Dear Evie+Sarah: I recently went back to work and have been dropping my ten-month-old off at my in-laws’ house a few days a week. I appreciate their help, but I discovered that they’ve been feeding our son all sorts of stuff babies aren’t supposed to eat: lots of sweets like cake and pastries, even nuts he could choke on. Basically, whatever they’re eating, the baby’s eating.
I thought I had come up with the perfect solution. I started packing my son’s meals and bringing them over to my in-laws’ house. But when I pick him up, there’s still a whole bunch of food left in his lunchbox, and they tell me he didn’t want it. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life, and I really want to set healthy eating habits early for my son.
How can I tell them to cut it out without acting ungrateful? —Desperate Mommy
Dear Desperate Mommy: You could be facing some seriously pushy in-laws, or you might just need to develop your own Mama Bear persona a bit more.
Sounds like you haven’t had a direct conversation with your in-laws about your expectations for your son’s care (imagine what else they might be taking liberties with…). If they’re truly your long-term childcare solution, you’ll need to get comfortable with speaking to your in-laws about things like this, or transfer responsibility to your spouse, if that’s an option.
Even if your in-laws mean well, even if they raised children of their own who turned out “just fine,” even if it’s clear your baby favors Twinkies over homemade purees, you’re well within your rights to define what’s healthy and appropriate for your ten-month-old to eat. It might be time to sit down and have an honest conversation that goes something like this:
We really appreciate all the love and care you give Aiden while he’s at your home, but I want to make sure we’re building healthy habits in him early. Could you please avoid feeding him sweets that he’ll end up preferring over the fruits and vegetables our pediatrician says we need to offer him, and foods like nuts and popcorn that are choking hazards? I’m happy to bring over a variety of healthy options for Aiden, if that helps.
If your in-laws end up being defensive or don’t honor your request, it might be time to have your spouse do the talking. Let us know how that conversation goes!
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