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A Little Man Redefines Picky Eating

This is a guest post from my friend Myra at Moon and Back Studios. Myra is a talented designer and the mom of a very picky eater (see photo).

lmeating.jpg I’ve been cursed. Not in the pin in the voodoo doll sort of way. I’m talking about the kinds of curses parents put on their kids. You see, I was once a picky eater. I remember pushing my mom to the limits at meal time. And I vividly recall worrying about going to a friend’s house for dinner for fear they would serve something with fresh tomatoes (yuck), avocadoes (double yuck) or liver (the very worst yuck of all). Of course, there were many other foods that made The List, but even I couldn’t hold a candle to the Little Man (LM). And I had no idea what was in store for me.

But first my disclaimer: I write this in the spirit of McKenna’s recent article. I truly am not competitive about LM’s picky eating. I’m not proud of it. In fact, it might be one of the most frustrating experiences of my life, and certainly one of the hardest parts of parenting.

Now here’s the part that might sound unbelievable but I promise it’s true. I am convinced that the picky problem started with LM at birth. It seemed as though I had the only child in the world who wouldn’t latch on. I went to the breastfeeding classes (alone) and knew all about its merits. So naturally, when LM refused breastfeeding, like any first time mother, I worried he might have severe nutritional deficits. Maybe even graduate at the bottom of his class. Or worse. So I pumped. Then, at just two weeks LM wound up in the hospital for a two week stay. But that’s a whole other story.

During the time in the hospital, I still diligently pumped. But LM hated breast milk, even with me on a bland diet. So we tried formula. Then colic ensued. So our pediatrician suggested Nutramagin. Worse colic. So the doctor prescribed another brand that was something like $30 for a 3 day supply. You’d think at that price the brand would be burned in my brain. It made the colic only slightly better.

We were referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist who told us if he had a nickel for every baby he saw with colic, he’d be a rich man. He patted us on the back, suggested we get some sleep (no – really?), and sent us home. Thanks for that. And my PPO thanks you too.

Fast forward to the LM at 2. At this age, he was too old for the four kinds of baby food he was willing to eat, so we tried to introduce “real” food. While trying to convince him that Cheerios are super fun “kid food”, he would gag violently when a single one was placed in his mouth. Finally, he was willing to eat PBJ sandwiches, but only when cut into bite-sized pieces that could be stabbed with a baby fork. Eventually, with some persuading from his aunt, he tried Goldfish crackers. Ahh, making progress. Then he added applesauce and yogurt. And of course, anything from the dessert food group was fair game. But there it stopped. For THREE years.

When I asked my pediatrician for advice, she lectured me about not giving in. She implied that I was being controlled by my child. But my husband and I are pretty strict parents. We haven’t raised a little dictator who rules our home.

The pediatrician suggested that we put food in front of the LM and when he got hungry enough, he’d eat. “Don’t be a short order cook,” she warned. So we tried. And in the spirit of the game, the LM raised the ante to an all out, 2 ½ day hunger strike. He was miserable, but not as miserable as we were. I felt like the worst mom on the planet. So on the third day, I made the PBJ and handed him the baby fork.

Now LM is five years old. Every single bite of every meal must be negotiated. We make deals about “healthy food” so he can have “snack food.” Until just recently, going to a restaurant required packing a meal that fit nicely in my purse. And really, that was quite easy. PBJ, Goldfish crackers and applesauce don’t take much room in a nice sized bucket bag. Restaurant dining with family also included (and still does) knowing stares from relatives who think we’re pushovers and should do a better job standing our ground. But what’s the point of shoving food into the LM’s mouth while he gags to the point of throwing up? Believe me, there were moments of desperation where I tried that. It didn’t work.

We had a mini breakthrough on the way to my birthday dinner in January. LM announced from the backseat, “you know, I might try something healthy tonight.” Just like that. We ordered grilled chicken and green beans, and he actually ate some. That was his first taste of meat since the ground up mystery meat in the baby food.

