Picky Eater Pointers
I dragged myself groggily out of bed at 5:30am and made my way to the kitchen. I had to get done before the baby woke up at 6! I got out the organic fruits and vegetables I had splurged on the night before, and began to make the perfect meal for my son. I chopped everything up and plugged in my expensive baby food maker. When it was time to feed him, I excitedly took out the “yummy” food I had prepared in the morning. I was sure he would eat it this time! I lifted the colorful spoon to his little mouth and… he whacked it away with his hand! Freshly pureed fruit and veggies went flying across the room. His mouth remained clenched and I was exasperated.
Saying that my son is a picky eater would be an understatement. At times I thought he would certainly starve. When we started feeding him purees at 6 months he would take a spoon here or there but never very willingly. We would use the pacifier to trick him into opening his mouth so we could get a few spoons in, but he quickly figured out the trick and stopped falling for it. He has gone through actual food strikes where he would not eat any food for over a week. These periods left me wracked with worry. As a preemie he is already small for his age and weight gain is always a concern. I have had several moments of feeling pure frustration and desperation. I have been tempted to force spoons of puree into his little mouth. Shamefully, I have on occasion sneaked a spoonful or three into his mouth while he was crying. After all, it was the only time he would open his mouth!
I must say that bit by bit things have gotten better. But it definitely hasn’t been easy. Now at 13 months he still eats like a little bird, but he eats and has been steadily gaining weight! Our “extreme adventures” in feeding have led me to try almost every trick and tip in the book! We even saw a feeding therapist recently (who knew such a thing existed)! After watching my son chow down on some of his favorite cookies and a piece of bread, she diagnosed him with a case of “naughtiness.” It’s not that he can’t eat, he just doesn’t want to eat. Knowing that there is not a thing wrong with him gave me some renewed motivation to keep trying and he has been doing great! It makes me insanely happy to see him enjoying some of my favorite childhood foods! Since i’ve learned some things on our food journey, I thought i’d share some tips with you:
Consistency. Don’t give up mamas! There have been days when I was really tempted to give up and just let my son bottle feed. But if I did that he would never learn to eat. After a particularly frustrating period of food refusal, our pediatrician recommended consistency. He said I should offer my son solids 3 times a day, no matter what. After just two days of consistently offering solids to my son at every meal, he started eating a little bit. At first he would just take a few spoons, but before I knew it he was eating a full jar! This also proved to be true with finger foods and table food. At first he would just play with it in his hands, hold it up to the light to have a good look and throw it on the floor. But after consistently offering it to him at every meal for a few weeks he started eating it! Of course most still ends up in the abyss that is the high chair, but some does make it into his mouth these days.
Distractions. I’m pretty sure my son sensed the anxiety that I had about his eating. My big eyes staring at him intently as I tried to coax him into opening his mouth, probably freaked him out. I decided to try giving him something to play with while I fed him to distract and take the pressure off. Low and behold it worked! I often give him an extra spoon, empty pouch, can of puffs or whatever he fancies, just to get him to eat! Sometimes he doesn’t need it and other times I give him five different things during a meal to get him to finish. This works every time and when he starts throwing all of the distractions off of the high chair, I know that he is really full and I stop feeding.
Use Favorites. I feed my son the things he likes to eat. He loves mangoes, so I feed him a lot of mangoes! I also use the mangoes to get him to eat other things like spinach! I buy baby foods that are a mix of mangoes and other fruits and vegetables. Once he can taste the mango we are good to go! Also I note the textures and tastes that he likes and I introduce foods that are similar. Since he loves sweet potato, I also feed him pumpkin and squash a lot as they are somewhat similar. He eats them all happily now!
Keep Calm. I have come close to losing my marbles many times over feeding. I have been close to tears. In fact, i’m pretty sure i’ve shed a tear or two over it. But the more I make a big deal about it, is the less he wants to eat. A causal, stress free eating environment works best for us. If my son doesn’t want to eat something, I just take a breath and try something else. Just this morning he refused scrambled eggs. I pushed the eggs to the side and gave him some banana instead. After eating the banana, he picked up a piece of scrambled egg and ate it. I try not to force him as I don’t want him to think negatively about meal times. If he doesn’t want to eat at all I give him a few extra ounces of formula to make up for it so I know he won’t starve.
Flexibility. My son went through a stage where he didn't wan’t to sit in the high chair. I was at a loss as he wouldn’t even sit there, far less eat! One day I decided to try feeding him in his bouncer. He loved it and ate everything! He also made a huge mess, so next time I threw a blanket over it to catch all of the spills. At times I have also held him on my lap for feeding instead of putting him in the high chair. I have learned to go with the flow sometimes. It’s impossible to reason with a 12 month old, so just go with it. The most important thing is that baby gets the necessary nutrition and a chair doesn’t make a big difference in that aspect!
Feeding a picky eater can be very frustrating for us moms and can definitely get the best of us. But take a deep breath and keep trying! If you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing works, ask your pediatrician for help! He or she may be able to give some advice that you haven’t tried or refer you to a specialist for help.
© Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.