Monday, May 13, 2013

The One Where I Seek Advice

I bet you're thinking it's about time. I have this parenting thing in the bag. She could learn a thing or two from me.

This is a rare thing. This whole advice-seeking post thing. I don't often seek the opinion or advice of others, mostly because I want to feel like I have it all together {which I undoubtedly do not}. In general posts about life, I've been known to delete comments from others giving advice when I either didn't like the advice they were dishing or the braggart way it was delivered. Or both.

But this time... well... similar rules apply. But I am seeking advice. However, I'm not seeking advice from those who have perfect poster children that eat everything on their plates and smile cheerfully at the dinner table. Because that's what Benjamin used to be like and now he's a devil child at the sight of his high chair. Seriously, he used to eat everything in sight. But if your kid is like mine and you've managed to find some things that work, please dish!

I just somehow convinced him to eat about 1/3 of a peanut butter, butter & jam sandwich and about 5 bites of cantaloupe by singing the Mamma Mia! song on repeat and making silly faces. Short of balancing on our heads, we do everything to get this kid to eat!

We go to great lengths... I'm telling you! This is a PBJ he refused to finish, so I balled it up on pretzel sticks. Lollipops. Yeah.
Over the weekend, we successfully fed him maybe two meals. And by feed, I mean trick him and shove a spoon in his mouth and hope he doesn't spit it out. The distractions of singing/dancing hopefully bring him to forget he's eating and swallow the darn bite. And the meals he won't eat? We make a smoothie at the culmination of the meal that he then sucks down at rapid speed. You know... because he's starving.

Let me lay some facts down here:
- It's important for us that he sits at a table and eats during mealtime. We're expecting him to sit politely in restaurants and eat when we do. This should not be a stretch and we don't want him having his own mealtime.
- We've tried another high chair or even sitting him on our laps. We were wondering if it had to do with an extreme hatred toward his specific high chair... but that doesn't appear to be the outlier.
- I've all but stopped giving him snacks because it makes mealtime even worse if he has food in between.
- He loves his milk still and usually sucks down half the cup before a meal is introduced. I've stopped giving him milk until he's done with his meal... but that hasn't helped either.
- All the foods he used to love and eat voraciously are being kicked to the curb. There is no safe food.
- It's important to us that he eats something. So while starving him to try and teach him a lesson that this is food time {dammit}, it won't be working wonders for keeping this kid on the weight-gaining scales. We have always had a small fry, remember. I mean, we go through a stick a butter a week on just Benjamin.
- He won't just refuse the food politely. He refuses, spit it out, shoves it off the table, and throws it.
- Perhaps a factor in why he is refusing could be that he is working on his second molar right now. And I hear they're a real b. But I swear he's been crazy-picky well before these stupid molars.
- Mealtimes usually start like this: we all sit down to eat with him, place food in front of him to feed himself. He refuses. We then give him utensils and occasionally we can get a bite or two down him based on the novelty of using a utensil. We then resort to trying to feed him ourselves with a fork. Refuses. Then he starts to throw food on the floor and cry. I push his high chair away from the table to mitigate the mess situation and use that as a moment away from the table so he knows that's not acceptable table behavior. Remove all food & resort to a smoothie.
- Smoothies include all kinds of goodies... a mixture of many of the following are usually on the regular menu: whole milk, oatmeal, flaxseed, banana, strawberry, peanut butter, spinach, apple, yogurt, avocado. And he sucks down at least 1-2 of them in just a few minutes.

That's the scoop. Any advice for a couple of novices on how to handle this? Perhaps it's a phase and I should just roll with the punches?


Molly said... [Reply to comment]

Dude. Ouch. No clue what to tell you bc my 4-yr-old still won't eat, as u know. And I don't remember if it went exactly like this with the food tantrums bc honestly I think I've blocked it. And I have now been rewarded with an eating poster child (for the moment at least) for my troubles with Sloane (lol). I hope it's just a phase or teething thing. But I think you are handling it well (better than I did) w the smoothie thing and sticking to ur guns on mealtime. We gave up on that aspect of things. She knows she has to sit with us, but she has separate meals and meal times. Sigh. Whatevs. It's just easier than fighting w her at times. Good luck!!