Since the breakthrough on my birthday, we’ve added chicken nugget Happy Meals to the menu selection. He tried the hamburger version first, and promptly informed me that “the brown stuff in the middle is gross mom.” But I don’t eat it either, so I can live with that.
When we’re invited to a birthday party, I try not to stare wistfully at the kids hungrily shoving pizza in their mouths. We wouldn’t have any of that. Instead, LM waits patiently while they eat, content with the knowledge that cake is on the way.

So, back to McKenna’s post and the spirit this is written. Please outdo me! I want to be one-upped. I want to know there are moms out there with experiences like mine – maybe even worse. And maybe someone will have some brilliant advice. All I want is to be an underachiever.

For the record, I could very easily lapse into ordering at a restaurant in a very When Harry Met Sally kind of way. But I do my best to refrain from requests for “on the side” because I don’t want to be one of them. But I still will not touch a raw tomato.

13 Responses to A Little Man Redefines Picky Eating

  • Comment by McKenna
    April 13, 2008 @ 11:42 pm

    Big huge hugs!! Here’s my one-up..I have TWO horrible eaters! (I’m not really one-upping…I’m totally teasing!) One of them took feeding tubes and us taking her to another city for a specialized 6 week long inpatient feeding rehabilitation facility. She is the reason I am in school to be a speech pathologist…I want to get kids who don’t eat to EAT! I have learned through her food aversion that you can’t expect a child to put in their mouths what they won’t touch with their hands. Darah graduated from being in the same room as food to smelling it, to touching it with her hands, to letting it touch her arm all the way up to her lips and then licking the food and then progressively worked on actually eating it. We made all the food the same texture and varied the foods. It was very intense, but I learned so much about children’s feeding. So, when my second child was born with horrible eating problems, you would think I’d know what to do, right? WRONG!

    Connor was born with horrible colic, our nursing time was interrupted by RSV. He never touched pureed baby food and went straight to eating pieces of food. Even though I was (and am) so frustrated with how picky he is, I have always tried to downplay it because he doesn’t have the serious problems my daughter had. His diet now is limited to: goldfish, yogurt, applesauce, bread, french fries, sometimes oatmeal, and crackers. He isn’t losing weight, so we are just hoping the phase passes sometime soon. He sometimes spits up, so we started him on an anti-reflux medication. The spitting up seems to have gotten better, but so far I haven’t seen improvement with his eating. Because both of my children have feeding issues, I have wondered what I am doing wrong as a mother…

    Mothers are physiologically designed to feed our children, so when we can’t do that, it’s so so frustrating!! I’m anxious to see everyone’s responses to this post!!!

  • Comment by McKenna
    April 13, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

    PS: I am not and never was a picky eater and neither was my husband…the only thing I don’t like is onions (I HATE THEM!!) and spaghetti (I have never figured this out because I love noodles and love love love tomatoes)

  • Comment by Sharon M
    April 14, 2008 @ 7:28 am

    I know this is probably too late because you son is much older, but I’m wondering if your son was ever tested for reflux. I know a few moms that had a terrible time getting their kids to drink ANY kind of milk (breast, formula), but as soon as they started the medication, the problem ceased. I’m just curious.
    And I don’t know this person, but a friend of a friend had a son who would only drink Pediasure; he was 5 years old at the time. And it wasn’t a medical problem; it was the only thing his mom could get him to ingest.

  • Comment by Dawn
    April 14, 2008 @ 8:08 am

    Wow, Myra, you should get an award, really. Thanks for sharing your pain.

    I am an “on the side” orderer sometimes, and it always brings Sally to mind, but I don’t care. :)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Heidi
    April 14, 2008 @ 9:34 am

    Wow! My son’s “anti-veggies” battles seem so minute to what you have and currently are experiencing. Makes me appreciate our meal times quite a bit more. I wish I had advice to send your way, but unfortunately I don’t. I hope things will magically turnaround for the both of you Myra.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by amelia
    April 14, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

    That must be so hard! My heart goes out to you.

