Grandma Gone Wild


A mama friend needs help! Her mother-in-law (MIL) appears to have a hang up about feeding her grandchildren unapproved and/or inappropriate food. Some data: 1) MIL fed my friend’s nephew his first solids (without his parents approval obviously), which resulted in a mild facial rash; 2) MIL tried to feed my friend’s daughter ice cream when she was an infant (luckily the parents were there to intervene); 3) MIL fed my friend’s daughter three new (i.e., not yet allergy tested) foods in one day, including meat, finger foods, and refined sugar products. The behavior persists despite repeated admonishments, conversations, interventions, instructions, and piles of prepared baby food.

At an emotional level, it is frustrating that MIL stole some major feeding milestones from these parents. MIL also doesn’t seem concerned about deviating from the food instructions provided, or the possibility of dealing with allergic reactions (or leaving it to the parents to deal with them). But MIL clearly loves her grandkids (she’s part of the weekly care routine) so what gives?
I was surprised to come up so short when researching this topic online. Other than a small section at BabyCenter on relative care (e.g., setting ground rules, payment), there is little in the way of professional resources in this domain. But the problem definitely exists, as evidenced by existing message boards at the baby, toddler, and preschool levels.

I could speculate on underlying power struggles or generational obsessions with feeding babies, but ultimately I think that the best you can do is have open conversations with your relative caregiver, provide detailed instructions, and pack plenty of baby food options. Beyond that, you have no control over the caregiver’s actions and thus need to focus on how to process your own reactions. You may find that over time (i.e., as the baby gets older and you have a better sense of what foods do and do not sit well) you’ll just care less about the specifics so long as the babe is getting nutricious offerings. But if you continue to find that the situation is a source of repeated stress and anger, it may be time to find an alternative caregiving arrangement.

Do you have thoughts to share on relative caregiving and food? Let us know what strategies you have used to cope.