Why my son’s eating habits drive me insane

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.

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My Contribution to the Obesity Epidemic?

I have a confession to make.

A deep, dark confession.

Today I gave my son a piece of Rocky Road.

It was just a tiny piece.  OK, two tiny pieces.  No, three.  But they were no more than bite-sized.  He had three bites of Rocky Road.  He is eighteen months old.  Am I a bad mother?

I thought he wouldn’t like them.  I thought he would taste it, savour it for a moment and then spit it out with a look of disgust.  That’s what he does with most new foods, after all.  Instead, he tasted it, savoured it, murmured a sound of overwhelming approval, and asked for more.  Yes, he asked for more.  Like a pre-verbal Oliver Twist communicating solely through hand gestures.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  I started off with such good intentions.  I had all the weaning books, I made all the recipes.  I dutifully perused the fruit and vegetable aisle looking for new and interesting tastes for him; a selection of seasonal red berries, a mango here, a passionfruit there (a word of advice: Don’t bother giving an eight month old passionfruit.  They rarely appreciate it, and the mess is biblical).  Sometimes he would try them out, squeezing strawberries so hard that he shook, the juice oozing out of his little fists.  Other times he would turn his head away and purse his lips, indicating that no Mummy, there would be no green beans today, or ever, thank you very much.

The thing that never wavered was my resolve.  I had all the data.  Fruit drinks caused tooth decay, chocolate was for adults, a solitary slurp of ice cream was the start of a slippery slope that would inevitably end up with my darling child being lifted out of his bedroom with a crane and transported to hospital in one of those extra-large ambulances in the kind of scenario you see in Jeremy Kyle-fronted Channel 5 documentaries with tabloid names like “Bodyshock: Britain’s Fattest Man.”

Then Piglet turned one.  A bit of Sainsbury’s finest birthday cake was sourced, and the rest, as they say, is history.  It wasn’t even a homemade cake.  

A Sunday treat here and there, a little bit of ice cream and maybe the apple bits from an apple pie…

A bite of a cookie every now and then, as and when he requests it…..

And now Rocky Road.  A veritable feast of marshmallow, biscuit and chocolate all wrapped up in a tantalising but lethal package.

I knew that sooner or later this day would be upon us.  He is onto me.  He knows I eat cake, and cookies, and chocolate, and he knows that they are good.  He knows what a cup of tea is, and has added it to his expanding repertoire of known vocabulary.  He even dipped his finger in the dregs of a cup of lukewarm tea the other day, swirled it around, and tried a bit.  How long now before he is putting in his drinks order, and it’s a large latte?  And while I’m at it, I should probably hide that bottle of wine in a locked cupboard somewhere very, very high up.  I am now faced with a stark choice.  I either accept that my control over his diet is loosening, and give in to packets of Wotsits eaten inside the shopping trolley before reaching the till, or I can give up all unhealthy food for the rest of my life, and hope he follows my saintly example.

Which will it be?


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CBeebies Takes Over My Brain

I write this in a state of frenzied insomnia brought about by the theme tune to My Pet and Me whirling around incessantly in my head.

It’s quite a catchy tune, that.

So is The Time Has Come to Say Goodnight. And Goodbye Sun, Hello Moon.  And come to think of it Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures has a certain ring to it too, and Octonauts, and Charlie and Lola, Topsy and Tim and my personal favourite In The Night Garden, which has not one but a multitude of bangin’ choons*, AND dances!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have been watching a LOT of CBeebies.

It all started innocently enough.  I convinced myself that In The Night Garden was the elusive secret to getting a baby to sleep, the Holy Grail of Naptime, if you will, based on little more than hearsay that this was A Thing that all parents swore by and a Code of Parenthood that I had to follow. By the time he was three months, Piglet was having his bouncy chair turned to face Iggle Piggle and his motley band of differently-sized friends each evening, despite the fact that he never went to sleep before 8pm at the earliest, and was frequently still fighting it at 10pm or later.

In the night garden
It worked! Clearly this had everything to do with Iggle Piggle and nothing to do with the 20 minutes I spent rocking him.

Then later, when I went back to work, it became part of the evening routine of keeping him entertained while I made dinner, and by the time he was ten months old he knew the group dance and was performing it dutifully whilst clinging to the TV stand for support, face just inches from the television screen.

Enough of this nonsense Mummy.  Can I watch that Sex and the City box set now?

Fast forward another eight months and he now rises from his slumbers in the morning, reaches for the nearest toy and points at the television, shouting and gesturing loudly until the nearest adult-usually Granny these days-switches it on.


I tried, I really did.  I made a promise to myself that Piglet and I would be that civilised family, the two of us sat round an enormous oak table in a palatial dining room in my Imaginary Future House with two floors and an upstairs bathroom and everything, dinner set out in front of us on matching crockery, passing the salad bowl (we would be using proper tongs, no tossing the salad about with a mere fork here) to each other whilst discussing Piglet’s day at school, his thoughts on the refugee crisis** and what we thought of the Budget.  There would be no screens, not even the Six ‘O Clock News.  It would be intellectual conversation and impeccable table manners all the way.

That promise lasted approximately two weeks into our weaning “journey.”

And my what a journey it was.  Still is.  Today for example, I had to duck whilst being assailed with flying cups of water, lasagne (Plan A dinner, took an hour and a half to make, and 30 seconds for Piglet to reject, and banana (that was the Plan B dinner), before wearily handing over the second chocolate chip brioche of the day.  And that was WITH the distraction of the Night Garden.

Looks like the impeccable table manners are going to take a bit of time to develop, and in the meantime, distraction is key.  I have written about this before, but what I failed to mention was that it isn’t just mealtimes.  CBeebies has now infiltrated every aspect of life.

Need to change a nappy?  Try the In The Night Garden app.  Dinner taking a long time to cook?  Don’t worry!  The Clangers is on.  Getting a bit bored with his toys?  Mr Tumble will give him a new lease of life.  The television has literally become the ultimate babysitter.

Next week: Piglet demands an iPad.

*deliberate misspelling.  The 90s are back.  Didn’t you know?  I’m even wearing berry lipstick again.

**Hopefully it will have ended by then, but regrettably, there’s bound to be another one.

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TV Dinners: Weaning with the Pontipines

Not quite what I envisioned when I set out my Ultimate Weaning Strategy.

I thought I had it all figured out.  I had all the books, the recipes, all the baby led weaning tips.  And almost a year on from Piglet’s “first tastes” (which were obviously the components of a full meal with all food groups, lovingly cut into baby-hand sized pieces for easy gripping, no spoons allowed) I have allowed myself to break the Golden Rule of Absolutely No Television At Mealtimes.

And to think that some parents don’t allow their children to watch TV at all!  All I can say to them (hats off to you) is LORD, HOW DO YOU COPE?

Now, as regular readers may be aware, I am not one for enforcing rigid routines, much to the chagrin of my mother and occasionally other family members.  However, one thing that I did insist upon as a “family rule,” starting from when Piglet had his first taste of solid food at six months (and it was six months, TO THE DAY.  There was no way I was straying from NHS guidelines.  I was going to be in that exclusive breastfeeding one per cent if it killed me), was that there would be no television watching during mealtimes.  Oh no, we were to be one of those perfect families (albeit one with only two members, one of whom was sitting in a Bumbo seat at the time) who had civilised conversations at the dinner table, savoured their food and had table manners worthy of a trip to Buckingham Palace for a state banquet.

Oh reader, how naive I was.

Our weaning journey was not a smooth one.  We very quickly went from this

The first "taste" of solid food. What is this stuff Mummy, and why am I in this seat?
The first “taste” of solid food. What is this green stuff Mummy, and why am I in this seat?

to this

You said “weaning” was about eating, Mummy.

and then to this

Why bother with food when you can just eat the tray?
It wasn’t me.

Needless to say, mealtimes became fraught experiences which involved food throwing, Bumbo seat-wrecking, getting up and running away, refusing to eat and all manner of other unspeakables that would probably not be welcome at Buckingham Palace.  Or even in Wagamama, where Piglet once almost took out a passing waitress with a carefully aimed piece of tofu.

I started to feel marginally less judgemental of the family I had seen in Costa Coffee plonking a tablet of recurring episodes of Peppa Pig in front of their baby while she ate, and which had made me, in my innocence, almost pick up my feather and ink to write to the Daily Mail in disgust.

And so, since I moved in with my mother (TEMPORARILY, I remind you.  Piglet and I still intend to move out.  ONE DAY) things have become more Royle Family as opposed to Royal Family.  Every evening, without fail, Piglet is placed into his highchair and turned AWAY FROM THE TABLE, the hallowed table of family meals which I had been so keen to promote, and fed a steady diet of fish fingers and baked beans, whilst my mother and I feast on curry, risotto, or whatever other family meal the baby books say he should be joining in with, and that I had been keen to enforce, until I discovered that enforcing anything with Piglet was likely to lead to tears, stamping of feet and the point-blank refusal to eat anything other than blueberries for a week.

The highchair is then strategically placed right in front of some combination of Waybaloo, Abney and Teal, The Clangers, Old Jack’s Boat, Katie Morag (and I appreciate that this is somewhat off-topic but WHY DOES SHE WEAR THE SAME CLOTHES EVERY DAY?  Are there no clothes shops on that island?  Are they in fact making their own clothes up there like it was 1750?) and In The Night Garden.

That’s the same Night Garden where they drink nothing but pinky-ponk juice and eat what appears to be a diet consisting purely of jelly and hundreds and thousands.  Like, cheers Pontipines, I’m going to tell Piglet that your 100% sugar diet stunted your growth and made you a hundred times smaller than everyone else, lest he thinks that it’s normal to go around eating whipped cream sundaes every day.  Although, I have to hand it to you Mr and Mrs Pontipine, you have your children extremely well trained, getting them to carry that dinner table across some serious terrain for your many family picnics.

I salute you, O Pontipines, with your family meals, for you have succeeded where I have failed.


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The Middle Way

And so another trip to the Baby Weighing Clinic draws to a close.

A trip in which I received a literal pat on the back from the health visitor for maintaining Piglet’s centile, no less.

And then a metaphorical slap on the wrist for admitting that I sometimes (OK, maybe every day) feed him Organix baby fruit purees as desserts.

I can only imagine what the reaction would have been if I had said I gave him a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. WHICH I DON’T, BY THE WAY.  What sort of mother do you think I am?

First it was “don’t you make them yourself?” as though buying a ready made puree was the comestible equivalent of popping a fag in the baby’s mouth “just so he could join in with the grown ups.”  Oh sorry, I forgot, we are all supposed to be Surrendered Mothers now.  I am supposed to be carrying Piglet on my back in an organic woven sling while I go out to tend the fields, whilst simultaneously teaching him how to count to ten in Mandarin and contorting myself into a yoga pose, before returning home for a nutritious meal of self-grown quinoa and organic goji berries.

Then it was “he shouldn’t be eating purees now.  It’s time he fed himself.”  This despite the fact that I had already pointed out that he ate the same food as me for his main course.  Like, real actual food.  Yesterday we had CURRY for Christ’s sake.  And he feeds himself said curry, WITH HIS FINGERS. In fact, he wouldn’t even accept a spoon until last month, and the only reason he’s having any purees at all if because I’m so excited that he suddenly appears not only to like them, but to open his little mouth like a baby bird in the way that every other baby I have ever heard of has been doing since the age of six months.  FINALLY.

The Buddha once said that the best way was the Middle Way, which would presumably mean that the best way of going about things is somewhere between Surrendered Mother and My Mother, who advocates jars of baby food at every opportunity, because “it never did you any harm,” and because it’s the best way to preserve the carpets.  The again, the Buddha also abandoned his own wife and baby so that he could go and sit under a tree in the lotus position for seven years, so he’s no Penelope Leach himself.  One simply cannot win.

Anyway, I came home and pureed an entire punnet of apricots.  At least I made them myself.

Baby Brain Memoirs

Piglet Commences Destruction of Entire House

Piglet had his second settling in session with the childminder today.  This went well, right up until the point where we were on the way home and Piglet, who has never been one for eating and drinking anything other than breast milk, decided that he was now hungry.  Hungry enough to start licking the zip of my leather jacket whilst he sat in the sling.  I fervently prayed that there would be a train due when we got to the station.  Luckily there was.

It was due in 46 minutes, to be precise.

Now apparently, it is possible to breastfeed in my sling, at least according to the instructions.  Once, whilst carrying Piglet in it, I came across a heavily pregnant woman in the sling section at John Lewis.  She was thinking about which sling to buy, and wanted one she could use for feeding, as clearly we all do with the best intentions and plans that for most of us start to go awry right around the time of the first contraction when it starts to become clear that there is not going to be any whalesong involved in the whole birth thing, nor is it likely to take place in a bathtub strewn with rose petals and surrounded by fragrant Jo Malone candles while you practise your deep meditation techniques and allow yourself to open like a lotus flower to expel the baby gracefully and gently from the depths of your womanhood.   Like the wizened old sage that I am, I said that in theory yes you could breastfeed in this sling, but I personally had not quite managed it.

This is because it is IMPOSSIBLE.  Without even going into the nightmare that is breastfeeding in the early weeks, when you can’t even wear a bra because your nipples are too sore and you end up walking around Tesco with big wet patches on your dress from the leaking milk, and where the baby regularly remains attached to the breast for up to an hour and a half (each side), leaving you with basically no time to do anything else; even now, as a relatively advanced breastfeeder, breastfeeding in a sling involves skills I simply do not have.

The trouble was, I was now at a station, waiting 46 minutes for a train and with a baby who was so hungry he was licking my jacket.  Remarkably, I managed to hoist up my top and discreetly proffer a nipple from within the sling without too much difficulty.  And would Piglet take said nipple?  No he would not.  He did not even appear to be able to see it.  After all, why would he be eating in an upright position, whilst being carried around, when on every other occasion he is reclining and being cradled in Mummy’s arms?  This then led to twenty minutes of standing around trying to wave a nipple in Piglet’s face while he, able to smell the milk, got excited and rooted around, completely unable to find the breast, before I gave up, took him out of the sling and sat on the seat and fed him normally, which is what I would have done from the outset had I not been worried about the location of the station being near to my school, and the possibility of truanting teenagers popping up and filming the whole thing and posting it on Youtube.

