A. Let’s start with your wife’s problems first.
She used to get extra sleep when she was pregnant and she ate healthy foods, too. She’s a breast-feeding mom, and she still needs to take good care of herself. If not, she may be depressed because she is so tired.
By the time your baby hit the six-month mark, your wife should be tired at the end of a busy day, but she shouldn’t be depressed. She shouldn’t even care that it takes twice as long to do half as much because she knows that her baby is perfect (or almost perfect) and that life is sweet, indeed.
There could, however, be other causes of her depression, as Carol Dix pointed out so well in “The New Mother Syndrome,” an excellent but out-of-print book. Pregnancy, she says, affects many aspects of a woman’s blood chemistry, including thyroid hormone production, which spikes in pregnancy and crashes after childbirth. This gland takes months to be normal again, which is important to know because low thyroid function is a leading cause of postpartum depression or, for that matter, of any depression.
Low thyroid is just one of the many chemical changes that occur in pregnancy, so your wife needs to get a thorough physical to find out if her blood chemistry could be causing her depression.
Your child’s eating issues also may be physically caused. He probably didn’t get used to hot, spicy foods in the womb, but he certainly has gotten used to them since he was born, because flavors travel through breast milk. Just as the cabbage, garlic and other foods that a mother may eat can make her baby gassy and the caffeine in her coffee can keep him awake, so can her diet make a child develop a liking for certain kinds of food. And frankly, who would want to eat Pablum after a taste of lamb vindaloo and shrimp diablo?
Let your little boy eat what you eat as long as you have tested each food in each dish to make sure that he isn’t allergic to one of the ingredients. This is particularly important if you or your wife have allergies, because a child is 50 percent more likely to have allergies if one parent has them, and 75 percent more likely to have allergies if both parents are allergic.
To test your child, give him the same new food every day for a week, starting with the least allergenic foods: brown rice, sweet potatoes, bananas, lamb, chicken, peas, spinach and squash. You also should use only a mild amount of spices at first to suit his tender taste buds, but follow your own recipes. You want your son to eat your kind of food while he is growing up rather than cook mac-and-cheese for him for the next decade.
It will be easier to prepare these allergy-tested foods if you put part of a cooked recipe into your blender before it is as spicy as you and your wife might like. You can freeze this pulverized mush in an ice cube tray, then toss the frozen cubes into a labeled freezer bag, pluck out a cube as needed and heat it in the microwave.
This is the method recommended in “Bebe Gourmet” by Jenny Carenco and Jean Lalau Keraly. Even though the 100 French-inspired recipes that they recommend for babies are not spicy, you may want to try them, too. Little boys and little girls should be curious about everything, even the foods they eat.
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Q. My baby is 6 months old, but he still likes only breast milk and water.
Although this isn’t enough for a little boy who is growing so fast, he rejects baby food and often cries when I try to feed it to him. I can count how many times he has eaten it without struggling with me whenever I bring the spoon to his mouth. This makes his feedings take a really long time, and now he has come up with a new skill: He takes the food in his mouth and then spits it out. To compensate, we’ve been advised to give him tea that is rich in milk, but he reacts to that in the same way.
If he sees us eating a meal, however, he acts like he wants to eat what we’re eating. We give him a little of it sometimes, which he eats well, but our food is spicy and we think that it is too hot for a baby to eat.
Also, my wife isn’t taking it easy at all, and she feels depressed most of the time. What do you suggest?