Prof

          Of my 4 great-grandmothers, 3 had at least one baby after 40, and the other was widowed young. It definitely happens. The risks are higher, but it’s not rare.

          • StephanieJR

            This was my gran- there was quite an age gap between my uncle, mother, and then my aunt. Hell, my uncle’s sons weren’t much older than my aunt (she sadly died in a car accident as a young woman when I was a toddler).

            (I’m hoping to start on my maternal family tree soon, and it’ll be interesting to see what the births were like; any stillborn, premature, AMA’s etc. I know my gran was one of eight children, not all full siblings, and that one of my great aunts has children/grandchildren with autism, and so may my uncle’s granddaughter)

        • Kelly

          I think it may be amazing to some if it is your first child.

      • myrewyn

        I have also been liking all the screening and care they are taking with me (but see my response to Dr Kitty about the havoc this is wreaking on my body).

      • Liz Leyden

        Once my daughter’s heart condition was discovered, every OB appointment included medical students. Between my risk factors (obesity, AMA, twins) and an HLHS diagnosis, I was the interesting case. I didn’t mind.

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          My husband was often looked at by the medical students and residents at his previous ophthamologist’s (the new one doesn’t have a resident), because he has interesting calcification

        • BeatriceC

          My oldest and youngest have a rare orthopedic disease. Students and residents are in pretty much every appointment ever.

        • Mel

          I was really boring until my HELLP diagnosis. After that, I got to meet every resident who was within 30 miles….

          I actually told my nurse to keep the residents out except for at certain “visiting” hours each day. I was freaked out before Spawn came and having strangers ask me a lot of questions was not helping. After he came, I needed uninterrupted sleep.

          My son was boring enough that he didn’t get a peds resident – although the respiratory techs would bring students in to see my son since Spawn did weird things with his equipment.

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        I got some of that, but not from my family. Not with my mother, aunt, grandmother, great-aunt, and at least 2 great-grandmothers had children at AMA. Granted, they’d all be pregnant before and all but my aunt had live children in their 20s, but still. One old dude from church told me he thought I was “beyond the age of childbearing”

        • Roadstergal

          Might that be a holdover from the days before reliable birth control? If you didn’t get pregnant accidentally before your 40s, in that context, you probably weren’t very fertile… :p

          (Yeah, my mom had me with no problems in her 40s – I was the last of 4, though.)

      • cookiebaker

        I had 3 kids in my 20’s and 3 in my 30’s. My last one I was 37. All 6 of my pregnancies seemed the same: same tests, same number of visits, etc. My doctor may have been more watchful of potential problems as I got older, but since no problems materialized, she didn’t order any special tests or anything.

        The only thing that’s changed is labor and breastfeeding. Because I’ve had so many kids, my uterus doesn’t contract as well, so if I don’t get augmented with Pitocin or something similar during labor, I’d be in labor forever. Since my goal was a living baby, I’m glad to speed things along. As for the breastfeeding, my nipples have increased in size with every baby to the point that a tiny newborn can’t transfer milk, even with a textbook perfect latch, and I don’t make much milk anymore, so formula saved my last two kids when they were rapidly losing weight.

        From my point of view, it was a lot easier to be pregnant in my 20’s than in my 30’s! I just had more intense aches and pains as I got older. The first question the nurse would ask at every visit was, “Are you in any pain today?” I’d give her a look and say, “You mean other than being 37 years old and (however many) months pregnant?” Then we’d both laugh.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Or even most…

    • myrewyn

      I wasn’t as fit as Serena Williams obviously, but I was pretty damn fit when I conceived naturally last summer. At my last OB appointment (36 weeks) I was practically in tears over what has happened to my body during this pregnancy. My blood pressure is high, I gained too much weight, I’m basically on bedrest and we are just waiting for the numbers to tip in favor of immediate induction. My very kind OB took probably double the usual allotted time to explain to me that I was as fit as I could have been, I’ve done nothing wrong, but pregnant at 43 is not like pregnant at 19. We had been planning a possible second but I think that’s off the table now.

    • Liz Leyden

      African American women are at higher risk for premature delivery, and no one knows why.

  • TsuDhoNimh

    Oh yes … custom crafting individualized meals for each child is so empowering. And humble-bragging about the amount of time you spent making lunches for them.

    • Dr Kitty

      Eff that noise.

      My seven year old packs her own lunches the days she opts out of school dinners.

      She picks something from the fruit bowl, a packet of breadsticks or pretzels or a slice of bread, a piece of cheese or a yoghurt, some cocktail sausages, salami or cold chicken, a juice box and a treat and we’re good.

      I stock the fridge and cupboards, she’s in charge of actually putting it in her lunchbox.

      She knows it’s carb, dairy, protein, fruit, juice and treat, and honestly she’s happy to do it.

      • Merrie

        Does she actually eat all that? My 5 year old scarcely eats anything, but is guaranteed to eat the most sugary thing in her lunch. We have yet to find a protein, aside from peanut butter, that she will actually consume when it is placed in her lunch box. Lunches are a struggle. My mom left me entirely to my own devices starting when I was not much older than her, and I never had a clue what to pack myself either.

