Baby led weaned babies are not fussy eaters. Maybe. Mine wasn’t. She’d eat anything. Curried chicken? Yum. Squid? Yes, please. Paper? Err, unfortunately yes.
The standard line was that baby led weaned babies develop an enviable appreciation for textures and flavours leading to balanced, diverse, nay, adventurous diets.
I probably didn’t even read that anywhere official but somehow I thought I’d found the key to avoiding that pattern feared amongst parents of toddlers: fussy eating.
Well. Five months ago my then fourteen-month-old become a vegetarian. Or maybe a white-food-e-tarian.
I thought it was because we were abroad. We were visiting Trinidad for my brother’s wedding. Then she got tonsillitis while we were out there so no surprise she wouldn’t eat.
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take the mango rejection hard. “What you mean you won’t even try mango? Paw-paw? WATERMELON?”
We stopped in Marks & Spencer’s in Gatwick Airport on the way back and bought a punnet of strawberries. Talitha ate it like it was running away. British, much?
For the past five months she has lived on: porridge, pasta, bread, rice, ryvita, cheese, eggs, yoghurt, bananas, rice cakes, berries and potatoes. Recently she dropped the berries and started playing with bananas instead of eating them so I’ve stopped buying them.
I can’t really complain. I know toddlers with even narrower diets so I should be grateful for that list. But it does irk me.
In fact, I’ve been through a series of emotions and thoughts. I’ve worried about spoiling her by letting her reject a meal and then have a rice cake later instead. I’ve wondered about her intake of vitamins and minerals. I’ve been annoyed when she’s asked for food and we’ve run out of her “safe” foods. I’ve despaired when we’ve gone out with friends and she’s chosen not to eat anything at all.
Realising stress is not a good ingredient for our mealtimes, I read My Child Won’t Eat by Carlos Gonzales but it didn’t fully address my problem.
My child will eat and I’m fine with her eating small amounts if that’s what she wants. My issue is that my child will only eat this, this and this.
In the end, I decided to simply relax. Looking around tells me that most toddlers go through a phase of fussy eating and it usually doesn’t last forever.
I don’t make Talitha something else if she doesn’t want what we’re eating but I do try to include something in the meal that she will eat. Pasta al forno – she’ll probably leave the fish but eat the pasta. Well, ok.
I think it’s important to keep offering the veg and other foods I’m sure she won’t eat. Some day maybe she will. And putting it on her plate sends a positive message that all these foods are good and that I believe she will eat them when she’s ready.
I give her smaller portions so there’s less waste and so the plate it less intimidating. I’ve also reduced my own servings so I have space to eat her leftovers too.
If she’s hungry again later, I give her a healthy snack without making a fuss of it. There are honestly bigger things to think about.
As for the protein, vitamins and minerals, we’re still breastfeeding a fair bit. Some days she eats more and feeds less. Other days she feeds more and barely eats. My reading around this has made me interested in increasing my own intake and has reassured me that she still gets hefty nutrition from my milk.
Every now and then she surprises me. Two months ago she wouldn’t touch Ryvita. Now she’s all about it. For the past two days she’s devoured apples, which she wouldn’t even touch before. She’s even started asking for them: “Bapple?”
I thought I was teaching her to eat. Maybe I am. What’s definitely happening is my fussy eater teaching me to majorly chill out and stop making parenting so hard for myself.
Any fussy eating stories of your own to share?