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‘No money, no say’: jobless Chinese mother can only watch as grandma feeds baby daughter fried flour instead of infant formula to save money

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 4/12/2022 Mandy Zuo
  • Clip of cash-strapped mum complaining she cannot intervene to stop mother-in-law giving baby cheap traditional food sparks online debate
  • Fried flour was common as baby food in China in earlier times when most families could not afford infant formula

A Chinese grandmother who fed her infant granddaughter fried flour instead of baby formula to save money has provoked a polarising - and historical -discussion on mainland Chinese social media.

The grandmother's actions prompted the one-year-old's mother to complain in a video posted online last week that she was unable to intervene to prevent the child being given the old-style serving because she had no job or money.

In a clip posted on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, the grandmother is seen preparing the traditional dish - a mixture of steamed flour and egg yolk which was popular with mainland residents in earlier times when most families could not afford baby formula.

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The one-year-old baby was fed the fried-up mixture of egg yolk and flour by her grandma to save money. Photo: Weibo © Provided by South China Morning Post The one-year-old baby was fed the fried-up mixture of egg yolk and flour by her grandma to save money. Photo: Weibo

According to the video - which was posted a few days ago and quickly attracted tens of thousands of comments - the mixture is fried and sieved twice so that it appears fine and smooth like powdered milk.

In the clip, the child's mother, who is from central China's Henan province, said: "My mother-in-law insists on preparing fried flour for my one-year-old daughter because this way she can consume less infant formula."

Then, in a written post, the mother added that despite knowing that the fried flour meal did not contain sufficient nutrients, there was nothing she could do, adding, "this is a perfect example of how people who don't make money have no say."

When a baby is 12 months old they need about 1,000 calories, 700 mg of calcium, 600 international units of vitamin D, and 7 mg of iron a day to support proper growth, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In earlier times, many families in China could not afford baby formula, so turned to cheaper alternatives. Photo: Weibo © Provided by South China Morning Post In earlier times, many families in China could not afford baby formula, so turned to cheaper alternatives. Photo: Weibo

The old-style fried flour baby meal, which mainly provides carbohydrates and lacks the important nutrients toddlers need, surprised many web users, but also approval from some people who said they had been brought up on it.

"When I was young this was a common food for babies. But there's a difference between being unable to afford it and choosing not to consume it," said one social media commenter.

Others showed sympathy for the mother who they described as an unpaid and voiceless babysitter.

Infant babies need all the nutrients they can get when they reach 12 months of age. Photo: Shutterstock. © Provided by South China Morning Post Infant babies need all the nutrients they can get when they reach 12 months of age. Photo: Shutterstock.

"I think there is nothing wrong with you feeling bad about this. It's how you really feel. I hope when the child gets older you can resume work. Your financial status decides your position in the family," another said.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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