    I have read that some children have food and texture aversions severe enough to have some physical therapy for it. Maybe that is worth checking into?

    I can only imagine how much more of a stress factor gets added into motherhood when you have such a picky eater. Hugs your way and I hope you hear the words “I think I’ll try something new” soon!

  • Gravatar
    Pingback by are you a MOPE? «
    April 14, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

    [...] my friends at the mom crowd posted it. you can read it here. [...]

  • Gravatar
    Comment by myra
    April 15, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

    wow mckenna. i had know idea that you had such an extensive background in food aversions. the LM has had issues with textures and touching food, so some of the tips you shared were excellent. we also had LM in speech therapy, and my intuition told me the two issues were connected. sounds like i was right!

  • Comment by McKenna
    April 15, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

    Is he sensitive to anything else? Like loud noises, or tags on his clothes or swinging or sliding or any visual sensitivities? I ask because a lot of kids with food aversions also have other sensitivities. Occupational therapists usually are the ones to really address sensory and texture issues and have a whole bag full of tricks! I’ve picked up a few along the way. One is to explore a variety of non-food textures in his mouth…like vibrating toothbrushes and washcloths and slippery items (you have to think outside the box) and then trying to get to a place where he’s not so sensitive to the texture. I know he’s older than Darah, but that may make it more fun! Speech and feeding are very related! I would get so frustrated when people would tell me to just let Darah get hungry enough and she’d eat because that just isn’t true for all kids. I haven’t really held out on Connor though, so maybe that would work with him…but I’m a little over the feeding battle, so I am just caving in and giving him his goldfish and yogurt…and probably making it all worse. LOL!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Jenell
    April 18, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

    Surprise! Yes, it’s your cousin in ohio. My oldest daughter was a mess. Wouldn’t nurse as a newborn. Took me 3 months to convince her that breast milk was good or at least the nipple! I pumped much – she took a bottle fine. I got a little nipple cap I used and got her started on that and eventually she took to nursing and used a bottle. Was very convenient. When baby food came along we were back at square one. She wouldn’t open her mouth to eat. At 3 I finally had it and did the same thing you did – no snacks till the food I cooked was eaten. Milk between meals but not at meals. Vitamins – she ate those. She ate her normal pbj sandwich at noon on a Friday and I cooked a supper Friday night. She didn’t eat again until Tues. morning. I got in her face and told her I loved her and she WILL eat to grow. She threw a tizzy fit, I paddled her bottom and she said “ok momma!” She ate it all without another comment and ate two bowls of her favorite cereal after that. She never went that long again although she did skip a meal or two here and there after that. I think in her case it was a battle of the wills. She’ll be 17 next week and about 2 years ago she thanked me for making her learn to eat. (no, she doesn’t recall the incident) She still is somewhat picky but never gags and will try food on her plate – at least in public or her friends home. She did great in Nicaragua last summer! There’s hope!

  • Gravatar April 19, 2008 @ 8:58 pm

    [...] and their topics. I found this blog very easy to relate to and especially enjoyed the posts about Amanda’s Picky Eater, the competitive parenting that exist between moms, and a simple straw sippy cup [...]

  • Gravatar October 19, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

    [...] when one day they love strawberries only to push them away the next day. My friend Myra wrote a phenomenal guest blog post here about her son’s picky eating habits. I think about that post often. Annabelle isn’t that picky, but I now understand better where [...]

  • Gravatar
    Comment by 25jill
    November 3, 2008 @ 10:45 am

    Thanks so much for your encouraging posts! I have been feeling like the most inadequate mom in the world because I am not the world’s greatest cook, and I thought my kids weren’t eating because of me. Whewwww! There’s hope for the future!

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