Lately when I think of LM’s food habits, I think of this line from A Christmas Story: “Every family has a kid who won’t eat.” That pretty much describes him.
LM has always been small – he only weighed 5 pounds 10 ounces at birth. He did get pretty chubby by around 6 months, although because he was still short he was only in the 25th percentile. But I was OK with that. He was on his growth curve.
When he first started on solids he ate great. I attempted “Baby Led Weaning,” in which you don’t puree or spoon-feed but instead give the baby a chunk of real food to gnaw on. But after a few gagging instances my nerves couldn’t take it, so I started mashing up with a fork soft foods like bananas, sweet potatoes and avocado (I’m too lazy to puree). He ate that great too, even grabbing the spoon to feed himself. We offered him a wide variety of food and he seemed eager to try everything.
Then all of sudden at 10 months he started refusing solids. We took him to the doctor, and even though he didn’t have any visible symptoms, she could tell he had coxsackie virus, otherwise known as Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, from sores in his throat. At least we had an explanation, so we waited for it to pass. In the meantime, he lost weight.
His weight did eventually go back up after the coxsackie healed, but ever since then he’s been extremely picky with his food. Things he used to love, like avocado, he now flat out refuses. Other foods he’ll like one night and not the next. He stopped feeding himself and instead only wants us to spoon or even hand-feed him.
He got a cold around 13 months, and a visit to the doctor revealed that he had again lost weight. She said we needed to come back for a weight check in a month, and when we did his weight had gone up – but not much. He is now in the 5-10 percent range.
At this point, every meal requires a multipronged approach. First we give him Cheerios, which is just about the only food he will feed himself, as a sort of baby amuse bouche. Then we move on to whatever main food we want to try him on – if it’s dinnertime, that means whatever we are eating. He may refuse it right off the bat, or he might have a few bites and then not want anymore. Or on some occasions he will go to town and eat a ton.
If he hasn’t eaten much of the main meal I try some healthy fall-backs: cheese, yogurt, banana, toast with hummus. And when I say I try these, I don’t mean I try one of them. I try them all. I basically empty out my fridge for every meal to offer him everything, because maybe if he takes a few bites of a bunch of different foods eventually it will add up to a whole meal. I end the production with watermelon, his favorite fruit, as a kind of dessert (although when I tried it this morning he refused is…so maybe he’s going off watermelon, too!).
When we’re out, I watch with envy as other moms simply put some food on their kids’ trays and they feed themselves. I feel it’s yet another area in which LM is behind, and I have to remember not to compare or put too much pressure on him.
But what of his weight? The doctor has not yet suggested we see a specialist. She seems OK with it for now. I worry that it’s all connected, that the reason he seems on the low end of normal developmentally is because he’s not getting enough nourishment.
Some moms I know have been told by their pediatricians to cut down on nursing in order for their babies to eat more solid food. But if LM wants to nurse, no amount of solid food can tempt him. In fact, he seems to eat better when he has nursed because he is more relaxed, although I try not to nurse him too close to mealtime. Weaning before a child is ready just seems to go against my natural instinct, and indeed against the natural, biological function of breastfeeding itself. It just doesn’t seem to follow that this is the solution.
So what is? My husband was an extremely picky eater as a child. Maybe our son is just taking after him. There have been times I’ve literally chased the kid around the kitchen with a spoon.
I’m also worried about fostering bad habits. I’ve read not to make mealtime a battle, because kids will eventually learn that they can use it against you. And I want LM to have positive associations with food. But I don’t want to have to offer him a million different things in one meal – I’d rather it be, “This is what we’re having for dinner today, and if you don’t like it, too bad.” With his weight concerns hanging over my head, I can’t do that.
But what if I’m unwittingly creating an even pickier eater by giving him too many choices? And in my desperation to get him to eat something, anything, I’m worried that he’s not eating the healthiest things. He seems to really like pizza – I know, what kids doesn’t? He also likes fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt – it’s full-fat organic, but it still has added sugar. Will I cause him to get so used to sweet things that he’ll end up obese?
I spend so much time throughout the day trying to get the kid to eat and ending up frustrated. I feel like I’m doing something wrong, but at the same time, I feel like I’ve tried everything. I find it very ironic that we spend so much time as adults trying to lose weight, and that we equate “healthy” with “skinny,” yet when it comes to babies our main goal is to fatten them up.
If anyone has any ideas on how to get my kid to eat, I’d love to hear them! Do you have feeding frustrations with your child, too?