Raising a Finicky Eater
If you ask me what has been the most stressful task as a parent, my answer would be feeding my second child. Until I had her, I never knew how stressful it could be to have a child who doesn’t eat.
I am writing this post in a hope that this helps some parents in the midst of their struggle to feed their kids. I am neither a doctor nor psychologist, so nothing written here comes from a medical or professional standpoint. This is simply one parent’s experience with her finicky eater child. I am not by any means suggesting that this should be the solution for every parent. Just like every child is built differently, how to solve the same eating problem for each child can have different solutions. My daughter fortunately does not have any disorder, but if you suspect that your child has some sort of disorder like allergy, consulting with a professional and physician would be advised.
I knew something was different from the day one. When I nursed my second daughter, she would nurse for about 10 minutes and then fall asleep. She repeats the process every hour. You can imagine how tiring that can be for a mother. Later on, I met a friend who told me that her daughter did the same and she used to put a cold towel on her daughter’s face to wake her up. Now I know how to deal with that situation.
She never ate as much as my first child did. She turned 6 months and I started solid food with her. While my first child took rice cereal well from the first day, my second child fussed about eating it from the first trial. The struggle started. I wanted to start weaning her off from nursing as I did with my first daughter around 6-7 months, but I couldn’t because she didn’t eat. She didn’t want to take a bottle or sippy cup, either. She was completely dependent on nursing. I felt trapped.
She did not like solid food. She was such a bad eater that I had no incentive to make baby food for her unlike I did for my first child. I made baby food for my first daughter at home at least once a week and froze a bunch for it to last for a week. My husband and I lived in Africa back then, so in some way, I didn’t have a choice. With my second child, I bought typical American or Japanese baby food from a super market and fed her (we lived in Okianwa, Japan at that time). Sometimes she would eat well, but most of the times, I ended up throwing away half of the food. I hated it.
Our second child didn’t gain much weight in the first year, but it didn’t require a special medical attention. I never felt alerted about her weight. Around the 8 or 9 months when she became more active, I started receiving comments on how skinny she looked. When a parent keeps hearing the same comment from different directions over and over, even if it’s remotely negative, it starts to haunt you and you start thinking that there might be something abnormal about the child. I found out that the body fat in the first year of baby’s life was very important for physical and brain development. I started to get obsessed with my second child’s physical appearance.
Another thing I was concerned was that I thought that this fighting with her about eating will worsen as she grew older. I didn’t want it to be an ongoing battle later in her life. She has always decided whether she would eat the food or not based on its appearance. She would eat something one day and the next day she wouldn’t. I sometimes spent 15 minutes trying to feed her the first bite by convincing her that she would like the food. When I knew she would like the taste, usually I was right. Because of this, I never wanted to loose the battle with her.
My pediatrician was very laid back. In retrospect, it was good for me. It allowed me to relax a bit. My second child gained some weight in between check-ups and developmentally was on the track, so the doctor told me not to worry. I was still worried. (typical parent?) Some people have suggested that I get a second opinion, but I did not think that would be a solution for me. I believe in medicine, however, something inside told me that I should find more first hand experiences rather than medical theories out there.
I started googling information to see how parents dealt with their children who would not eat. One common comment parents gave was that babies would not starve themselves. I also learned that some babies do not eat well when nursing and they tend to eat better after they stop nursing. These points removed some pressure off my shoulders.
I also wrote about the struggle I had when feeding my second child on a Japanese social networking site called “mixi“. I got some responses to my writing and several of my friends told me that they were a finicky eater when they were a baby or small child and very skinny growing up, but they all grew out of that stage and started eating better as they got older. I felt 100 times better.
☆ WHAT HELPED ME ☆ From 10 to 18 months old
I needed something that she would like to eat. One day my husband got sick, so I made Chinese congee instead of chicken soup and gave some to my second daughter. She ate it and asked for more. I was thrilled! It was the very first time she accepted what I served her and she loved it. She couldn’t chew food well until she was much older almost closer to the age two. Congee was great in that sense.
2. Baby oatmeal cereal with soy milk and honey (after 15 months)
When my second child was 15 months old, I decided to stop nursing. I had wanted to do that for a while, but I didn’t, since I felt the need to continue nursing during a stomach flu season. I knew that she would always nurse when she was sick. After she had recovered from a stomach flu in March, at her 15th month, I went cold turkey and stopped nursing all together. I used to nurse her before bed time, so alternatively I started making baby oatmeal cereal with soy milk and honey. (The reason for using soy milk was that my older daughter likes soy milk and so do I.) I mixed a little bit of honey to add some more sweet taste. She has always loved it. She even started sleeping better, too. My life has gotten much easier at that point.
☆ WHAT HELPED ME ☆ 18 months old to today (2 and a half years old)
At this point, she was finally eating chopped up regular food and she had become a better eater.
1. Rice, furikake (Japanese rice seasoning) and Korean Seaweed.
Both of my daughters love the combination of rice, furikake and Korean seaweed. Seaweed would disappear in a few seconds if I open a package for them. I sometimes pack rice balls for lunch. Simple, easy and inexpensive.
2. Peanut butter and jelly with Challah bread
Thank goodness my daughter does not develop peanut allergy. It’s a great source of protein, so I love that she would eat PB & J sandwich. The key is Challah bread. My girls and I love the sweet tasting Challah bread.
3. Miso soup and tofu
My younger child loves tofu. She would pick tofu from miso soup and eats and usually asks for more tofu. Going to a Japanese restaurant is easier than other restaurants because we can order a bowl of miso soup and rice and there is a meal for her.
I hope this is somewhat helpful. I remember when my second child was about 10 months old, I kept telling myself, in a year or so, I would know the answers to my questions. When I was in the midst of struggling, I felt like I was walking in a tunnel without any light to guide my way out. You might feel like you are stuck in dark, but a path will always unfold in front of you.
My second child is growing just fine. I used to spoon feed her until recently, but about a month ago (2 and half years old), my husband and I started making her eat by herself. It was his idea and I’m glad we did and we started at this age where she understands us better. At the beginning she sat for over an hour at her table until she finishes her meal. She used to sob and moan. She still spends much longer time than us at the table, but she does a much better job. This quest is not over yet, but we’re at a better place.
I love the colors and designs. I purchased them for my kids, but I am very tempted to use them myself!