My son Ari used to love food. When we introduced him to solids he couldn’t get enough. When he started learning baby sign language, he was always saying “hungry” and “more”. I used to get joy out of browsing through baby recipes and trying out new foods with him. I canned peaches, pears, nectarines and apple sauce (with help from my mama) and made my own pureed baby food. When he got into textures, we made a bazillion tiny meatloafs (or is it meatloaves?) in perfect portions and a variety of meat/veggie combinations.
I have no idea what happened but he started turning against food. First to go was meat. He would turn his head to the side like a total snob and refuse any form of meat. Then he started rejecting veggies (except for peas). Pretty soon, I stopped making him his own meals and just offered him a bite of what we were eating before resorting to the favourites: cheese, peas, crackers and lots of fruit.
Eventually, he even turned on those. He was constantly telling me he was hungry and then spat out the tried and true cheese or peas. He did have a stomach virus a while ago so there’s that, plus it’s possible that he’s getting his molars and his mouth hurts. Or he could just be asserting his independence and driving his mama crazy. I browsed blogs and forums looking for other people going through the same thing and couldn’t find much. (So if you have some experience with this, please share!)
Obviously this caused me some concern. But at his 12 month check-ups, his growth curve was out-pacing the average babe his age. I was assured that he’s been getting plenty of calories and nutrients. A number of sources suggested that I look at it from a week’s perspective instead of one particular day or meal. His pediatrician reiterated that sometimes a toddler will eat nothing but bread one day, and nothing but fruit and veggies the next, but at the end of the week they’ve had a balanced diet. He has gradually started re-introducing foods back into his diet. For example, cucumber is a popular veggie now. And he loves noodles. He even ate quiche today for lunch. But I miss my boy who ate everything!
I thought back to a lesson I learned with respect to napping recently and found a common thread. Ari used to be a terrible sleeper but in recent months has been sleeping beautifully. One day he bounced around in his crib for the entire length of his afternoon nap and needless to say, I freaked out. Then another time about a week later, the same thing. I panicked about impending inevitable meltdowns that never came. I hypothesized about switching him to 1 nap but my research told me he was still too young, that sometimes older babies skip naps once in a while and that even quiet awake time is still helpful. The Sleep Lady has been my go-to resource for sleep-related questions and advice, and she had a great blurb on her website about how you can’t force your child to sleep… you can only offer the right circumstances for sleep.
The same is true for eating. I can’t force him to eat what I want him to, when I want him to. I can only offer him a balanced meal or snack and a variety of foods and trust that he’ll take what he needs.
This shift from feeling like it’s my responsibility to make sure he gets enough sleep and eats well to simply being responsible for offering the right circumstances has really helped ease my worries. This lesson in letting go of control has been a tough one to learn, and honestly I still sometimes catch myself getting worked up over what he eats or the amount of sleep he gets, but it has been helpful for me to take these approaches and try to relinquish that feeling that I’m in control. Because I’m really really not. This guy is: