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.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
My Petit Canard
Pink Pear Bear
Cuddle Fairy

46 Comments Add yours

  1. Great post on a touchy subject. My daughter is pretty much on of those kids who will anything, (i’m sorry to say) however lots of my mates have this issue over weaning and still do! its such a challenge but sounds like your doing a fab job! thanks for sharing. hope it gets better for you x #KCACOLS ps: it works both ways,when my lg shouts MOREEEEEE” when shes already eaten more than me or the comments ” is that ALL for her?” x

    1. Min says:

      Haha, yes we get criticised whatever we do, don’t we? Yes, it seems that a lot of people have these issues. I just have to hope he grows out of it.

  2. Brilliant post – isn’t it funny how everybody is always full of advice?! My little one is finally getting a bit better, although she only eats 2 specific meals and I have to make sure it is laden with cheese. I forgot to put cheese in the rice dish yesterday and all hell broke loose…but for ages she was on an exclusively yoghurt and raspberries diet. Love reading your blog, always makes me smile! #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Thank you! I’m sure I have many more of these eating foibles to come. I’m a bit partial to cheese on everything myself.

  3. MMT says:

    Ha ha, yes sounds very familiar!! Raisins, keeping our kids alive! They’ll have no teeth, apparently, but you have to do what you have to do to keep them going! 😉

    1. Min says:

      Haha, yes they’ll all be toothless in a few years. I’d better not tell the dentist that’s what he’s been living on. That and, um, Easter eggs.

  4. It’s really, really tough when they won’t eat. You kind of feel like feeding them is part of your role and if they’ve eaten a good meal it’s really satisfying like food=love. So when they won’t eat it feels like a real rejection and failure (and both of mine have had really fussy periods. I remember lovingly making an entirely home-cooked, delicious, well-balanced meal all from Annabel Karmel, spending an hour making it, and them both throwing it on the floor and screaming. I think I sobbed in the kitchen for a bit).

    I would say, that almost all children do grow out of it though. Hang in there and just keep offering and keep swimming! #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll grow out of it eventually. It seems like most kids go through this stage at some point. I tend to just give him whatever I’m having rather than cooking him something different as at least that way I know most of it won’t go to waste! Thanks for commenting.

  5. If it’s any reassurance my little one was/is exactly the same. When he stopped breastfeeding (at 2 and a bit) he started to eat a bit more and now when he feels like it he can put away a good meal, but on other days you struggle to get anything in him and I seem to spend half my time chasing after him to shovel in bits of food, nervous that he hasn’t had enough. I’m sure they are all fine though!

    1. Min says:

      Well, he looks fine and appears to be growing so hopefully all OK and he’s getting the nutrition he needs. I did wonder whether he might be a bit better once I’ve stopped breastfeeding, so useful to know. I’m just not quite ready to give up yet!

  6. Fi says:

    Everyone’s so full of advice aren’t they! Sometimes that’s enough to drive you mad in itself! #bigpinklink

    1. Min says:

      It is-I live with my mum at the moment and she is full of advice, as you can imagine!

  7. Ellen says:

    I can imagine how frustrating it must be for you! I have got all of this to come and he is such a boob monster I can imagine him not being overly interested in food. As parents always say – this too shall pass! #bigpinklink

    1. Min says:

      It certainly will-and we’ll miss it when it’s gone I’m sure!

  8. Kaye says:

    Aw, it must be so difficult! My 2 year old has never been the best eater and he’s so flipping fussy, most days I’m lucky to get anything nutritious in him and that’s such a worry. I hold on to the fact that I was a terrible eater as a child, my poor parents, yet I turned out ok (I think haha). Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Kaye xo

    1. Min says:

      Sounds like they are pretty similar! I don’t think I was the best eater either-I can remember being a lot more fussy than I am now, and I’m OK too so I’m sure it’s fine!

