Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lunch is a Battlefield

I often joke that J throws food at me all the time but he doesn’t throw it really, he spits it out. Most of the time it gets sprayed all over both of us when he tries to eat and blow raspberries at the same time. I’ve been trying to encourage him to eat food with more lumps in it lately and this has been rejected outright. J much prefers his lasagna pureed thank you very much! Strangely enough though he’s quite happy to munch on things like teething biscuits and chunks of toast, it’s only lumpy vegetables that seem to end up on the floor. I’m not sure if he’s a fussy eater or just a typical 8 month-old, but some days one particular dish will be eaten with gusto and the next day he refuses to eat the same thing, clamping his little mouth firmly shut and waving away the spoon. This week he has started to shake his head when he doesn’t want to eat, and that seems to be most of the time at the moment. Yesterday he would not eat lunch, even fruit was rejected and then at dinnertime he ate so much I wondered where it was all going to go. Today has been much the same and I’m at a loss to understand why. Yes, it’s another one of those things that has me worrying all day. There are apparently a lot of reasons why a baby might go off his food at this age. They range from teething to baby being too busy to eat, to complete lack of interest in the poor excuse for a meal Mum is serving up tonight. I’m perplexed by the range of advice out there for feeding babies of this age. I am a big fan of Annabel Karmel but according to her, my son should be just about ready to eat basically the same food we eat. She also suggests giving him his milk in a cup during the day and saving the bottle for bedtime. I know my son well enough to know that this would not go down well. Robin Barker advises that once babies are eating three meals a day you should start giving them their food first and then their milk. J is so ravenous in the morning that any time I’ve tried this he’s woken the neighbours with his howls of protest and I’ve ended up wearing his weetbix! His midday meal is much the same; it’s only in the evenings that I can convince him to eat first.

Dinner is another issue. Apparently baby should be eating with the rest of the family by now… For one thing, we don’t sit up like civilised people at the dining table to eat, we don’t even own a dining table; we collapse on the sofa in front of the TV when J is safely tucked up in bed asleep. Secondly, he eats early. Really early. If I leave it later than 5.30-6pm to feed him, he goes into meltdown mode. I’m aware that I’m beginning to sound like I’m afraid of a little drama at mealtimes but really I’ve chosen to let my child and his behaviour be my guide about how, what and when to feed him. One book suggested that I should be letting him feed himself by now. I’m all for giving him finger foods to eat in his highchair but if I want him to actually eat something I’ve learned the best way to ensure it is to feed him myself. Anything that gets placed in front of him on the tray gets swept aside with a swift brush of his little hand, or dangled over the side for the dog. I’m not trying to teach him to use a sippy cup at the moment, as I’m supposed to be, because last week the dog got showered with orange juice. Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to be sitting up at the table (or in front of the TV)spoon-feeding a 4 year old in a few years time, but I feel like there’s enough pressure on me as it is. I mentioned last week the effort involved in just buying groceries here, add to that the time spent planning and pureeing, and ensuring that J gets a balanced and varied diet… my head hurts just thinking about it! When someone told me I should start giving him snacks twice a day I almost had a stroke.

On the one hand I feel like I’m neglecting him by failing to let him explore and experiment at mealtimes. On the other hand, I’m at risk of turning into a complete control freak for over-thinking it all too much and focusing solely on filling my son’s tummy with nourishing foods. My husband scolded me on the weekend for ignoring J’s protest while I wiped his face after he ate; “he’s a kid, they’re supposed to be messy.” So, do I hand him the bowl and a spoon and let him go for it? Or do I keep doing what I’m doing, knowing that some days it won’t matter what I do, it’ll still end up on the floor, in my hair and all over the dog…? Last night I decided I need to try and find a balance between making sure he gets something to eat while also giving him the chance to figure this whole eating thing out for himself. I think the first thing I need to do is PUT THE BOOKS AWAY! And then I might have a cup of tea and hand the spoon to my helper…


  1. Haha, wait until 12 months!! The only solution I found for my daughter when she started refusing the spoon was self feeding. We started this at 8 months with things like peas, small chucks of carrots, cheese, broccoli etc. While it was daunting at first to have to come up with ideas for finger foods, now every meal is self fed (fingers, the spoon is still a bit of a disaster but we are getting there.)
    She will only let me spoon feed her yoghurt and custard, everything else she insists on feeding herself. Maybe your boy just wants to feel in control of his eating?

  2. Our grandkids have all had their own spoons plus finger foods as well as being fed. The feeder (i.e usually mum but we've all got good at this) then pops spoonfuls in to the feedee when they get the chance. Feedees love to have this control. They get really good fine motor skills tiny peas,corn kernels are expertly picked up and swallowed with relish! Sometimes even by the feeders!
    Yep it's a total mess but lots of fun.

  3. When I worked in child health policy, our paediatric nutritionist had a mantra - 'food's for fun until I'm one!' Basically the time between 6 and 12 months is about learning and experimentation (textures! flavours! fun!) with a gradual increase in volume over that time until it takes over as primary source of nutrition at about 1 year old. J's nutritional needs will continue to be met by his milk, so no need to stress about that side of things. It's a time of trial and error - often 1 step forward, 2 steps back - what he's doing is completely normal and healthy! Just keep offering a range of stuff and it'll all be good. Sounds to me like you're doing wonderfully! (loving finally catching up on your blog by the way!) Love, L xoxo