5.11.2011

An Open Letter to Dr. Sears

Dear Dr. Sears,
I would like to take issue with you about a suggestion you put in your book about babies-- appropriately, if laconically, titled The Baby Book.

Alternately titled: BUTTS!!!

I love your book and am thankful for all the times it saved my new-parent self from having full-blown panic attacks about completely normal occurrences. It's a valuable parenting resource, chock-full of wisdom!

Unfortunately, Dr. Sears, there is one piece of advice I don't consider to be very wise. In the 6-9 month chapter, you suggest in several places that a great way to stimulate baby's brain is to give them a bowl or tray of cooked spaghetti noodles and let them smoosh and poke and pinch and revel in the sensory stimulation to their heart's delight.

A food and a toy? Happy Meals will have one tough act to follow. 

Recently, I decided to give this a go. This was going to be fun! This would be new! And most of all, this would make my child a genius. I could just see him, crawling up to his baby friends. All the other babies would look at him and say, "Dude! Nice brain cells!" After which my son would adjust his monocle, harrumph, "Indubitably!" and impress the crowd with a dazzling display of pincer grasp maneuvers.

So what is my problem with this piece of advice? Well, Dr. Sears, it seems that you, and the editors, and I overlooked a little fact.

Eight-month-old babies love to put things in their mouth. And possibly eat these things.

I cooked up some noodles, placed them in a bowl before my kid, and waited for this sensory safari to begin. No sooner was the bowl on the ground, then he grabbed a giant handful and stuck it in his mouth. Okaaaaaaaay, I thought, maybe he's just mouthing it--  and then he shoveled in another handful with a giant slurp. This was no finger play! No poking and pinching and reveling in the sensory part! No, the only thing he was reveling in was the fact that his Italian genes kicked in at that moment and he couldn't shovel pasta into his little body fast enough.

We won't say which side he got that from.

I tried to get the noodles out of his mouth, but there was no way he was giving up his beloved pasta. He had already swallowed a handful of noodles, and the damage had been done. So I referenced your Baby Book to see when babies could safely start eating pasta.... 

Twelve to eighteen months?! 

So, Dr. Sears, I think you are awesome, but I'm trying to figure out how exactly it's a good idea to suggest letting grabby, chewing babies play with food- food!- that they're not even supposed to be eating for another half a year. That's like giving a ten-year-old a cigar to play with. Or a teenager a margarita. 

A sensory experience of an entirely different sort


Of course, it's ultimately my fault for blindly letting my baby play with food without bothering to check if it's actually safe for him to eat, but I'm a bit surprised that you, a seasoned health professional, would suggest an activity like this. Oh well, it turns out that Oscar didn't suffer any ill effects, and we all lived happily ever after. But I'm on to you, Dr. Sears, and your dealings with Big Noodle Companies. Now please excuse me, I have to go chase that child in the linguine bag.

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