Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Avocados & Other Grumbles


I am often surprised by how little people in a position of authority actually know. It’s quite scary when you hear bad advice being given out. Health Visitors, I have found, are particularly fond of distributing bad advice.

The first time I met my Health Visitor we had the following exchange:
HV: “Don’t shake the baby.” (This was said as though it might be very useful advice)
Me: “Ok...” Awkward pause. “I won’t shake the baby...” (Said in a ‘dur’ kind of way)
HV: “They can get brain damage from it.”
Me: “I know.”
HV: “It’s sad.”
She then proceeded to pull a very over the top frowny-face. I cannot take people who punctuate real life with ‘smilies’ seriously. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t think you should shake babies. But, I’m not about to shake my baby, and I made that clear with my reply, but she continued to stress it anyway. You know, in case I’m a total moronic baby beater. Shaking? Fine. Brain damage? Fine. Frowny face? Hold the phone, I shall never shake a baby again!
At this point I decided I probably didn’t like my Health Visitor. So now we are in an awkward relationship where she suspects me of child abuse and I suspect her of being an idiot.
The next time she came we had the following exchange:
Me: “Yeah she has her last injections next week, I’ll be glad when they’re over.”
HV: “Do you have any concerns about the immunisations?”
Me: “No.”
HV: “Because there was a link to autism with the MMR?”
Me: “Oh yeah, I already know about that. No, I have no concerns.”
HV: “The Doctor is in America now.”
Me: “Ok.”
It’s as though they get training on discussing certain topics, but my Health Visitor drifts off half way through and so forgets exactly what she’s meant to say. I mean, it’s great that she asked about whether I had concerns, but to then drop in a link with autism that has been disproved seems a bit odd. If I was worried about that I’d have told her, but by half mentioning and not explaining it she may have confused me further.
She also panicked the first time I told her I was vegan. She became obsessed with vitamin supplements. I don’t understand how people think that by eating a diet consisting of fresh fruit, vegetables and pulses, I can possibly be less healthy than someone gorging themselves on animal fat!? My Doctor isn’t concerned, so I don’t see why my Health Visitor needs to be. 
I’ve also been attending some sessions at a Health Visitor run group. Parenting for Dummies basically. One of the sessions was about weaning, I’d been told this was a good session. It wasn’t. 
The course leader told us the current recommendations (eg, babies shouldn’t have solids until they are six months because before then their gut isn’t fully developed and trying solids too early can lead to allergies in later life), but stressed that they were just recommendations and then went on to pretty much advise feeding your baby whatever you want, whenever you want.
They stressed the health benefits of cheese. Cheese! Now, I know I’m vegan and so I’m the last person you’re going to listen to about cheese, but really, it’s not a health food. I used to bloody love cheese, I could eat plates and plates of the stuff. But it wasn’t healthy. It’s animal fat, and it clogs your arteries. And there’s a reason heart disease patients are told to drastically reduce their cheese intake - and it’s not because it’s too healthy for them.
The course leader then asked for suggestions of the types of finger foods you might give your baby. I suggested avocados, because they’re soft, and really good for you, and they don’t have a strong flavour. The course leader looked at me as if I was a total knob: “Not everyone can afford avocado.” she said haughtily, and then turned to the rest of the group and asked for “Ideas everyone can do.”
Now firstly, I said avocados, not gold. I wasn’t suggesting that when my baby is ready for solid foods I am going to thrust diamond rings, lamborghini car keys and gold doubloons down her throat. I wasn’t trying to subtly let the group now how fricking rich I am because I can afford avocados (a gasp of jealousy arises from the crowd). I was just suggesting a nice fruit which babies might enjoy eating and which would also be good for them.
[NB This is why I usually refrain from audience participation. Because course leaders can be arseholes.]
Secondly, avocados are not expensive. You can get a bag of four for £1 at most supermarkets, so why was the course leader perpetuating the myth that vegetables are expensive? Some people spend their lives eating junk food because they are convinced it costs too much to cook nice food. It’s absolute nonsense; it’s much cheaper to cook big batches of nice home cooked food with fresh ingredients. Health Visitors, and other professionals working with new Mums, should be working to dispel the myth of junk food as cheap, and should be promoting the use of fresh fruit and vegetables for cooking. They should be explaining about nutrition, and the role of avocados and other fruits in a healthy diet. They should be giving out advice based on reality, not based on some old myth that cheese is healthy, or fresh veg is expensive, or that real people can’t afford to eat well.
In a couple of months, Ebony will be ready to start eating solid foods. I’m looking forward to introducing her to a range of healthy foods to try, including avocados, because I’m super, super wealthy.
Photo credit: Brybs

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