        • Dr Kitty

          Yes, she does, but the portions are small.
          3 breadsticks, 25g of cheese or a petit filous, 3 cocktail sausages, a Kinder bar or Oreo for a treat, and six grapes or an apple or satsuma.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Breadsticks must be something different there than they are here. Breadsticks here are like 20 cm long and 3-4 cm in diameter.

          • Dr Kitty

            https://m.tesco.com/h5/groceries/r/www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=251697723&sc_cmp=ppc*GHS+-+Grocery+-+New*PX+%7C+Shopping+GSC+%7C+All+Products+%2B+Tesco+Brand*PRODUCT+GROUP251697723*&gclid=CKieuNvLsdMCFcsW0wodGpcKUw&gclsrc=aw.ds

            I buy the mini ones to fit in her lunchbox.
            They are slightly bigger than a cocktail sausage.

            We used to do dairy or protein, but the school told me to send more food because she was hungry so now she gets both.
            She’s 7 years old and weighs about 20kg… a big eater she is not.
            I figure if she packs the food and controls the portions sizes within the parameters I have given her not only is it less work for me but teaches her responsibility and forward planning…at least in theory.

            Merrie- does your kid like hummus? That worked for mine when she was going through a stage of refusing to eat cold meat.

          • Merrie

            Nope. Won’t touch hummus. Sometimes we can get her to eat yogurt. She isn’t as picky at home (and responds well to gentle prodding to eat her food, which she won’t get at school), but she doesn’t like a lot of meats cold and doesn’t respond well to cheese that has sat in her lunchbox, even with an ice pack. Chicken or turkey breast, perhaps, but we don’t always have those on hand. Cold meat wigs me out too, so I can’t say I blame her. It’s just a pain. Most days she just eats fruit and carbohydrates.

          • AnnaPDE

            It’s not like you need every food group every single meal, so as long as she has dinner, it’s fine IMHO.

          • Merrie

            It’s mostly an issue of trying to get her to eat a substantial lunch that will give her the energy to carry on through the rest of her afternoon, rather than dissolving in a crying puddle as soon as she gets off the school bus. Ugh, anyway, we’ll manage, I suppose. I’m just in awe that Dr Kitty’s daughter is only a couple years older and actually eats that much food at lunch.

          • Dr Kitty

            She eats much better at school and daycare than she does for me!

          • AnnaPDE

            I know what you mean. My older stepson still eats very little for lunch most days with 11 years. Doesn’t drink from his water bottle, either. And is then very surprised why he’s tired and has a headache in the afternoon. Duh.
            His younger brother at age 4 ate more than that — but then, he’s the kid who ran up to the broccoli on special around that age and asked if we could buy an extra big portion of that…

          • Kelly

            That was me as a child. I used to throw my lunches out all the time. My mom found that toasting a bagel and putting cream cheese on it was the only thing I would eat. I still hate most sandwiches to this day and absolutely hate all packed sandwiches including peanut butter and jelly. I really did not like how it got soggy. I don’t have much to offer but I am sure my picky three year old will be like this too. If you ever figure out what works, please let us know.

        • Charybdis

          Nutella?

  • Mel

    It is amazing how time changes things. When my twin and I were infants 35 years ago, my parents were dirt poor and so had to make baby food from scratch because processed foods were too expensive.

    Yes, three decades ago the Gerber veggies and fruits in a glass jar were the status symbol…

    Personally, I like the idea of making baby food for Spawn, but mainly because I’ll eat more fruits and veggies while I’m prepping them for him.

    Plus, I’ve done the math. I get way more food from WIC with 16 tubs of baby food than I get from $4.00 of produce instead.

    • AnnaPDE

      Yeah, I had these dreams of cooking vegetable-rich baby food too. Then the reality of the hassle vs outcome struck, plus kid prefers a certain brand of jars to anything I can make. (Maybe a tie with Indian curry with the sauce from a jar, which is not a big step up.)

  • Liz Leyden

    Farmers markets are a good example of this. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but where I live farmers markets are much more expensive than the supermarket. The first time I went to one, I almost fainted when I saw organic Niman Ranch pork for $9/pound, artisanal bread for $4 per loaf, and organic strawberries for $4/pound.

    A few years ago, WIC announced that the monthly produce allowance would be doubled for farmers market purchases, reducing them from extremely overpriced to very overpriced.

    When I lived in Boston, farmers markets were for tourists and rich people. Poor people and immigrants went to Haymarket, an open-air market twice a week that sold produce on the cusp of overripe. If you didn’t use or freeze it within a day or 2, it fitted. It was chaotic, and some vendors were rude as hell, but it was cheap.

    • Mel

      I live in W. Michigan. The Grand Rapids area has one open-air farmer’s market that has some vendors that may accept WIC during the growing season.

      I’m on the “No breast milk” package and Spawn’s 1 month old so I get $11.00 in produce a month. The doubling of the amount of money to $22.00 wouldn’t offset the increased prices let alone transportation costs.

      Plus, the farmer’s market doesn’t offer things like BOGO. This month, I got 6 pounds of carrots for $4.00 and 10 pounds of potatoes for $3.99 thanks to some good sales at the local grocery store.