  9. The Pramshed says:

    It will come, he won’t be breastfeeding for the rest of his life (that comment of yours made me laugh out loud – sorry). I know that all babies are different, I’m struggling to get food into mine after getting off to a good start, and setting a routine for eating. Please don’t worry what everyone else says and thinks, and what the books say. You’re doing a great job and he will eat. Claire x #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Please don’t apologise for laughing-that’s my main aim for almost all of my posts! I’m sure he will eat…eventually! I will just have to bide my time and hope for the best. Thanks for commenting.

  10. My daughter wouldn’t drink milk, so weaning was an absolute Godsend for us both, although she wouldn’t eat solids either at first! No wonder she is such a titch now. The little blighters… I found throwing away pouch-based food was so much less soul destroying than chucking out my own. What Ella’s kitchen didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them…
    Good luck with it all, you’ve got to worry about something/everything, haven’t you?!
    x Alice

    1. Min says:

      Yes, it seems there’s always something to worry about! Piglet hated Ella’s Kitchen, but loves Heinz (sometimes). They must all have their distinctive tastes. Thanks for commenting!

  11. amanda walsh says:

    I was always worried about what my little one ate and didn’t eat. Everyone elses child wolfed down food and I had a picker. I drove myself mad worrying and do you know what, he’s 8 now and eats everything in front of him!

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for commenting-that’s really good to hear! Sometimes I feel like Piglet will still be this fussy when he’s a teenager and I despair.

  12. Emma says:

    It is so frustrating when they don’t eat isn’t it. I have two very different children in that Oldest would not breastfeed but when it came to eating she took to it really well and then Youngest loved breastfeeding but is still a tricky one when it comes to her food. There never seems to be any logic to it. One day she loves something, the next day she hates it. Some days you think you have cracked it and then the next day they don’t want to eat again. Argh! It gets easier, doesn’t it. I have made a little bit of progress by taking her to the shop and getting her to choose what she would like to eat, whilst trying to steer her away from the chocolate aisle! #marvmondays

    1. Min says:

      Yes, Piglet has recently been able to express preferences, so at least that stops me from buying food he’s not going to eat when we go to cafes. Still no rhyme or reason to it though. He used to love bananas, then went off them for a while, and now seems to be back on them. Just got to roll with it I suppose!

  13. Awwww how exasperating! And yet you made it so cute and funny… ;P Fingers crossed he wakes up one day soon an amazing eater…. until then, you’re doing an awesome job managing the best you can!

    1. Min says:

      Thanks! Yes, hopefully he will grow out of it eventually.

  14. Not eating is one of the biggest challenges with parenting – ensuring our children are adequately nourished is one of the most important parts of our roles as parents and yet it is something we can have so little control over too. I hope your little one does start getting more interesting in food as he gets older – my eldest went through a really picky stage where it felt like just getting anything in her was an achievement and thankfully she eats fairly well now. Hope it will be the same for you.

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for your comment. It’s always good to hear when other people have older children who went through all the same issues. Hopefully things will turn out OK and eventually he will eat. This too shall pass!

  15. Food is such a battle sometimes. My daughter was a pretty good eater to start with, then started getting really fussy at around 18 months onwards. Now she’s just turned two, some days she eats quite well, other days she doesn’t, and most days food gets chucked on the floor. Funny how she’s never fussy about biscuits, though, or anything sweet for that matter! #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      My thoughts exactly. Wave a bit of chocolate around and Piglet will bite your hand off!

  16. I did smile at the end!! I thought the lady was going to have said something massively offensive, but phew!! My 2 both started out as those babies who relished all the new foods I gave them, and ate it all. But by around Piglets age, both ate pretty much the same as Piglet… I massively beat myself up about it, especially as the eldest got really really skinny, but the refusal was point blank, and I couldn’t force them! The youngest only eats Cheerios and waffles (would exist on chocolate and ice cream if allowed,) the eldest survives on weetos, scrambled egg, and anything made by Organix (would also survive on chocolate and ice cream if allowed.) I just keep hoping that if I keep teaching them about healthy eating, and keep offering fruit that gets thrown on the floor in disgust, they’ll eventually get it. It drives me mad too…
    Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink.