Anyway, things are now OK again, as I have just produced this.  Yes folks, this is what it actually looks like when not in the breast.  Like milk, to be precise.

O the wonders of new-fangled breast pumps.  I feel like a dairy cow.  I’m sure they have a similar sense of achievement when they see the vats of milk going off to Tesco and Asda.   Finally the mystery of how Piglet keeps getting bigger and bigger is solved.  It certainly isn’t through solids, as most of them end up on the floor.  Piglet takes great delight in pulling the tray off the Bumbo seat and waving it around in a way that makes me wonder if he is going to grow up to be some sort of delinquent n’er do well.

Speaking of which, on Tuesday I was reminded during a particularly uncomfortable ride on the number 83 bus of a scene I once witnessed on a National Express coach, where a woman was trying to get her toddler to sit down on the seat, and said toddler refused and continued to stand up on the chair, even when the coach started moving.  I remember thinking that if it was my toddler I would have marched stridently off the coach, with the little urchin in my arms, saying they could kick and scream all they wanted but they would not be spending a two and a half hour coach journey refusing to sit nicely in their seat and we were not going anywhere until they did as they were told thank you very much.

That was until Piglet decided to re-enact this entire scene on a packed bus during rush hour.  I basically had to hold him aloft like the baby Simba in the Lion King for the entire gridlocked journey so that he had a panoramic view out of the window, lord and master of all he surveyed on Wembley High Road.

He is now exploring the living room and looming dangerously close to the DVD player, which he is examining thoroughly as though he is about to start taking it apart and destroying it slowly, piece by piece.

Oh, he has now moved on to trying to smash up the television with one of my bangles.  Time for an intervention, methinks.

Right, I’ve given him a ball.  That should keep him happy for a couple of seconds until it rolls away.  Already there is a lamp in the living room which no longer works after Piglet decided to pull on the wires attached to it for a few seconds before I rushed over, shouting “don’t touch anything ELECTRICAL!  NOT THE PLUG SOCKETS!”

And he isn’t even crawling yet.

Piglet’s Top Ten Thoughts

Sat here with Piglet lying next to me on the bed while I type, as it is the only way I can stop him from yelling at me.  He is, as ever, showing absolutely zero signs of being ready to go to bed.

sleepless nights
“You can bang on about this “beddy-byes” all you like Mother. I AM NOT GOING.”

OK now he is trying to kick the laptop off me.

 Sometimes I wonder what is going through that little head.  Probably what an awful mother I am with my laptop and my sometimes needing to leave him in his pram for a few minutes while I go to the loo, and when the parents were being given out, why didn’t he get Brad and Angelina who would surely at least have a nanny to keep him occupied when they’re off making films and giving speeches to the UN.
In fact, here is a list of what I think probably are Piglet’s Top Ten Thoughts.
1.) BOOB.
3.) Why sleep when you can large it up drinking milk all night?
4.) What is that glowing rectangle thing Mummy is always playing with and talking at?  I WANT IT.
6.) Why am I in this chair again?
7.) Look at my amazing kicking legs!
9.) Where is Mummy?  Want Mummy!  IF I SHOUT REALLY LOUDLY SHE’LL COME BACK.
10.) What is this?
It is number ten that has become most prevalent of late, as we have just started solid food.  Well, Piglet has just started solid food.  Mummy’s intake of solid food consists mainly of Nutella.
Well, I say started solid food.  I’m not entirely sure any of it has actually got past his lips.  Most of it ends up either on the floor or smeared all over his face.  It has caused no end of consternation with my mother.
“WHAT?  You fed him chilli?!”
“If you had started earlier and fed him purees…”

Why does one always need to justify one’s mothering choices even when following the guidance of the World Health Organisation to the letter?

Earlier on today I decided that it was finally time to use the baby hand and foot moulding set that one of my friends had given me as a gift, before Piglet’s hands and feet get too big to fit in the frame.

As you can tell, this is in no way a disaster waiting to happen.

I had decided to wait until Piglet was old enough to find this fun and, after watching him sort of enjoy the experience of throwing spaghetti about at lunchtime it occurred to me that he might be ready to stick his hands and feet in a plaster mould.

Big mistake.  After the obligatory two minute wait for the mould to set was spent with Piglet wriggling around and attempting to dance on it, all that appeared in the frame was a big blob with no discernible shape, and the entire flat, including both Piglet and I, were covered in blue gel which then had to be hosed off in the shower and wiped down.  Note to self: do not attempt any form of messy play or anything that requires a baby to be still for even a nanosecond.

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A Cornish Mum