    • Angela

      Really? Farmers markets are expensive? I don’t live in a big city, so the one we have here is just local farmers selling their produce. There are also road side stands everywhere. Everything is pretty darn cheap is the summer! We pick our own strawberries during the limited season and they are dirt cheap to pick your own.

      • Heidi

        It’s the same way Liz describes here in Knoxville. The farmer’s market only sells organic produce. I’ve seen other farmer’s markets, though, such as in Raleigh, where it was actually pretty cheap and plenty of conventional produce could be found.

      • myrewyn

        City farmers markets are quite expensive. Alongside the organic produce you can buy trendy handmade soaps and cosmetics and such. The Whole Foods crowd loves it.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

          I live in coastal New England. The Whole Foods crowd are the only ones who can afford most of the farmers markets near me. And I am not paying more for something that says “organic”

      • Valerie

        Yup, and pick-your-own farms are expensive here, too. Small farms here in New England are just not nearly as efficient as the farms that supply our grocery stores- they have to charge more to stay afloat.

    • Lilly de Lure

      Same here – I live in Edinburgh in Scotland and all the farmers markets we have that I know of are ludicruously expensive compared to the Suipermarkets (and the number of local farmers selling at these markets who appear to have the extra time to have sidelines in “knock ’em out at 20 paces” craft soaps and badly knitted hats/gloves etc is true extraordinary).

    • FormerPhysicist

      Haymarket is still that way. 🙂

    • Tumbling

      In my town, there is a Farmers’ Market on Sundays: very genteel, maybe 20 stands on a green in the nice part of town. The stands have heirloom tomatoes (only $5 each!), heritage free-range eggs, choice cuts of heritage free-range pork, etc. And an expensive coffee stand and a couple of heritage pastry stands. All the best people go to it and tote around their purchases in their own hemp bags.

      On Saturdays in the not-nice part of town there is a street market that has a motley assortment of flea market type stands and dubious meat on a stick stands–and a line of stalls from actual farmers selling produce at far below the grocery store prices, and it’s fresh as well. None of the best people would be caught dead there.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Leisure time is the essence of privilege. Making ever more elaborate demands on mothers, demands that can only be fulfilled by those with leisure time, reflects the preoccupation with using motherhood “norms” to separate the privileged from the non-privileged.

    Making your own baby food is they type of faux sacrifice beloved of the privileged. Working two jobs to support your children while feeding your children processed food is the real sacrifice.

    • Christy

      When I was pregnant I loved the idea of making my own baby food. Then he was born, a few weeks later I went back to my full-time job and shortly after that picked up a second job. Every once in a while he gets smoothies made in the baby bullet I got cheap at Goodwill but mostly he gets prepackaged foods. Oh well, he’s happy and healthy and that’s the important thing.

  • NoLongerCrunching

    I don’t think you need to be privileged to just mash up your own food like bananas, apples, ground meat, egg yolks or whatever, and feed it to your baby. Less processed foods are better than commercially prepared foods and get your baby used to what the family is eating. I don’t have a problem if people choose to use purees, because the difference is probably not clinically significant, but don’t most nutrition authorities say it’s better to use whole, minimally processed foods?

    • Roadstergal

      “I don’t think you need to be privileged to just mash up your own food like bananas, apples, ground meat, egg yolks or whatever”

      Having access to fresh fruit and veg, and the time to process it, is indeed privileged.

      • Heidi

        You also have to have the privilege of affording something else to feed your child when they decide today’s omelette and fruit cup goes to the dog.

      • NoLongerCrunching

        I have worked for WIC, and the same places you can buy baby food, you can also buy fresh things, which WIC pays for. The only processing time is the time it takes to mash it up with a fork.

        • Heidi

          I’ve never heard it recommended to mash up a raw apple with a fork and feed it to a baby just learning to eat. That’s a fairly big choking hazard. I experienced quite a few gags when I hadn’t adequately pureed homemade baby food. It was a fairly big pain, but I had the privilege of time and equipment. Fork mashing works for bananas and avocados, the latter being pretty expensive, and neither fruit can I ever find actually ripe at the time of purchase.

          • LibrarianSarah

            Also, both avocado and bananas need to be eaten within days of purchase because they go bad so quickly. A lot of lower income people like to buy in bulk once a month in order to save money/gas. Good luck in keeping banana’s and avocado’s for a month.

          • Heidi

            For real. I always get them and they are hard as a rock. Then when they become ripe, well, they ripen too quickly.

          • myrewyn

            Lol, I’ve pretty much given up on buying avocados because I would buy 4 or 5, check them daily for ripeness, not ripe, not ripe, not ripe, and then HOLY CRAP IT’S AVOCADO DAY and have to eat them all. Bananas are a little easier because you can always toss them in a smoothie or bread if you miss the day.

          • Roadstergal

            Yeah, I make banana bread when my husband’s Banana Splurge goes bad. But we have an oven and the raw materials to do so… not everyone does.

          • myrewyn

            Exactly. Being aware of one’s own privilege can be a painful awakening. I know I’m extremely privileged now and even with my first, when I was on WIC, I was privileged compared to many because my then husband had a full time job and we had an apartment with an oven, refrigerator, and freezer.

