I love writing about my child. It is one of the greatest passions that I have, the reason for me to stay awake during those tempting baby-naps, and what makes me feel creatively alive.
What I don’t like about it is when I feel the urge to share the stories that sadden me and shake me to the core as a parent. Stories that are based on poor medical practice, that could have a negative impact on childrens’ lives, and that are a result of ever-growing pithole in Serbia, a result of quality doctors fleeing the country day after day.
Yesterday, my husband Filip and I took our son to a private practice pediatrician specializing in allergies. The reason we decided to go with private practice is because the appointment I made at a public hospital is in six months. There was simply no spot for us, and it meant waiting half of his precious first year to confirm dairy allergies that we’ve been suspecting for a while now. That means my child has been avoiding dairy products like plague, until I’ve had it and made a costly appointment at a private practice that I won’t name at this time. (However, I will strongly advise any of my friends against ever going there themselves or taking their child to an appointment.)
I won’t say I am dissatisfied with the actually medical part of the examination – my child has finally been confirmed to have dairy and egg allergy, which means that his daily menu will inevitably be affected by it. This is something I’ve been mentally preparing for, and I’m ready to help him thrive to the best of my abilities.
What bothered me so much so that it made me even consider writing this post, is that she was utterly shocked – and even concerned – by my decision to not give my 9-month old any form of artificial sugar, as well as not using salt while preparing food for him.
She explained to me that the children absolutely need white sugar, because it makes them learn to differ sweet food from non-sweet food. She said that my child will one day not know how to make a difference between what’s considered sweet, and what’s salty. Also, she said that she is a big advocate of white refined sugar because „who knows what they put in the brown one!“ and that children need to stick to white bread because that’s what we’ve been eating for all these years and we „all turned out okay“.
She then went on to explain how I absolutely need to put salt in my son’s food, so it actually tastes good, even asking me: „Do you put salt in your own food? How could you not use it for your child’s meals?“ She didn’t appreciate my answer, which revealed that I use little to no salt added (not more than a required daily amount, anyway). Her reasoning for this was that he will never want to eat any vegetables because of their „bland and yucky taste“ (a very healthy attitude for a doctor, I suppose).
As if this was not enough to lose my faith in her as a doctor, she went on to say that I need to cut avocado completely from my son’s nutrition because that plant does not grow in our gardens and we will never completely get used to it. Her final statement was that he needs bacon at this age (and, in our country, bacon is mostly served in a thermically non-altered form – greasy and slimy, without any form of bacteria-killing treatment).
We thanked her for her guidance and we left the building quickly enough.
Now, I may be emotional and quick to judge sometimes, so I turned to my husband for advice on what we just heard. Him agreeing with me on all these points was enough for me to realize I may have to rely on my parenting instinct and continue with implementing values I believe in when it comes to nutrition.
However, since it is all about our son’s health, I decided to take a step back and do some research on whether 9 month old children need sugar and salt in their diet. I was not disappointed by all the information I’ve gathered.
Sugar, as an ingredient, is already chemically treated and as such, is bad for the immature digestive system. It causes caries and tooth decay, depresses immunity, and is the major cause of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Adding sugar (especially white sugar) can actually make your child stop wanting all the natural sweet tastes and develop a preference to it, making every meal that isn’t sugar-filled a nightmare. Sugar should be avoided as much as possible, especially until the age of two.
With salt, I was a bit more open-minded, since I understand that a human body needs an amount of salt on a daily basis. However, after extensive research, I’ve found out that the required salt amount is already present in breastmilk and formula. As long as those are your child’s main nutritional sources, there is no need for adding more salt, as the babies’ kidneys cannot cope with more than 0.4g of sodium per day until they are 12 months of age. Even after that, the amount doesn’t magically increase – salt intake should gradually be increasing to 0.8g of sodium until the child is three years old.
After a few hours spent on this research, I can now say that I went against my better judgement and I’ve kept an open mind, allowing myself to stay educated.
What I feel now when it comes to health service is mostly disappointment in our country’s medical practice and the fact that there is no real way to complain about receiving bad medical advice. The doctors in Serbia are unafraid of the consequences, simply because there is no proper channel for you to communicate to a person who is supposed to make sure they don’t make mistakes and harm anyone. This is the third time I’ve received such bad medical advice from certified doctors when it comes to our son, and he’s only 9 months old. I can’t help but fear the day he’ll need medical assistance again.
Filip and I have decided to keep our child healthy, to avoid all artificial sugar intake for as long as possible (after all, our diet reflects this choice too), to give our son whole-grain, homemade bread with no additives and to limit salt intake for as long as it’s needed. We want him to fall in love with natural taste of food, develop healthy preferences and love mealtime. So far, he’s been doing great; thriving, having fun and enjoying every single fruit and vegetable we’ve offered him. I plan on keeping it that way.