Make Milk, Not War

Posted by on Nov 8, 2011

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I was SO excited to give my first daughter, The Princess, food to eat. I carefully sourced out organic foods and I made the food myself as much as I could. I wanted her to have the best, the healthiest, the purest food possible.

We started out with oatmeal – not real oatmeal, but that powdery stuff that’s made especially for babies and has the constancy of glue when you mix it up. Yum. The Princess didn’t really care for it – not a fan of glue, I guess. She ate a few bites, then played with her bowl. Nothing exciting – almost disappointing – certainly no classic photo ops.

We kept giving it to her, and when she didn’t seem to take to the powdered oatmeal, we tried powdered rice and powdered barley too. Still, she didn’t seem to enjoy the food at all.

As a nervous mother, I was upset that she wouldn’t eat like a “normal” baby. I asked my doctor why she wouldn’t eat the oatmeal, and my doctor replied, “maybe she doesn’t like oatmeal”. Honestly, I don’t think I knew that was an option. I responded that my baby just wanted to nurse instead. My doctor told me that my baby was obviously brilliant because she knew she was already getting the good stuff. My doctor is awesome like that.

So we took The Princess home and tried other foods, like toast crusts, Cheerios (the organic knock off, of course), and some gourmet baby purees, made by yours truly. I spent a lot of time carefully picking out the best organic produce I could find, gently cooking it – with extra love – and then blending it into a delightful baby slurry. I was so proud of the delightful feasts of mush, but The Princess really couldn’t have cared less. I kept trying to feed her, but she refused to eat much at all. After a while I stopped bothering with homemade food and switched to jarred food instead – after all, if she wasn’t going to eat it, why bother going to the trouble of making it myself?

Sometime after she turned a year, I took her back to the doctor to make sure she was okay. My awesome doctor was gone – I think she was touring Europe with her daughters for half a year – and I was passed on to a resident doctor. Being a student, the resident had a lot less experience in general and no kids of her own, and she was much more concerned about my daughter than my own doctor had been. The resident had me come back a month later to follow up, which led to another check up the month after that, and another one the month after that. I was passed around to different residents who were all upset that my girl was slipping down the growth charts, at one point falling into the bottom 3%. One resident gave me literature about eating issues that included information on Failure to Thrive – that seriously almost gave me a nervous breakdown. Looking back, I wish I had demanded a second opinion from a seasoned doctor instead of letting a bunch of students freak me out.

Meal times became more and more stressful for us and I tried in vain to coax my daughter to eat. There was a good six month period where she would insist on sitting in my lap during meal times, probably because she sensed how tense I was and instinctively needed to be close. Have you ever tried to eat a meal with a toddler in your lap? For a child who didn’t want to eat food, she sure enjoyed playing with mine…

I remember a dietican calling me because one of the residents had referred us to her. I’m sorry to say that I was a bit rude. I told her that I wasn’t going to drag my child to her clinic for no reason and we could chat on the phone instead. She started the usual spiel about variety being good for children and all the foods that she needed in her diet – she was very kind, but the information she gave me was kind of a no-brainer. I cut her off and asked if anyone knew how to make a child eat these wonderful foods. There was a long pause. No. I told her to call me when they figured that out. Needless to say, we never made it up to her office.

Eventually my doctor came back and offered some reassurance. Some one has to be in the bottom 3%, she said, so why not my kid? Besides, she pointed out that I’m a skinny minny myself, so why would I expect my child to be different? The only suggestion she offered was to cut back on nursing. Give up her beloved milk? The Princess would have none of that. And I was thankful that she nursed for so long, because for years I was sure it was the only source of nourishment she was getting. If I had quit breastfeeding her, she’d probably have come down with scurvy or some other random illness like that. That would have really freaked the residents out.

Tomorrow my daughter turns four.  I wish I could say that I’ve figured out how to make her eat healthy, but she is still an insanely picky eater. I still look for tips and advice about getting her to eat, but I have a hard time not rolling my eyes when I hear the same suggestions again and again. Have her help prepare the meals? Grow food together in the garden? Let her see you eating healthy foods? Cut the food in fun shapes? Yeah, none of those ideas work. I mean, c’mon – this is a kid who spits out Flintstone vitamins, and those things are pretty much just candy.

