YO MAMA: Why is my toddler so obsessed with butter?
I have spent the past several months conducting a scientific study into the eating habits of toddlers.
My sample group includes nearly a dozen infants, ages one through three, and their caregivers. Following extensive analysis of mommy-group interviews and anecdotal evidence, I have made the following conclusion: toddlers have a strange obsession with… butter. Not cookies. Not ice cream. Butter.
I first discovered this trend when my own son, about 18 months old at the time, began licking the butter off his toast. Mmmmm, simple buttery sandpaper. So nummy.
Days later, standing at the counter in his kitchen helper, he lunged for the open butter dish, grabbed a handful and devoured it like a starving jackal. “But I just made you a broccoli omelet,” I said, exasperated. “Do you know how expensive butter is these days?!”
I am now asked for “mo budda” about 50 times a day. The kid puts on a really good starving orphan from Oliver Twist voice too.
His favourite treat in the world is just a plain ol’ pat of butter (unsalted, of course). He literally shivers with excitement when he gets it.
And he’s not alone. Many toddlers are butter fiends. I’ve heard plenty of stories of toddlers grabbing handfuls of butter from unattended butter dishes, locks being installed on fridges to prevent butter-napping, butter dishes being hastily hidden away, nasty bouts of butter-binge diarrhea. I mean, these kids are some serious butter-holics.
I get it. I love butter too. It’s goddam delicious. But come on, little man, we’ve got to control ourselves.
Have you tried explaining “everything in moderation” to a toddler?
“MO BUDDA MAMA.”
And I suppose, from his perspective, the butter is just sitting there on a dainty little dish all day long, practically begging to be eaten.
Besides, he might actually be onto something.
Apparently, butter is actually pretty good for babies, who require a high fat diet to support healthy brain and nervous system development. A tablespoon of butter contains 100 calories and 11 grams of fat, plus vitamins like A and D (who knew?!) The popular baby food website solidstarts.com says “these components help energize and regulate brain processes like motor skills development, hormone regulation, and sleep.”
Ok, now we’re talking. Pass the budder!
And perhaps there is even more wisdom in the butter-cravings of a young toddler.
I came across this fascinating study from the 1920s where a pediatrician gathered up a group of recently weaned babies and let them choose what, and how much, to eat from a buffet of 33 different foods (including beets, bone marrow and barley). This was at a time when doctors prescribed very strict, down to the ounce, meal plans for babies, so the idea of letting babies choose their own foods was pretty cutting edge.
Ultimately, the study found that while all 15 babies ate drastically different diets, they all grew into healthy, well-nourished children. Proof, perhaps, that babies intuitively know what their bodies need. One of the infants even appears to have cured himself of rickets (a bone condition caused by prolonged extreme vitamin D deficiency) by drinking cod liver oil from his platter of foods.
While I doubt my son is wisely curing himself of some strange ailment by eating spoonfuls of straight butter, maybe his body really is craving the extra calories and high fat content. Or maybe he just realizes that butter makes everything taste better. Either way, it’s hard to argue with him (arguing with a toddler is a loser’s game anyway.)
Maybe all those good fats will make him smarter too. They have certainly increased his language development with a whole host of words and phrases specifically designed to obtain MO BUDDER, including pzzzz (please), righ-der (right there, as in “put the butter RIGHT THERE”) and meeee (GIVE ME, usually uttered while pointing intermittently from the butter dish to his mouth).
Even if it does nothing for his brain, a little slice of butter every now and again will definitely make him very, very happy.
— Charlotte Helston gave birth to her first child, a rambunctious little boy, in the spring of 2021. Yo Mama is her weekly reflection on the wild, exhilarating, beautiful, messy, awe-inspiring journey of parenthood.
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