Sharing Food and Drink with your Baby: The Pros and Cons

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So one of my harmless and lighthearted Instagram posts went viral over the last week or so, which means that what was supposed to be a funny and relatable 15 second snippet into my world of motherhood, turned into some pretty strong differentiating opinions in the comment section.

The Post

The Instagram post was pretty simple, I was drinking water out of my water bottle while holding my 9 month old baby. She kept pulling away the water bottle to have some for herself. The video text read “I’m dying of thirst and haven’t had water in 48 hours and you have a sippy cup with cold fresh water available 24/7 but yeah you go ahead”. This sparked a lot of controversy about setting boundaries, raising entitled children, as well as the bacteria exchange between myself and my child.

So let’s discuss

Can you set boundaries with babies?

The most popular comment on this Instagram video had to do with, ‘setting boundaries and limits’. So that brings us to our first set of questions. Can you set boundaries with a baby? At what age should we start to set boundaries with our children? Are boundaries beneficial to child development?

There are ways to go about setting age appropriate boundaries as your little one grows. For this particular situation, infants (0-12mo) are too young to understand the concept of ‘rules’ and ‘boundaries’. If you set high expectations for behavior that are outside your baby’s current stage of development, you’ll set yourself and your child up for failure.

After the 1 year mark, your child should be able to start to grasp the concept of rules, boundaries and discipline. Although, as stated above, you as the parent still need to realize what an age appropriate boundary looks like as your child continues to develop and grow. Dr Bruce Lipton wrote a book called “The Biology of Belief” which explains how a child’s mind is programmed through the subconscious in the first seven years of life. So as much as it is important to set boundaries, it must be noted that children learn how to interact with the world around them based on watching those around them and their own experiences.

Can you spoil a baby?

Another popularly controversial question, can you spoil a baby? A few commenters had suggested that by giving my baby what she wanted, a sip of my water, she would be developmentally affected and grow up to be entitled. As silly as this hot take was, I would like to address it. In short- you can not spoil a baby by holding them too much, or responding to their needs.

On the other side of this, you can absolutely negatively affect development by not responding to your child’s needs, especially in infancy. They’re learning how to interact with the world around them. In the case of this video, if my baby sees that I am drinking water out of my water bottle, she is trying to mimic the same behavior. This is developmentally normal, and I see no harm in it.

Should you share food and drink with your baby?

The third most popular comment cluster had to do with sharing saliva with your babies, and the introduction of new bacteria that can lead to poor oral health. Should I let my baby drink from my straw? Should I let my kids eat off of my plate? Can sharing food and drink lead to poor oral hygine?

A study posted on The Harvard Gazette discusses a study that was done by Harvard and MIT which concluded that babies actually use sharing food and drink as social cues to understand the closeness of the relationships they have with those around them. This is an interesting take that shows how sharing food and drink with our children can actually help develop a strong bond between us and our children.

Breastfeeding mothers should also note that their baby’s saliva communicated with the mother’s lymphatic system and their breasts will produce milk with antibodies to fight any illness or infection that may be present.

Babies are born without the bacteria that causes cavities. So while I understand the concern for keeping your baby safe from foreign, cavity causing bacteria, unless you are washing and sanitizing every single toy and teether that your baby uses after their siblings get ahold of it, monitoring and sanitizing what they’re playing with at daycare facilities, or even playdates, avoiding foreign bacteria is unavoidable.

Is it worth the risk?

I believe the benefits of sharing food and drink of outweigh the risks in this scenario. At the end of the day, parents should stay informed, and make decisions that best reflect what is best for their families. Mothers have enough stress to deal with, without being ridiculed for sharing a drink of water and a cute moment with their babies.

Do you agree? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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