I keep looking over my shoulder. Because I have been here before.
When Thing 1 was born I got an epidural, much to my disappointment. He came out groggy and lethargic. He had trouble latching. I had trouble keeping him awake for feedings. He slept so much, but only when I had things to do. Whenever I laid down to rest with him he would wake up and howl.
I made every mistake in the book with Thing 1. I tried keeping him on a schedule, rather than nursing on demand. I introduced the bottle too soon. I gave supplemental bottles too often. Nursing and working and pumping all day were really hard. Like evil awful terrible hard. But to my amazement my kid who was always in the 40th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height ate solids pretty well. And when he transitioned to table foods he would eat broccoli and corn and even spinach in his 'baby soup', just not much at all, sometimes only 3-4 bites.
When I got pregnant with Thing 2, working and caring for my older son became a true challenge. I was wrecked and pulled in a million different directions. I started relying a little more heavily on the hormone free chicken nuggets and the nitrate free hot dogs and the organic frozen pizzas. Thing 1 was never a GREAT eater. But serving him these processed foods made me feel like I was getting something into him. He didn't like soft mashed foods, he didn't like meat if it was too grainy, certain vegetables he flat out refused. Every meal time was a difficulty. He would refuse to feed himself. He cried and thrashed so badly that we kept him strapped into a high chair until he was three. But I blamed myself. 'If I had offered him better foods he would be eating kale and roasted chicken and sweet potatoes. I served him junk and so he eats junk' I told myself. But being a pregnant mommy, working full time and then bringing home another baby two days after Thing 1's second birthday proved too much stress. I didn't have the energy to clean up our food act.
It wasn't until much later, when Thing 2 started table foods, thatI realized we needed to make a change. I didn't want to give my 9 month old processed foods. That is when I started the blog. I didn't (and still don't) plan on getting pregnant again and so I was sure that I could keep Thing 2 on a straight and narrow food path.
I am pleased to say that I delivered Thing 2 without the aid of an epidural. I really got the birth that I had wanted, the birth I was unprepared and uneducated to perform the first time around. Thing 2 came out super fat, 10 days before his due date and 9 pounds 3 ounces. He, naturally, came out hungry and latched on right away in the delivery room. Our time in the hospital together was almost like being at a hotel. The staff was supportive and friendly. And I just nursed around the clock with the confidence of a mom who'd been around the block before.
Thing 2 was a fantastic nurser. He maneuvered between the breast and the bottle effortlessly. Pumping at work proved to be no problem. And unlike when Thing 1 was born I had no supply problems. When he switched to solid foods he ate like a champ. And even the switch to solid foods was easy. He ate everything and in such great quantities! Mashed avocado, bananas, beans and rice, finely chopped poultry, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, all fruits. I never had a shortage of things to feed him. I could always take one or two of the elements of our dinner and put something nutritious together for him. And when he started to feed himself he ate most of the same things, but loved my cumin patties and he never minded when I slipped kale into his smoothies. I noticed early on that he wasn't crazy about vegetables and he flat out refused the baby soup. But his love of fruits and berries was good enough for me. What a good mother I was to my good eater! He had favorites and would stuff himself on those items, Thing 1 was never like that. Even with his favorite foods he would never just eat for the sake of eating.
Then it happened, one day right around the time that Thing 2 was 18 months old. He just stopped eating. Ironically it was around the same time that Thing 1 started eating more rationally. So I had the sense that there would be some difficult times even for my good eater. I gritted my teeth, but did things slightly differently.
1-I didn't force him to eat. I figured that if he was hungry he would eat. Unfortunately our babysitter often fills him up with snacks in the late afternoon, even though I have discussed my concerns with her. She agrees but bad habits die hard. And anyone who works knows that a problem with snacks is no reason to fire or reprimand a long time babysitter who truly loves your kids and whom your kids truly love. Besides, he doesn't eat lunch for her and she has a hard time just letting him go hungry.
