Baby Take Two

Like many of my mom friends, I’m looking at kid No. 2 as my do-over baby.

My now-4-year-old son was a great baby, and he’s a fantastic kid, but he has one maddening habit that I absolutely cannot tolerate in this baby: he is the world’s pickiest eater.

Apparently I have myself to blame—a study from the Monell Center For Advancing Discovery in Taste and Smells affirms that a person’s palate and food preferences begin developing in the womb, and that formula-fed babies tend to be less adventurous eaters as children and even as adults, seemingly because they spent the first dozen months of their lives primarily being fed a monotonous flavor.

While pregnant with my son, I existed primarily on Cheerios, turkey burgers, bagels, pizza and fruit smoothies—you can’t get much more bland than that. And although I did breastfeed, we supplemented with formula from day one, and were done with nursing at seven months.

Today my son is a terrifyingly picky eater, so much so that I actually pack snacks and agonize over what he will eat when we dine out, and that’s always at restaurants that have the standard kid-pleasingly-bland children’s menus! He won’t even try chicken fingers, grilled cheese or noodles that even hint of sauce. It was a joyous day when he actually tried and liked—wait for it—a peanut butter sandwich. Most meals are battles that I usually lose.

But I vow this baby will be different.

I’m going to do this whole food thing differently, starting with what I’m eating now. First trimester aside, I’ve been a model eater this pregnancy, with plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein. “Exotic” flavors have never been my strong suit, but I throw in some Indian and Thai foods and spices. And my plan is to be a far better breastfeeder with this baby than I was with my son; I won’t be heading back to the office, so it’s sure to be easier to keep nursing exclusively. Plus I’ll make my own baby food and offer more variety when it comes time to start solids.

Will all of these factors result in a child who will at least try new foods? I hope so. Do I feel like I failed my son? At least a little bit, yes. According to the study, it’s hard to change food preferences after toddlerhood, so parents have a huge role in determining their children’s future taste buds.

But baby No. 2 will be different! She’s my chance to fix this (and plenty of other) mistakes I’ve made as a parent.

Or so I tell myself.

The reality is no matter have much palate-building you do, no matter how much better you are at getting baby to sleep or caring for kids when they’re sick, pregnancy and parenting (and life!) are a road riddled with unforeseeable potholes. Even the ones you might be able to fill in with experience and new knowledge won’t result in a  perfectly paved road.

There aren’t really any do-overs, right? Maybe just “try to do betters.”