Anne said... [Reply to comment]

Gracie was in a phase similar to this that she seems to be growing out of now (she says hopefully). Some things that have helped:

- Letting her eat (or not eat) at her own pace. I tend to want her to be finished with her meal in the first fifteen minutes that we are sitting down...the child has literally taken an hour and a half to finish a cheese toast before, but she finished it. When she starts to throw a fit, I move the food, put it back a few minutes later and most of the time she will eventually start eating it

- Eating with other kids. Eating lunch or dinner with other couples with kids almost always gets her to eat more than she does at our house

- During dinner or breakfast only, letting her watch TV during the meal. I think this really depends on how desperate you are for him to eat...I wanted the calories and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse gave them to me

That's what worked for us, good luck! Gracie ate green beans this weekend without my having to stand on my there's light at the end of the tunnel!!

Brie said... [Reply to comment]

No advice...just sympathy (:

Mine would eat berries for every meal, topped off with some goldfish if I would let him. He won't eat Peanut butter or cheese which are to me, like totally childhood staples!

Does B throw his food? I get frustrated when Sal throws the food on the floor then wants it back. I've started just giving him a piece of what I want him to eat rather than piling food on his tray and overwhelming him,

Interested to see what advice you get, I could use some too!

Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

Honestly, I think it's a phase. And the fact that for a while he was a good eater - I think that shows this isn't going to be his norm forever. Finn never was the best eater. Not horrible, but we had lots of difficult times. And still do on occasion and yes, teething definitely makes them sassy and refuse things they love.

Finn's best meal is breakfast - so I try to load him up with lots of good food then - don't care if it's normal breakfast food or not - if he eats well throughout the day, great, if not - well he got something down at breakfast at least. B is still young, if he doesn't eat and sucks down some milk - that's not a bad thing. He's getting calories and healthy fat and health-wise he will be just fine.

He will come around.

I just hope for your sanity it's sooner rather than later.

Brigitte said... [Reply to comment]

I have a 4 1/2 year old and an 18 month old. The older is more adventurous with her food choices, but they r both grazers and I think most little ones tend to steer toward a lot of little meals and snacks rather than main meals. That being said, my little guy really is picky about things. No eggs, no tofu, no cheese.... Yikes. My daughter loved all those things. He loves his rice, oatmeal and peanut butter toast though. Till he has had enough and spits out what's in his mouth and makes a run for it :) keep it up though, I'm guessing it is yet another phase in the fun life of parenting!

LookItsJessica said... [Reply to comment]

I LOLed @ you deleting comments that were braggy... I love it! I would SO do that too. A woman in my mommy group gets on my nerves SO BAD with that crap.

Anyway-- I don't have much advice but I do have support. Avery is doing the SAME thing, she loves to smear her food. It like brings her joy. She loves to smear it into her hair too (fun!) We normally tell her "no" and then take away her food for a minute or feed her bite by bite by hand. But she does eventually eat it.

I hope Mr. Benjamin returns to his awesome eater status soon!

LookItsJessica said... [Reply to comment]

Oh! What types of food do you feed him? The same stuff you guys eat or 'kid food'? We have tried to avoid kid foods (goldfish, graham crackers, cut up cheese, teddy grahams) for dinner but often that is all she will eat. And scrambled eggs are a huge hit here, but I'm sure you've tried that already.

Rachel said... [Reply to comment]

My daughter is about 8 months older than Benjamin and I promise you we have gone through much of the same with food and meals. So I am no expert, but here are a couple of tips (some of which you are already doing!)
- Our pediatrician emphasized that sometimes "presentation" can make a difference. For instance, sometimes my daughter will eat cheese if I cut it, and other times she won't touch it unless I give her a whole slice or cheese stick. That being said, she also said it could take weeks of presenting a certain food in different ways before my daughter would go for it.
- We too have done smoothies at the end of a meal. My daughter is in the 99th percentile for weight and height and I still don't feel right about starving her to teach her a lesson. So the smoothies have been great during those times when she just wouldn't eat.
- Not sure how Benjamin feels about fruit, but my daughter loves it and I give it to her at each meal. She is probably too old for the fruit/veggie pouches, but I give them to her anyways on those days when she hasn't touched anything green. Better than nothing is what I tell myself.
- Yogurt is a staple and I use it to mask add-ins (such as granola or oatmeal)
- I was funny about meat as a child so I try not to force it on her, but I do try to emphasize protein at least once per day in a meal. Sometimes that protein is more peanut butter or yogurt related than meat related. I think meat is a big texture challenge for little ones.
- When my daughter sees me preparing food for a meal, I began letting her try things if she began fussing for them. For instance, I was surprised she ate a slice of red pepper one day that I was cutting up to sauté. This hasn't always worked, but sometimes I feel like if she notices that food within the meal later on that she enjoyed snacking on earlier, she might be more likely to try it in the meal.
- Finally, when she starts to push her plate around or show signs of getting ready to chuck her food, I will often just take a few pieces of some of her meal and place it on her tray and then remove her plate. Sometimes she will then eat the few things in front of her (sometimes!).