          • Roadstergal

            I think the freezer is a bigger deal than people consider. I mention it above, but having a reliable freezer with a reasonable amount of space is not a given for a lot of poor people. And without that, all of this economical batch-cooking stuff is useless.

          • BeatriceC

            For the truly poverty stricken, even things like containers and baggies and such are an unaffordable luxury, even if they had the freezer space to store things.

          • Liz Leyden

            Living in a cold climate mitigates that a bit, because you can store things outside, but summer can be a problem. Plus, if you live in an apartment, and don’t have a car or balcony, you may not have outside food storage space.

            I’ve always thought food stamps should cover ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken. They’re cheaper than fresh, and it’s a good option for homeless families living in hotels, where they’re lucky to have a fridge and microwave.

          • Mel

            Only if you have animal proof containers for storage, an area that doesn’t get direct sunlight and someone who can keep an eye on the temperature outside.

          • myrewyn

            I love those ready to eat chickens. I have no idea how they can sell them so cheaply. That’s my go-to for when I’m so exhausted I can’t think about ANY food prep at all. I buy one of those and pick the meat off the bones with my fingers like a starving barbarian.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            if you have a large one or have 2 and a crock pot you can use that, some chicken broth or water and frozen veggies to make soup. boil a handfull of noodles and add when you serve it. Makes the chicken go further

          • BeatriceC

            In many of the more liberal states, food stamps do cover some restaurants and deli options if you qualify for that exception. Homelessness and physical inability to prepare meals are the two main reasons to qualify for that.

          • Liz Leyden

            In some parts of Alaska, food stamps pay for fish hooks and fishing nets.

          • BeatriceC

            I have a macaw who’s addicted to bananas. She’ll eat twice her weight in them every day if she was allowed. I’m convinced that when she waddles into the kitchen and starts digging around looking for stuff, that’s what she’s looking for.

            Between that and teenage boys, bananas don’t have time to go bad in my house.

          • Christy

            Is your macaw related to my son? I’m not sure if he really loves bananas this much or if it’s just the only food name he can reliably say at this point, but every day at least twice a day he comes up to me or his Dad, points at his mouth and says “Nana! with a smile that would melt Cruella Deville’s heart.

          • Laura

            This is my life. I actually started keeping them in the fridge, which I know you shouldn’t do, because the ripe ones will keep for a few more days.

          • BeatriceC

            The house I grew up in is in the middle of an avocado grove. At last count, the property itself was home to about 40 trees, which is a reduction after the loss of about half of the trees on the property on account of Hurricane Andrew. My mother put them on everything and made all sorts of weird dishes with them. Then we boxed up hundreds more and gave them to anybody and everybody who would take them and would still have hundreds left to rot on the ground.

            I absolutely detest avocados. Just looking at them makes me want to hurl.

          • Amazed

            I first saw avocados in my twenties. Crap, I first saw bananas when I was 11. Here, bananas and oranges only arrived with Santa Claus – there was even an ironic song we sang about this when the old regime fell. As a result, I associate avocados with ALF. I have yet to taste them.

          • EllenL

            I haven’t tried freezing avocado halves, but mashed avocado freezes great, with a little lime or lemon juice added. Put it into a ziplock bag. Avocado toast and guacamole all year long!

            https://www.californiaavocado.com/blog/september-2015/how-to-freeze-california-avocados

          • Liz Leyden

            Trader Joe’s used to sell frozen avocado halves. They were fine once they thawed.

          • Heidi

            IT’S CHOCOLATE DAY here. Because you know, all those chocolate eggs and bunnies are going to over-ripen! I gave half my lunch to the toddler and ate chocolate instead, while he was napping of course. If he saw me make one “bad” health decision, I will be completely responsible if he has any health issues.

          • myrewyn

            Then you should surely eat them all, for the worthy cause!

          • lawyer jane

            “HOLY CRAP ITS AVOCADO DAY” is called “GUACAMOLE ALL DAY YAY DAY!!” in our house 🙂 Mashed up with just a little garlic and salt, eat it with eggs or whatever carb you have around … also exciting because avocados are the only green thing my 4 year old will eat.

            Another thing is to store them in the fridge … that way you can leave out one to ripen at a time.

          • Roadstergal

            How long does an avocado last in the fridge before going bad? Uh, asking for a friend?

          • lawyer jane

            I’ve kept hard avocados in the fridge for more than a week and they’re still good! I think the key is to get them into the fridge when they are still really hard. I’m assuming that they are stored refrigerated like this anyway when they are harvested, so maybe even more than a week would work. Depending on how soft it was when I got it in the fridge, sometimes they very slowly ripen in the fridge over a few days, or sometimes I just take them out still rock hard after a week and let them ripen on the counter.

          • Roadstergal

            Ooh, I gotta go check the ones I was starting to get scared of!

          • BeatriceC

            A good friend of mine is a trucker that makes a regular, weekly produce haul from Homestead, FL to the produce markets in Boston, with a few stops at various grocery store distribution centers along the way. Avocados are a major crop in south Florida, so he hauls a lot of them. If his schedule hasn’t changed, his truck gets loaded Sunday night, he leaves early Monday morning and he gets to Boston Wednesday night/Thursday morning. His truck is a refrigerated truck, so those avocados are spending at least that much time in a giant fridge.