2-No time outs for food related offenses. It was obvious (to at least me) that Thing 1's issues were behavior related, not food related. He would get time outs for throwing food or purposefully spilling his glass of milk, for example. He would act out with his food. Thing 2 never did any of those things. He just doesn't eat. Even in my most stressful moments I didn't feel like it was right to punish him for not eating.
3-I didn't force him to stay in the high chair. At a certain point he refused to stay strapped into his chair. And so we just got rid of it. The month afterwards was hard. He ran all over the house and still wouldn't eat. I spent more time out of my chair than in it. But that's getting better now.
4-No special dinners. That one goes without saying. I believe that everyone in the family should have the same dinner, but there should be elements in each meal that appeal to each of the different diners. I try to make sure that there are nutritious things on each person's plate that each one will like and eat, even if it isn't everything that is served.
But even with some of these common sense measures, the kid just doesn't eat. And the list of things he will eat is awfully short. Today he will eat hot dogs (the ones I get are from a biodynamic organic local farm), turkey sausage, all whole fruits except blueberries and honeydew melon for some reason, and wheat in general. He will sometimes tolerate Greek yogurt, hummus, nitrate free deli meat and pasta sauces, but those are hot and cold. Oh! And milk. He would drink milk instead of eating all day if he could. This prompted me to think that maybe he was drinking too much milk. So I moved away from sippy cups to straw cups, now he won't always finish his milk. He doesn't always accept the straw cups. And I started reducing the number of ounces he gets in a day. He drinks between 12-14 ounces of milk in a day, so I highly doubt that he is drowning his appetite.And now it is getting worse. His eating habits now seem preferential and purposeful. It doesn't seem to matter if he is hungry, he simply will not eat what he doesn't care for. Last week he ate breakfast, no lunch and no snack and I caved and made his favorite turkey sausage for dinner. He was ravenous. Had I made something else he would have probably gone to bed hungry.
Thing 2 is not unhealthy. His weight is good, so I am not worried about that. Though he has thinned out alot in the last few months as a result of a growth spurt and eating less. But he eats zero vegetables that haven't been pureed and hidden in something and he seems so picky that I am nervous about building good eating habits. I thought I had done everything right. I didn't get lazy and serve him lousy food. But now my weekly dinner rotation is a painful 4 or 5 dishes that I know he'll eat, so I feel stuck in the same rut I was with Thing 1. I don't think it is fair to serve him summer squash and swiss chard pizza with feta cheese when I know he will just starve for the night.
Fortunately though, he always eats breakfast. He will eat my 'green eggs' even if I load them with kale and onions. He always finishes his overnight pancakes. Oatmeal is a fav too. French toast is also a big hit. Usually even if he hasn't eaten in 18 hours I know I can get some protein and fat into him during breakfast.
So my conclusions? Maybe I wasn't to blame for Thing 1's poor eating habits. I did my best by him and got through a particularly stressful time in our lives. I kept him fed and served him mostly good pastured meats. So even though he had a love affair with turkey Bologna, maybe it is time that I stop blaming myself. And again with Thing 1, he eats veggies really well. Today we have moved forward from his standard broccoli and corn. He eats green beans, celery, cucumbers and carrots. He still likes the 'baby soup', and eats whatever I throw into that. Now though I make the broth with pastured chicken feet and he adores it. Maybe I shouldn't beat myself up over his food transgressions, but perhaps I also cannot take credit for his good eating habits. I am simply the cook. I make the food and he chooses what to eat. Perhaps no parent should pat themselves on the back for having 'good eaters', because it isn't really up to you at all. Besides is such a distinction fair to a parent like me who bore such lousy eaters, even though I cook like mad and model such good behavior for my children?
Thing 2 is so young, it is frustrating to see him struggle with eating. It really upsets me to see him refuse foods that I know he used to love. I worry that this is truly who he is. I worry that he will not follow the same pattern as his brother and just work his way out of this. I worry I will be fighting over vegetable consumption for the next 16 years. I get so irritable that he prefers one plate or cup over another. I get so irritable that his choices seem so random. But perhaps it really has nothing to do with me. Dear Lord, please help me to breathe today.
This post is shared with Traditional Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesdays and Fight Back Fridays