I’ve written a little on this subject before, talking about the mealtime battles we are having at the moment, but it is still weighing on my mind a lot. I have always tried really hard to give Monkey a lot of variety in his food, following advice that says this will help his tastes develop and mean he doesn’t grow fussy. During weaning he was always really good and there was of course a few things he didn’t like, but he generally ate whatever we gave him, fruit, vegetables, everything.
Then it just seemed to change. Where he used to eat apple quite happily, now he won’t touch it. He loved Pasta, but now either won’t touch it, or spits it out. Luckily there is still a lot of good, nutritious food that he will eat, and he is good with cooked vegetables etc but I do worry about his fussiness and it really limits what I can give him. We also have the battles where, when I can get him to taste the food, he realises he likes it and eats it happily, and I am trying so many different tricks and methods to get him to eat and it is so draining. Sometimes if the TV is on, he’ll eat whatever is in front of him. Sometimes if we leave him alone he will eat better. Sometimes having his own fork with something on it, will make him take that first bite. But none of these things work all the time, and some of them aren’t ideal. I certainly don’t want to have to have the TV on at most mealtimes just to make sure he eats!
I have been reading a variety of sources to get help with this and am still none the wiser! Should I just give him the food and then it’s up to him if he eats? But then what happens for the rest of the day when he is miserable and cranky because he is tired having not eaten. It just makes the next mealtime worse and the time in between completely miserable for both of us. I have on occasion tried to force feed him – just to try and get him to take that first bite – but then I come to my senses because of course that isn’t the way to go!
There are a number of websites online aimed at helping parents with this sort of thing and all are happy to share their wisdom. Some makes you feel better, others really don’t! Cow and Gate baby club was saying how bad it is for the child to watch TV while eating (Making me feel like a bad mother), then I was reading Mumsnet and their article suggests that occasionally watching TV during a meal isn’t all bad (feeling less like a bad mother). They of course do have some more useful advice. For example apparently about 50% of all toddlers are fussy eaters so I am not alone.
I’ve always been a big fan of Supernanny Jo Frost and so bought her book ‘Confident Toddler Care’ which I really like for her no nonsense approach. But I have to say I was a bit gutted to read last night that in 20 years she has never had a fussy eater and that the reason for this is that Parents create the fussy eater. Thanks Jo, feeling so good right now! I’ve tried my best, I’ve always given him mostly homemade meals with a variety of fruits and vegetables, so why has he gotten fussy lately. Of course I don’t expect an answer, but obviously I have gone wrong somewhere down the line, though god knows where!
One thing I have read is that it takes 12-15 times for a new food to be accepted by the palate, but am I alone in thinking that’s a hell of a lot of wasted food? Who has the money to buy and waste food 15 times? And do you let them eat something else that they do like each time you offer them this new food, to make sure they eat something? And what about the food they used to like, and now don’t? Their palate has obviously got used to it but they now won’t eat it so what are you supposed to do?
I go backwards and forwards on the whole topic and drive myself round the bend. Sometimes I decide not to stress about it and to just feed him the things I know he does like over and over again, but then again we sometimes still have the trouble of getting him to take a bite in the first place! And I’ve read that he’ll eat when he’s hungry, but sometimes he is so hungry that he’s exhausted and is barely awake, but that doesn’t make the feeding any easier, in fact when he isn’t quite so desperately hungry he eats a little better, but if he’s not hungry enough when we have different problems. It just isn’t easy. No matter which way I look at it, there doesn’t seem to be any easy solution to the problems we’re facing.
I guess I just have to take things one step at a time. We are trying to reduce the amount of meals where the TV is turned on. We are trying to introduce some new foods alongside other meals (this morning he put the tiniest sliver of grape in his mouth, and I was really pleased, until he retched and nearly threw up his fruity yoghurt) and most importantly I am trying to stay calm, even if he won’t eat and not try and force feed him at all, even if just to get him to take the first bite. I’m also trying to cut back on the number of biscuits and sweet things he has. We were so good in the early days but as mealtimes have got harder we have come to rely on them more, because at least then we knew he was eating something, but that has to stop too. I am still reading supernanny’s book, but all the solutions seem to be aimed at much older children with a higher level of understanding and reasoning that at nearly 14 months, Monkey doesn’t have.
Anyway I am sure this won’t be the last post about mealtimes so will keep you posted!