          • Amazed

            Are you sure you aren’t my sister or something? A few days ago, I was lamenting over the Egg Days to come (in the Orthodox tradition, Easter Day is basically the beginning of the Painted Eggs Period. I painted an egg for Amazing Niece to resemble a rainbow. Was very proud of it as well) and just how many boiled eggs would I have to eat in the next few days. And then bam! what do I do? I’ll tell you what: I go and buy cauliflower which I am the only person around to eat at all and with the brackets on my teeth I have to boil it and then fry in eggs and breadcrumbs to be able to eat it and still have my brackets. Currently having it put in cold water before frying it. With eggs. Argggggg!

          • Dr Kitty

            Could you make cauliflower macaroni cheese?
            You boil the cauli with the macaroni until tender, drain and break up with a spoon, mix in either cheese sauce or something like creme fraiche and some grated cheese, top with a mixture of breadcrumbs, grated cheese, garlic and the herb of your choice (rosemary and thyme work well) and pop in the oven for 30 minutes.

          • myrewyn

            That sounds really delicious.

          • Dr Kitty

            Shhh… it’s a Jamie Oliver from 30 minute meals…

            But yeah, it’s really good.
            He puts cooked pancetta in the crumb topping too but I don’t usually bother.

          • Amazed

            Thank you. I’m going to try try this one!

        • myrewyn

          I was on WIC with my first baby and the only fresh food I remember being covered was carrots. Has it changed?

          • Mel

            That has changed. With Spawn, I get $11 of fresh produce a month which can be bagged, cut or chopped as well – just no added dips.

          • myrewyn

            That’s good. What I got was pretty limited (but appreciated!)

          • Mel

            I was surprised how much it has changed in the last 10 years since I was a cashier.

            There are many more cereal choices, a whole grain section has been added that can be used for bread, brown rice, pasta, tortillas etc, fresh produce, and yogurt. Oh, and you can get canned baby food now. If you get formula that has iron, you only get fruit and veggie baby food + baby cereal. If you don’t get formula, you can get meat baby foods for the added iron.

            You can pick between 16 cans of baby food or $4.00 worth of produce. Assuming I want to introduce Spawn to produce that isn’t potatoes or carrots, 16 individual cans stretches a lot farther than $4.00 of fruits and veggies.

          • Liz Leyden

            My state’s WIC includes a monthly produce allowance: $8 per kid, $12 for mom. It also includes some jarred baby food (single ingredients, no pouches). I used pouches because they were convenient and the local Big Lots had frequent sales.

          • Dr Kitty

            I think I prefer the UK child benefit (which you qualify for as long as no one in the household earns more than £40k). It’s £20 per week for the eldest child and £13 per week for subsequent kids, and you can spend it on whatever you want.

        • Laura

          I live in a medium sized city, and the only place that you can buy fresh fruits or vegetables are actual grocery stores. The closest one to me is about a mile, but other areas of the city are miles away from one. Packaged baby food, on the other hand, can be found at grocery stores, pharmacies, and corner stores. And like another commenter said, it can be purchased and stored for months. It’s also available through food banks, churches, and shelters. Are you really arguing that fresh food is as easy to procure as packaged food?

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Aye. A mere mile is a long way to walk with groceries and a baby or two. And you have to be careful to judge when you can get refrigerated items in summer.

          • Heidi

            I remember not too long ago when I lived with my then boyfriend in an apartment without a car. The only place I could even manage to walk to was a Walgreens, probably less than a mile away, where I’d buy a few staples like cereal. It was the middle of summer and was honestly pretty miserable. No strollers or children to worry about and it sucked. I also got sexually harassed every single time.

          • Laura

            Yep. Driving to the grocery is not a problem for me but finding time to make food certainly is. After I pick my baby up from day care, I get about an hour to spend with her before the bedtime routine starts. I am certainly not spending that hour boiling vegetables when Gerber makes a perfectly good alternative.

        • Heidi

          Where I live, we have some public transportation. It has very limited hours and very limited routes. It’s pretty bad, but it exists. Most towns around me have nothing at all. I also live around people in poverty who I see walk to convenience store gas stations (because that’s their only walkable choice) that accept EBT and WIC and there are no fresh veggies nor fruit to be had. They might sell a few baby foods, PB, small bags of diapers, milk, white bread, soda, cigarettes, packaged nuts and other snack foods. Maybe a very limited amount of canned food and all at exorbitant prices. I understand with EBT, you only get a certain amount of money while with WIC you get certain foods and certain amounts of it so the price certainly does impact those with EBT.

          • Heidi

            And now I’m seeing WIC limits prices on some items too.

        • Sheven

          You’re wrong about this. You can buy baby food at a lot more places than fresh vegetables and fruits–especially high quality vegetables and fruits. Also, sealed baby food is guaranteed to be clean and will not spoil. You don’t get the same guarantee with corner store food, especially in poorer areas.

        • Mel

          In my rural town, the only mash-able produce is bananas. We have other options, but all of them require some cooking to be mash-able.

