Two days ago, I sat in a bus station feeding my 20 month old son raisins.
“OOH, LOOK AT HIS LOVELY FACE!” remarked an older lady who was waiting for the bus with her husband. They both smiled indulgently.
“Is he a good eater?” she enquired.
I felt bad having to answer in the negative. No, he is not a good eater. Those raisins, scoffed in the pushchair as a makeshift lunch, were the first thing I had successfully managed to get him to eat all day, and he only deigned to eat those after refusing a banana and throwing the soggy pieces back at me.
He has, in fact, never been a good eater. He barely ate anything at all for the first few months of weaning, and while other babies-allegedly-opened their mouths like baby birds for spoonfuls of orange mush, and attacked pieces of whole broccoli and chicken legs with their chubby baby fingers, his mouth remained firmly and resolutely closed.
Sweet potato, carrot, avocado, toast fingers; all the things babies were supposed to love, turned away in disdain, flung around the room, consigned to the dustbin. All those books, and all their advice. Three meals a day plus snacks by nine months, down to one milk feed a day by one, THAT’S what all the other babies are doing. They don’t need breastmilk all night. They need food! Food, glorious food, to be eaten with relish and smeared all over their adorable little baby faces.
THREE MEALS A DAY? PLUS SNACKS? Is this some kind of joke? And excuse me, but ONE BREASTFEED? Piglet would be living on nothing but breastmilk until the age of thirty-two if he had his way.
“Give him a spoon to play with,” they said. “Try baby led weaning.” “No, baby led weaning doesn’t work. Blend everything. Babies need to eat mush!” “He wants control. Let him hold the spoon.” “No don’t let him hold the spoon. He needs to be fed.” “Put the television on-it’s good to distract them.” “Don’t put the television on. He’ll turn into an obese, screen-addled hyperactive monster by the time he’s two. And by the time he’s three it will be too late. HIS BRAIN WILL BE SET FOR LIFE AND HE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO CONCENTRATE AT SCHOOL, GET ANY GCSES OR BE OF ANY USE TO SOCIETY IF HE DOESN’T EAT THE RIGHT FOOD RIGHT NOW NO, NO, NO!”
Oh, OK then. Well, in that case we’re doomed, because over a year later, he’s still not eating three square meals and two nutritious snacks a day like all the books say he’s supposed to. What’s he’s eating is this:
- Three shreddies (yes I have been meticulously counting them)
- One and a half grapes
- One very small piece of crusty bread
- Half an Easter egg (shared with Mummy. You didn’t think I’d give him a whole half an Easter egg did you? WHAT SORT OF MOTHER DO YOU THINK I AM? One who steals her child’s Easter egg, that’s what. I mean, he’ll never notice. He doesn’t even know what Easter is. And I’m not sure I should tell him just yet, I mean, it’s a bit of a gory story, even if it is all right in the end).
Day after day I perused the weaning books, looking for a solution to “what to do when you child won’t eat,” but there was none. Apparently I had a problem that no one else had. There was what to do when they won’t eat vegetables, what to do when they won’t eat fruit, even what to do when they won’t drink milk (one thing that has never been a problem for Piglet, who still breastfeeds like a newborn), but nothing for what to do when your child just won’t eat.
“You were never like this!” my mother cries, proffering a plastic spoon full of rice and jabbing it at Piglet’s mouth, “come on, eat this!” before admitting that the only thing I ate was carrot and tomato baby food (“not JARS love, I didn’t give you a jar. It was in a PACKET.”)
Yesterday, after observing Piglet having a meltdown in our local cafe over a chocolate cereal bar (very nutritious I’m sure) and then taking one bite and throwing the rest on the floor in disdain, a woman came up to me and commended me on how calm I had been in the face of the full on Toddler Temper Tantrum From Hell, and then said something that made my day.
“Don’t worry dear,” she said, “my son was EXACTLY THE SAME.”
I live in hope.