No matter what, try not to take it personally when he pushes away a yummy meal you have cooked (easier said than done, I know!). My daughter is getting better, but it has taken time and perseverance. There are weeks when I feel like she doesn't want to touch anything and weeks when she surprises me by what she eats. And teething is a total B when it comes to eating habits. I really do think it messes with little ones in many ways, meals included. Keep up the good work! Sounds like you are doing a great job of setting the groundwork for good eating habits and behavioral habits at mealtime (even though he may not be exhibiting good behavior at this age :) )

Katie Berezowski said... [Reply to comment]

I'm not a parent and am not sure if I qualify for giving advice but I do nanny for a lot of children and just recently encountered a child with very odd hatred towards foods. She hated cheese that was too stringy, angel hair spaghetti but not normal spaghetti, and other things that are skinny. I found out it was because she felt like she was choking on them and she despised the texture of them.

I saw the above comment about the way things are presented -- this little girl could eat the cheese not melted... but when it melted she abolished it.

Just some thoughts -- many people have texture issues with food and considering he likes smoothies it may be more of the solid food textures to work with. Again -- should I even be commenting since I'm not a parent?!? hahaha

ekiwi said... [Reply to comment]

I love your smoothie idea! Q has always been a grazer. To the point where her "meals" consisted of mostly appetizers and the tiniest bit of whatever we were eating. She has what we so creatively called "eating days" when she can't get enough food and "non-eating days" when I struggle to get even her favorites in the belly. Adam swears he can get her to eat anything by starting with something she wants (I've witnessed a few times, never had my own success-- mom curse). I started "cooking" with her pretty early and that's helped expand her palate and appetite... scrambled eggs were never an option until she helped me beat the eggs and add some milk. Good luck! Please share some smoothie combos (or have you done that? Sorry!) And what works!

My New Normal said... [Reply to comment]

First of all, I'm sorry he's being such a fussy eater. I have my moments with Frostina and it's sooooo frustrating.

It sounds to me like he prefers smoothies for one reason or another and he's learned that if he protests long enough you will make him one.

Party of Three Heads said... [Reply to comment]

Gawsh.... I hope I don't come off in a bragging way... lol.

Colston has always been a great eater, however the older he's gotten we've had to search for things that he will eat, as opposed to things he used to eat. He still almost always sits with us during dinner time, or lunch, or breakfast, but I certainly have to weave around what I'm serving for a meal. The kid use to seriously not be picky at all, and eat whatever was given, now? He only has a few select veggies and fruits that he'll eat.. he's all about those starches and I'm not so happy about that...

With all that being said, I think this is a phase.... I have a niece that did the same thing, and ALL her mother could/would get down her was green beans....every...single...night.

Hang in there, and stick with those guns.. hopefully he'll get the point rather sooner than later..


Kari at A Grace Full Life said... [Reply to comment]

This is the thing, if he is hungry- he will eat.
It is just that simple.
So don't stress about it, he will not let himself starve.
I promise.
Our pediatrician used to say that if they eat one meal a day, it will be fine just make sure that he is getting liquids to hydrate and that if he is only eating once a day, that he is getting some nutrients.
You are doing just fine and this will go away, I swear.
I cannot KEEP food in this house with my 13 year old and 5 year old.

Kristi said... [Reply to comment]

You make me smile! :-) Here's my opinions, since you asked. Stick with your desires of B to sit at the table and eat meals with you. You need that for your lifestyle and it's a good thing for him long term (as you well know). I also thing kids go through phases where they have to test the boundaries so they know that the expectations are serious and real. For Kirstin, she would scream when we'd put her in her high chair (and continue crying/screaming through much of the meal and not also not eating then)...after months, I finally figured out that if she climbed in her chair herself that she would be perfectly content. I kept a close watch on her diapers to make sure things were normal. She's stayed on her growth chart trajectory well (even though she helps make up those smaller percentages)! Some days (or weeks) she doesn't eat much at all, but then a different day she'll eat more than me (it could even be the same exact food).