        • Alexicographer

          I can’t speak to where you live, but I’m a (-n affluent over-educated white) woman with an elementary school kid. While I buy lots of fruit and veg. for him (and the rest of us) to eat, no need to mash or otherwise process (as we’re all capable now of eating it straight up), but it doesn’t travel nearly as well as the packaged stuff — and I own a ton of containers and a car. Bananas get smushed, grapes and blueberries get spilled (in fairness, so do goldfish crackers, but at least they don’t roll…), and it all rots, in or out of the fridge. And bruises if the kid carries it around. Which — eh, I don’t worry about it. But if I were stretching my food dollar, or traveling with multiple kids on a bus to get my groceries home, or … , well, I think I would. And if the little one were really little (and actually required stuff that’s mashed or at least squishy), well, that would further change the calculation.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      minimally processed foods?

      Baby food purees _are_ minimally processed.

    • Heidi

      I don’t think most nutrition authorities, and I’m honestly not exactly sure who you are referring to, even take people who can’t afford an abundance of whole foods into account. For example, if you can’t afford to buy a lot of meat and have limited time to cook something like beans, getting your iron from fortified bread and pasta has to be better than being anemic.

      • Sheven

        Good point. We assume that fortified food is second best to foods that “naturally” contain nutrients. Even if that’s true, and I don’t know if it is, fortified food is a hell of a lot better than malnutrition.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

          and vitamin D added in milk and bread is better than rickets. and iodine fortified salt is better than goiter!

      • myrewyn

        OMG now I’m remembering that another food that was covered by WIC was dried beans and lentils, which has got to be the MOST time-consuming thing to cook ever. I did it, I made our own refried beans and lentil soups, but we are talking an all-day or overnight project with soaking the beans, cooking, and still having to add salt and oil and veggies to make it taste like anything at all we would want to eat.

        • Liz Leyden

          I found some relatively simple crock pot recipies using dried beans. Boil the beans for 20 minutes, throw in a crock pot with some other ingredients, cook on low for 8 or 9 hours. It worked for my family, but we can afford a crock pot.

          • Roadstergal

            Yeah – when I’ve been poor, I’ve lived in places that had nothing more for cooking than a hot plate sort of deal, and a small fridge with that ‘plastic flap’ freezer that doesn’t reliably store frozen food.

        • Mel

          That’s also gotten better. You can now get one pound of dried beans or peas OR 4 cans of beans without flavorings.

          I grabbed one pound of dried beans because I needed that to fill a canner load of black beans – but I’m going for canned from now on 🙂

        • Kelly

          On a side note, I always screwed up beans until I got an instant pot. This thing has made it easier for me to cook at home. I do know that not everyone can afford to buy one or have the space though.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Sadly, you seem to be illustrating the point of the post.

    • Sheven

      Even assuming processed food is worse than other food, what is “minimally processed”? Whether you mash a banana or a company mashes a banana, it’s the same mashed banana. Chopping and cooking meat is processing it. Sprinkling lemon on apples to keep them from browning is processing them (with acid!). Processing can be good, or it can be bad. If it’s good, it doesn’t matter if a company does it or if a parent does it. As for eating what the family is eating, do you eat mashed banana? Mashed peas? Egg yolks?

      And while it’s true that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to mash a banana, that’s not the only part of meal preparation. You have to figure out what a baby can eat (I would never have thought about putting egg yolks in baby food), plan weekly shops, get all the ingredients, check to see if they’re ripe enough and check to make sure they’re not spoiled, and then mash them up. Cooking a meal is generally easy. It’s everything around it that’s a bigger hassle. That’s why there are luxury delivery services which send people daily boxes of uncooked ingredients and recipes showing them what to make with those ingredients exist.

    • myrewyn

      Just for fun I’m on the Gerber website reading nutrition information for their first foods. So far every one I’ve looked at contains only that fruit or vegetable and maybe vitamin C. I’m going to bet that a large company with so much on the line takes food safety very seriously so I’m going to trust their packaged foods over my own ability to safely make and store what is essentially the exact same thing. I’ve seen what happens when canning and beer making goes bad when the wrong yeast or bacteria happens to drop in at some point in the process. I know some moms get very good at this (or all three) but food has never been my forte and I’ll be buying the jars.

      • Heidi

        I’m still finding old purees in the freezer I made that didn’t go over well. I did repurpose some into soups but now what’s in there is over a year old and I’m not sure if it’s safe still but even if, I’m sure it tastes all freezery.

        • myrewyn

          … which I am sure if you were painfully poor you would be tempted to feed to your baby anyway rather than waste the food.

        • Merrie

          I like to use that kind of stuff as additives in homemade muffins. I’ve never noticed a freezer-burned taste.

        • Charybdis

          I use baby food purees when I make meatloaf and meat muffins for the dog. Easy way to sneak veggies into food, because they are rendered invisible

    • Liz Leyden

      Cooking from scratch because you can’t afford prepared food doesn’t seem to count.

    • Lurkerette

      Baby food purees are minimally processed; if you’re concerned with nutrition, prepared purees are just fine. Mashing up a banana is great if you’re sharing mealtime with the kid, but mashing up a banana to send to daycare is kind of gross. And that’s part of the rhetoric, too — if you’re making fresh food on demand, you’re surely not having a career.

