When Good-Eater Babies Become Picky-Eater Toddlers.

Towards the end of babyhood, parents can often feel confident about their child’s eating. After any initial bumps in the weaning road, babies often take to eating solids with a gusto. It is common for parents to feel proud about their ‘good eater’, the babies with a good appetite who eat a large variety of food, but especially ones considered to be healthy.

By the time he had had his first birthday, my firstborn son was one of those ‘good eaters’. He would eat practically anything I put in front of him. I remember feeling particularly proud one evening when he ate a whole bowl of sardines, sweet potato and spinach for dinner. Cooking for him was a joy, I would spend hours steaming organic vegetables that we had delivered as part of a box scheme from a local farm, and he would reward me with gummy smiles of appreciation. I felt like a good mum. I felt like I had this eating thing sorted. I didn’t understand why so many parents complained about their child’s eating. In fact, I believed that they had brought the problems upon themselves, by not offering their child a good range of different tastes and textures and instead pandering to their children. Oh, how wrong I was.

Around two months after his first birthday, my ‘good eater’ son pretty much stopped eating. Foods he had previously wolfed down were left untouched, met with grimaces and tears. My easy baby with the good appetite was replaced with a tricky toddler who would only eat food if it was white, beige, yellow or brown, would only eat dry food (sauces were pushed away with disgust) and acted as if he was being poisoned if anything green went within an arm’s length of him. His appetite seemed to shrink in a reverse correlation with his growth. The bigger he got, the less he would eat. My baby with the hearty appetite and rolls of comforting fat was replaced by a skinny little boy with the appetite of a sparrow. I no longer felt like a good mum. In fact, I felt like a complete failure. Each day I felt as if I was failing my son, failing to keep him healthy, failing to provide him with the nutrients he needed to grow big and healthy.

Days out with friends, whose toddlers ate, became torture. Lunchtime would come and while their children ate whatever was put in front of them, my son would push a few raisins and a breadstick around his plate. The other mothers would try to placate me, “oh, I’m sure he’ll be fine, don’t worry”, but the more I tried not to worry, the more anxious and obsessed with his eating I became. I started to believe that he was doing it on purpose. I begged him to eat, I scolded him to eat, I bribed and rewarded him to eat, I spent hours trying to hide vegetables in food, I bought special cutlery with aeroplanes on and pretended to fly the spoon into his mouth, but nothing worked. He still didn’t eat.

I only wish I had known then what I know now. It would have saved me and perhaps more importantly, my son, months of anguish and stress. You see, my son was entirely normal. Now, he is a big burly teenager, scraping six foot tall. He eats like a horse, even green foods and foods with sauces! What did I do to produce this miraculous change in eating habits? How did I turn my non-eating toddler into a healthy teen with a voracious appetite? In truth, I didn’t do anything. In fact, it was when I stopped trying to change him that the change happened. I relaxed and accepted his eating. The most powerful thing I did was to educate myself about eating in early childhood. Once I understood his eating, or rather lack of it, I could relax, which was possibly the most powerful thing I did. I hope that, through this book, I can bring the same comfort and peace to you too………….
This GentleEating_CR_Draftis a small excerpt from my new Gentle Eating Book – out now! 

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Published by SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.

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