So, I don't know, but hang in there. Y'all are awesome parents! If you ever want my kids to help distract him, let us know...we can do dinner together. :-)

Darcey said... [Reply to comment]

Love your determination and he will come around. As you know I have thrown in the towel, but they do outnumber me and it is a juggling act. RIght when I think I have figured it out he goes and throws a curve ball and I feel like I start over from square one. I think our boys are so worried about moving around, climbing, and exploring that stopping to eat is last on their list. When Layton was teething he lived on cold foods and mostly puree's because I refridgerated them. THat could be a big problem and those molars are brutal.

Hang in there. 4 kids, 4 different eating styles, 4 different varieties, and I can't figure it out for the life of me. Sometimes I think it truly is them trying to exert their independence, and seeing the reaction they get out of us. It is always something unfortunately. Hoping their is an end to his eating strike very soon.

BTW- Layton took off with the toilet plunger this morning and it totally made me think of you, B, and the toilet scrubber :)

Emily said... [Reply to comment]

I think an important thing is not to make it a power struggle. B. is probably aware of the fact that you REALLY WANT him to eat...and will go to great lengths (including singing!!!) to make it happen. So he knows the more he DOESN'T eat, the more you'll perform. Maybe trying to dial it down a notch at meal times might work better? Pay attention to each other, talk to B. like you normally do but otherwise treat meal time as you would any other average, every day occurrence. You can laugh and sing songs, but don't make it conditional on him eating. You might even try giving him the smoothie FIRST (since you know he'll eat that and it does pack a punch of nutrition), and then continue on with your own meal as normal. He'll drink his'll have a normal meal and hopefully he'll stop equating meal time with you guys jumping through hoops! After a while, ask him if he would like to try something of what you are eating. If he seems interested, put a bit on his tray. If he eats it, great. If not, act like it's no big deal. He's already had his smoothie at this point, so you won't have to feel like you're depriving him of food. This way at least EVERYONE is eating, and it`s enjoyable.

Eating can be a huge struggle, I know. My friend has a daughter that is very much like this. She's 3 now and I don't know if my friend has handled her picky eater in the best way. My friend coaxes her daughter to eat EVERY BITE. If we go out together for a meal, it's almost painful to watch "A. have a bite..." "A. take another bite." "A. try two more bites and then you can have your milk..." Honestly, it's exhausting just watching her. What is even weirder, is that my friend`s grandmother was EXACTLY like this and my friend HATED it. Growing up her grandmother tried to pile extra food she did not want on her plate. Her grandmother would always ask about 8 times if you wanted any more. It was annoying as hell. Now, my friend seems to do the same with her daughter. She's even told me her husband HATES feeding their daughter and will go to great lengths to avoid being the one to feed her a meal. My friend has never asked my advice, but if she did, I would tell her to RELAX!!!!, her kid is not going to starve to death if she has only 3 bites of toast and a strawberry for breakfast (an unacceptable amount for breakfast in my friend`s eyes). I would tell her to provide healthy snacks. Maybe A. is a grazer? A. does tend to eat slowly, so maybe a whole plate of food is just too overwhelming. I would like to tell her to trust her daughter more. If A. says she's done, take the food away. No one wants an annoying mother hounding them about eating. Eating should be pleasant, not torturous...for everyone involved.

As for us, Kaia's actually a pretty good eater generally, but she sometimes has days at a time when she doesn't eat as well and what I make ends up on the floor. I try to trust her judgement. If she doesn`t want much dinner, then we offer a bed time snack. I don't want to her to go to bed hungry (as she will wake up in the middle of the night if she is hungry), but I don't want to turn dinner into a struggle. She does have to sit with us while we eat though, even if she`s not that interested because dinner is family time.

My advice would be to relax about it. Keep offering, but treat it like a game. Sometimes if I want Kaia to try something, I will let her feed me a piece...and then she will often let me feed her a piece. Then we laugh and do it over again. It takes forever, but it is fun.