      I’ve made my own baby food, and to do so cost-effectively and time-effectively is a matter of privilege, given the cheap availability of the quality alternative. We make up turkey meatballs, lentil and carrot purees, veggie purees, etc., in large batches and then freeze them. Doing so works out to be much cheaper than buying jars — if you discount the time I spend on it. Which, to be clear, I don’t mind — cooking is one of my hobbies, and I enjoy introducing the baby to new tastes. But I have a professional job with a flexible schedule, a house with a fully equipped kitchen, etc.

      (Also, totally buying prunes, because screw stewing prunes.)

      • crazy grad mama

        To add to your point about daycare, and how “just mash up your own food” is a privileged position, here are the requirements for making my kid’s lunch for daycare:

        – no meat (daycare is run by a Jewish synagogue and keeps kosher).
        – no peanut butter (because of allergies).
        – can’t involve any additional prep at daycare.
        – has to keep in the fridge for several hours.
        – has to taste good cold.
        – has to be mostly be things I know my kid will eat (because as much as we encourage him to try a variety of things, I don’t want him going hungry).

        And on top of all that, I want him to be getting a reasonably balanced mix of carbs / protein / veggies. Right now (he’s 2), he gets a lot of sunflower butter (not cheap) sandwiches, and veggies that I steamed on the weekend.

        • myrewyn

          OMG it sounds like you have to be quite privileged just to be able to comply with your daycare requirements.

          • crazy grad mama

            Yes and no. Yes, in that yeah, there are a lot of restrictions, and having money and access to grocery stores is huge help. And definitely, just being able to afford a daycare that we really like is a privilege. But I could save myself some time (although not necessarily money) if I just bought premade stuff and stopped worrying about it.

        • Lurkerette

          Yup! My one-year-old’s daycare follows state regs, but isn’t peanut-free. It isn’t horribly onerous to prep lunch and snacks for her, but:
          -food must be prepped (this kills sending a lot of fruits)
          -if finger-food, food needs to be cut up into half-inch pieces or smaller
          -must be refrigerated
          -must be readily eaten by the child — because there’s no way to get her other food if she turns up her nose at it

          Kiddo is totally over purees and prefers to feed herself. So she eats a lot of peas.

        • AnnaPDE

          Wow.
          This kind of requirement list was the reason that my daycare at some point just decided to get meals brought in by a baby-food catering company that can tick all the boxes, plus deliver the food warm.
          It’s actually pretty yummy, and not having to prep lunches is worth every cent of the $4 per day price increase.

          • crazy grad mama

            That sounds awesome.

    • lawyer jane

      So, I’m not a sociologist, but I don’t think this paper is meant to really comment on the *actual* difficulty or nutritional aspects of making your own purees. It’s more how it’s used symbolically, what it represents. And while sure, hardboiling and egg and mashing the yoke isn’t probably that much more work than buying and opening a jar of babyfood, the incremental increase in labor (including emotional/intellectual labor) DOES add up when you do everything required to “perform” good motherhood: breastfeed exclusively, homemade purees (OR even better, “babyled weaning,” since that takes even more effort), cloth diapering, babywearing, elimination communication, wooden toys, RIE and other rules-based parenting systems, etc etc etc …. it adds up!

      • Merrie

        Personally I did baby-led weaning because I thought it was easier than spoon-feeding the baby. I put the food in front of them and then I can eat my food. But I am sure there are people who do it in a more labor-intensive way than I did.

        • lawyer jane

          I’m referring to the dogmatic kind of baby-led weaning, where they insist that purees will somehow harm the baby, that 6 month olds should be allowed to eat choking hazards, where they try to convince each other that a little choking/gagging is something to just “push through”. Sometimes all of this leads to failure to thrive, but they still insist on it. It also dovetails with breastfeeding, because there’s this idea that babies should not be pushed to eat complementary foods by spoon feeding them.

          That’s very different from letting babies feed themselves finger foods from time to time! I think we all do that (and yes, I def did it too out of laziness 🙂

        • Kelly

          There is nothing wrong with most of the things that the natural crowd does but they are incredibly smug about it. I have done three different things with three kids and they have turned out fine. I am always in the crowd to do what works for a family and not to worry about it.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      Finding good fresh fruits and veggies if you live in a food desert is already hard. Getting them home unsquished when you have to juggle bags and a baby is a challenge. You can put jarred baby food and canned fruits and veggies and big jars of applesauce in a backpack without damaging them, so you can carry them and the baby and stroller on the bus,subway, or on your bike saddlebags. Yes I speak from experience. No everyone has a car. If you have to drop your baby off at daycare you have to bring their bottles and food with you. Jarred babyfoods ARE whole and minimallyprocessed.

    • TsuDhoNimh

      As long as you aren’t Instagramming and live-blogging the process, and buying special foods for the kids.

      I’m a big fan of the “Happy Baby baby food grinder”. You can take part of the grownup dinner – before the really spicy bits are added – and grind it for baby. And the grinder can be tossed in the dishwasher.

  • no longer drinking the koolaid

    Does it count that I grew my own food in the garden and then let them eat those organic beans and berries without washing them? And there were carrots, but they got rinsed at the hose because a little too much grit ruined the crunch. I should get a mommy gold star!