    1. Min says:

      I’m so glad I’m not alone! It seems like everyone has these battles, and hopefully we are not raising a generation of food refusers. Thank you for hosting and commenting.

  17. Dana says:

    My daughter started off eating well, but by the time she was two it was very similar, sometimes I think how in earth is she still alive because to me it seems like she eats nothing, except breakfast without fail. But she’s a perfectly healthy weight, she’s not pale or lacking in vitamins (as far as I know). So I’m just gonna go with it, I’ve stopped stressing about it and figured she’s getting enough. She’s nearly 4 now and still doesn’t really eat. Perhaps she’ll grow out of it or perhaps she won’t. One of the most interesting things I learnt was a portion size is the size of the palm of our hand, so a lot of the time we are giving too big portions which is putting off our kids, so now I just put tiny portions on the plate – although to be honest it hasn’t really worked but at least I get less waste.

    1. Min says:

      I try to think two things: 1.) no healthy child will starve themselves, and 2.) like you say, maybe we are all eating too much now so we assume that our kids need more than they actually do. It’s hard when you’re in the thick of it though and they’re refusing yet another meal. Then sometimes I’m eating and all I’ll give Piglet is a bite of toast because I know he won’t want any more than that (which usually gets refused anyway) but I feel terrible for eating when he’s not!

  18. Emma Jones says:

    Bless you it is difficult. My own children weren’t too bad bit myou nephew is a picky eater. He clearly won’t starve maybe try an assortment of foods on a tray no fuss and see what he eventually nibbles on. Good luck & try not to worry. #kcacols lifeinthemumslane

    1. Min says:

      Thanks! He has good and bad days. I’m feeling a bit calmer today as for the first time in a long time he actually ate a green vegetable!

  19. Kerry says:

    It can be so frustrating! I have one very fussy eater and one good one (4 and 3 now) but I remember being very stressed out with weaning and throwing loads of food away! Stay calm and just give him the opportunity to try new foods that’s all you can do. Ps mine fussy one always ate better when other children around her were eating and still does. #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      That also seems to be true of Piglet. He eats better at nursery which I can only assume is seeing the other children eat. Great advice-thank you.

  20. Weaning is one of the hardest part of parenting but I also agree that depends on the child as I have 2 opposite eaters at home. One will not eat anything and is really fuzzy that actually worries me that she will disappear one day and the other one will eat her food and the rest of the family’s food! LOL It is amazing how different they can be. I’m sure he will grow up of it and everything will be fine!! It is just a long and painful phase!! Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Thanks! He does have phases. The last couple of days he’s been eating quite well so who knows, maybe we’re into a good phase! Thanks for hosting and commenting.

  21. You definitely aren’t alone! None of my kids were great eaters they each had their own particular issues. All I can say is they all got over it & eat well now. Our 3 year old daughter still has her moments tho lol That was really nice of the lady to say that! Thanks so much for joining us for #bloggerclubuk, hope you will be back again tomorrow! x

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for hosting and commenting. Good to hear that all yours are good eaters now, it gives me hope!

  22. This is such a challenge! And all of the advice doesn’t help since you never know if you’re doing the right thing. I understand. My little one was a good eater once upon a time and now not so much. He eats but is very picky which makes dinnertime a challenge. He’s growing, smart and full of energy plus the doctor is happy so I’m ok with it. He won’t be 35 and eating only mac & cheese and grapes 😉 #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Haha, I hope not! I have realised since I wrote this that it does seem to go in fits and starts, and there are times when he eats better. Must be related to teething or something!

  23. Min, I really enjoy your writing. You are a superb writer. Honestly, my kids are the same – most of the time I have to bribe him in any way for form. Yes, that’s including turning on the TV one the very last pursuit! lol! Thank you so much Min for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for hosting and commenting, and that’s a lovely thing to say-thank you. Their eating habits are funny, aren’t they? We just have to do whatever it takes to get by.

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