Trust B. He will eat. He will grow. He will be fine. ;-) said... [Reply to comment]

I second the comment about not making it a power struggle. Have you read the book French Kids Eat Everything? I thought it was incredibly interesting and had some really applicable ideas about kids and their relationship with food - we are working on incorporating some of them into our lives. It's worth a read :)

Flmgodog said... [Reply to comment]

Throwing in my two cents. Of my twins one got the molars first. He has always been my better eater, loves veggies and protein. He almost totally stopped eating when he got his molars. Now the other twin is getting his molars. You want to talk about food refusal, holy crap. This kid...not eating...sometimes, maybe he will eat fruit but otherwise not having it. We do give him whole milk and he does on occasion eat if we give him utensils. He might take two bites and then throws everything or does the hand/arm sweep of the whole tray/table/plate. I am convinced it is the teeth on my boys but I wonder how long this will go on. It's been almost a month as it is.
I have almost no advice. I am sure you have tried everything you could think of. The only tidbit I have that has semi-worked is to put things in the freezer and make them really cold. That has helped but only a little. Zeke loves the grapes frozen and then I cut them up or the yogurt frozen in little dollops, etc.

Amelia said... [Reply to comment]

G has been a horrible eater since birth, due in part to silent GERD and dairy intolerance. And the other part maybe she's nutso about food? I really wish I could help you, but I'm busy trying to read my daughter's mind/get her to eat some goddamn food. And also I haven't figured out how to make that work. So I'll just leave love and strength and my deepest sympathies.

Amelia said... [Reply to comment]

I totally do the let the tv distract my kid whilst I shove food in her mouth just for the sake of calories thing. I might go to mommy jail for that one.

Smack Talkin' Mama said... [Reply to comment]

I was reading here as much to glean ideas as anything! I remember the day I read in one of your posts that you were basically no longer worried about Benjamin eating because he had finally become such a good eater - it was one of the first times I'd read your blog. I was SO jealous! But I was encouraged when I realized you guys had struggled with getting weight on him, because I was having that same issue with my daughter. She was hovering around the 1-5% percentile for weight, and was as likely to lose weight in a given month as gain. My doctors were getting twitchy. I had had an abscessed mastitis which cut down on supply, and I had somehow managed to fail to realize my milk was no longer filling in the blanks. She was right at a year, we had been doing BLW, and while she was never chunky, she had never lost weight. It was a perfect storm of milk supply issues, bird-like eating, and starting walking that just knocked her right off those damn charts. That Benjamin had come around gave me hope that we would get through it too.

First, I'll say I agree with your determination to have him sit with you and participate in the meal whether he eats or not. We do that too, and lately (though she's now almost two) we've had to be quick about moving her plate away to discourage food throwing, and shoving things in her mouth just so she can spit it enthusiastically out. Awesome.

I also second the idea of - at least from time to time, or if you know you're serving a meal that is less than his favorite - offering the smoothie first. It will give you a chance to just enjoy a meal for a change, and it will steal his thunder in terms of watching you guys watch him eat. Maybe not every meal, or when it's something he tends to enjoy, but just to take your edge off.

We totally supplement with smoothies. My husband is big into meal shakes, so we'll give her some of his with a bit of protein powder, a healthy fat blend, spinach, strawberries, bananas, peanut butter, milk, nut or rice milk, kefir, yogurt, whatever other fruit and veggies are laying around... It's pretty easy to mask some things in there she might not normally go for but we wish she would.

We were sent to a nutritionist, and her number one recommendation for extra fat and calories was Stonyfield YoBaby drinkable yogurt. I've only found it at Super Target (bonus!) in peach and banana. She won't do the banana, but she goes for the peach. For the quantity, it has a fabulous amount of fat in it. I was disappointed in her lack of ideas - we were already doing all the usual stuff. She was a big fan of avocados. One thing I thought your B might go for - since you guys are adventurous eaters - is something that my E will go for about 80% of the time: Full fat plain Greek yogurt mixed with mild salsa and smashed up avocado. Sometimes I throw in some ranch dressing for good measure. We offer her ranch with nearly everything because she loves to dip and hey, FAT. Much happier with chicken or french fries than ketchup when calories are what matter. She does finally eat plain avocado, too, but she still prefers it mixed with the salsa.

I've found that overall, she prefers savory to sweet, which still amazes me. Who knows, maybe B is the same way?

Anyway, I know the frustration of not having just a picky eater, but a baby who, despite everyone telling you they won't starve, just does. not. eat. It's hard to let go of that concern once you've battled for every ounce gained! E is still on the tiny bony side, so even though she's still gaining (yay!) I still feel like we're only one weird week away from her losing weight again. Because of this, if it's been a weird day, I am also guilty of shoveling in the calories when she's distracted with a favorite show.

Hope this post paid off with some good advice for you, and I LOVE the pb&j lollipops with the pretzel sticks! So going to try that with her.