    In all seriousness, it was organic because I was too busy to investigate the safe use of pesticides, so just didn’t use them. And as for the kids eating produce straight out of the garden, that was again because I was so busy it was easier to have them in the yard and garden playing while I worked in the garden. The produce made a great snack so I could finish yet another task before making lunch of dinner.

    I just didn’t have time to realize I was also being a really “good” mom because I was “privileged” to be working so hard.

    • LibrarianSarah

      You were privileged because you had house with a backyard, the time, energy and physical ability to keep up a garden, and the extra income to know that you and your children wouldn’t starve if pests destroyed your garden.

      Not everyone has those things. In fact the majority of people on this planet don’t so yeah you are privileged.

      • Mishimoo

        I think part of the problem is that people don’t understand the concept of intersectionality when it comes to privilege and it devolves into the us vs. them mess instead of things being looked at critically (and compassionately).

    • Sheven

      It is fun when you catch yourself being “superior” out of laziness. I caught the no shampoo trend due to laziness and absentmindedness–forgot to pick up more shampoo.

      • myrewyn

        I rarely wash my hair because my well water has minerals that make it brittle. Do I get to be one of the cool kids now??

        • Sheven

          Only if you only bathe in rain showers.

        • StephanieJR

          You can chelate hard water with a vinegar or citric acid rinse, if that’s helpful.

      • Azuran

        I wish I could, because I am indeed lazy and washing my super tick hair is really long and bothersome. But they just get SO greasy.

    • Mel

      I’m in the process of starting a garden at my own house this year. I’ll make a list of the advantages I have as a middle-class married woman; maybe you had some of these same benefits?
      1) I own a house with land that I can grow a garden on.
      2) My husband makes enough money for us to live comfortably on one income so I have time to garden as part of my daily chores.
      3) We own a shovel, hoe, garden rake, weed whip and lawn mower.
      4) I can afford to spend $40-100 USD on fruit trees and bushes plus $30.00 on seeds.
      5) While my infant has some medical needs, he doesn’t need an overwhelming amount of care like being vent-dependent or having repeated apnea issues.
      6) My parents live close by and are willing to give me some respite care so I can get outside and garden.
      7) I had friends and neighbors who gave me containers to use since we hadn’t had time to get the soil tested for lead.
      8) We have access to lead-free soil from another neighbor for free.
      9) If I lose a crop – and I’ve lost at least a year’s crop on every veggie I’ve ever grown at my inlaws’ place – I can get more at the store.
      10) I can read well enough to use a pesticide if needed.
      11) I can access materials to help me garden through my local library.

      Having these things doesn’t make you a bad person; the problem comes when people don’t recognize that not all people have access to the same things.

      Will my kid be healthier or choose better foods because I have a garden and a former student of mine who lives in an apartment doesn’t? Probably not; I like cookies a lot…..

      • maidmarian555

        After spending all of my twenties, and my early thirties living in places with no outside space, I can’t tell you how much I love my garden. It doesn’t cost me much to grow herbs and veg, I just buy seeds, throw them down and see what works. I’ve probably spent around £10-£15 this year on seeds and compost- which I may get back in produce value if I don’t accidentally kill everything. But it is an enormous privilege that I am incredibly greatful for.

      • Roadstergal

        “Having these things doesn’t make you a bad person; the problem comes when people don’t recognize that not all people have access to the same things.”

        Can we put this in lights and post it everywhere?

      • FormerPhysicist

        I have time, and land, and money, but not lead-free soil. My testing came back as “Go ahead and grow above-ground fruits and vegetables, but avoid below-ground crops and leafy vegetables (like spinach).” Oops.

  • Cartman36

    Preach it Dr. Amy!

  • lawyer jane

    Very interesting, I love that people are studying this from a sociological perspective! However, my response to your framing of “privilege” is that even women who feel compelled to engage in “foodwork” are responding to extrinsic pressures that leave them feeling insecure/under threat — specifically, the lack of support for mothers, even elite mothers. It’s the intersection between gender and class where the privilege arises, but I wouldn’t forget the fact that these “elite” mothers are still responding to deep inequality that they face when they become mothers.

    On the other hand, I think this study highlights a dynamic that we see in ALL SORTS of consumption in the US. Namely, that structural inequality is hidden when we emphasize personal choice/personal agency. You can also see this, for example, in the discourse on higher education as the “way out of poverty.” The individual choices then reinforce the hierarchy instead of remedying the inequality.

    • Roadstergal

      “Structural inequality”

      The first thing I thought of when I read this piece is ‘food deserts’ – places where low-income people live where it’s difficult if not impossible to buy, well, groceries. The raw material for all of this ‘foodwork.’

      • lawyer jane

        “let them eat organic homemade baby purees” right?

        we accidentally drove through one of the worst neighborhoods in Baltimore this weekend (the one where Freddie Gray was killed). there’s no grocery store anywhere — apparently the CVS that got burned in the riot was the only place to get food in the area. infant mortality there is 5x the national rate. I would like to see the crunchy folks try to get in there and fix that situation through breastfeeding and babyled weaning…