Now my second daughter is nine months and shows no interest in eating. Deja vu! I often offer her bits of what we’re eating – yogurt, porridge, toast, apple sauce – but she just doesn’t want to eat it. But as long as she’s happy and active and I can give her a steady supply of “mama milk”, I’m not interested in fighting a daily battle. Honestly, life is easier when you don’t have bath your baby three times a day to get the mashed potato/creamed corn/apple sauce out of her hair. This time around, I’m just enjoying the solid food delay, and if some residents want to stress out about milestones and growth charts, that’s their problem. Some day they’ll have their own kids – then they’ll understand.

 


 

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

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11 Comments

  1. ooo thank you for posting this..I was curious if you had ever posted something on introducing solids to your kids.

  2. “‘maybe she doesn’t like oatmeal’. Honestly, I don’t think I knew that was an option.” I’m sorry, but this made me giggle ;) Your daughter and my son are two of a kind – he was completely uninterested in food until he was almost a year old. Thankfully I hadn’t gone to the trouble of making/buying him anything special since we practiced baby led weaning from the start (and he was at or above the weight range for BF babies at his age). I’m really glad you have such a supportive doctor – what a relief to have a medical professional who will put you at ease instead of trying scare tactics!

  3. Thank you for posting this. How frustrating for you to have to deal with those inexperienced doctors. I too find it so reassuring that, whether my 10 month old eats dinner or not, she’s getting pretty much all she needs from breastfeeding. Phew!

  4. I love the perspective you have about this now! I had a similar experience with out pediatrician telling me our son wasn’t growing enough (being in the 5%) and that I should nurse him less and push solids. I didn’t follow his advice exactly as he would’ve liked, but I still felt the stress and pressure around mealtimes to make sure Daniel ingested “enough” solids. It definitely undermined our breastfeeding relationship, and I regret that I didn’t follow my instincts and let it happen organically. I will not make the same mistake (if there is a) next time!

  5. I love the title of this post. I have read that chimpanzees nurse exclusively for 3 years, and continue for another 2-3 years alongside solid food. Mama milk is just great!

    • I know, right? It’s crazy that we expect babies to wean from milk so quickly, especially when we look at other mammals and even other cultures and see how long children will nurse if they are unhindered. I don’t think everyone has to strive for 3-4 years, but certainly longer than 6 months!

  6. I seriously think some doctors must freak out because they feel they aren’t doing their job otherwise! I’m glad you’ve found one that seems to keep a level head. I remember my mother bargaining with me to eat “just one more bite of greens,” or I couldn’t have cake… or I’d have to sit at the table until I did, even if I sat there for hours. It probably didn’t foster the healthiest association with foods for me. It sounds like you are taking your picky eater with a dose of good perspective!

  7. I got referred to a nutritionist when my first daughter was little because she didn’t like rice cereal either and she thought that my daughter nursed too much and was lacking iron. I was totally freaked out about it and even bought formula to mix with the rice cereal even though I was a staunch breastfeeding mom. After a couple tries of my daughter spitting out the horrid cereal I gave up and let her breastfeed as much as she wanted. I got support from going to LLL meetings and learned far more than I ever could have imagined about breastfed babies and breastfeeding. Now I am constantly made to feel ill that the health care providers new moms rely on for advice about breast fed babies know so little. I am heartened by every post I read when moms find their own ways and their babies are the healthier for it. Thanks for your heart warming post!

  8. yea I think I wanted to read your thoughts on introducing solids as I love breastfeeding and all the advice I’ve been getting are more along the lines of weaning off breastfeeding and I definitely want to breastfeed for a while. I’m not looking forward to the extra hassle of food..(my daughter is 4 months)..
    on another note..I was planning on coming into your store today as I had questions re my beco that I bought from you in April, however my daughter had different plans. I’ll try again next Tuesday!

  9. I really enjoyed this post. My son was also incredibly disinterested in food until he was around 13-14 months. What a waste of time all that baby food was! Like you, I finally just accepted that he would eat what and when he wanted (among all the healthy options I provide, of course). I think it’s a really primal thing for a mother to be concerned about how much food her child is eating…we really don’t need doctors or growth charts making us nervous about it!

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