If we are honest we all have those things that we said we would never do as a parent. I had a few myself and I have broken them all! One of the biggest things for me was fussy eating. I vowed that I wouldn’t have fussy eaters, that I wouldn’t bend to the will of a toddler regarding food! It’s ok, you can laugh. I find it funny too.
I was adamant with my plan first time around. Pinky was nearly 6 months old when we started weaning. Earlier that recommended I know but she was sitting up at 4 months and milk really wasn’t satisfying her anymore so I made an executive mothering decision and started weaning. Simply because she is my baby and I know best… Mostly.
We started simple with some baby porridge and Weetabix. The heath visitors hated this, they wanted her to be weaned using the Baby Led method. For those of you reading who are unfamiliar with this method the theory is that you give your baby soft finger sized food, such as a stick of steamed carrot (not boiled, that sucks all the goodness out… Heaven forbid!), and you let them gum it to death. Eventually they learn to swallow the little bits rather than spit them out. Also babies have a really strong gag reflex so they are unlikely to choke on small bits as long as they have managed it themselves and you haven’t dictated the chunk size.
This process scares the life out of me! I appreciate that to date (*touches wood and everything else superstitious) the girls have both managed this well and haven’t come to any harm however I was much happier giving them puree to start with and working up to the solid food. They soon learn to eat all foods, solid and puree and it all worked out fine. Perky was weaned using both puree and solids from day one because she had an insatiable appetite (check her baby pictures… that girls rolls had rolls!)
But back the fussiness. Both Pinky and Perky have been given a huge variety of foods from the first day I started weaning them. I haven’t worried about potential allergies because I figured the probability was pretty low and if they do have allergies I am not going to know unless they are exposed to something anyway. So I cracked on. I thought I was doing a good job. Nothing seemed to phase either child and they both eat most things. Perky is even a fan of relatively spicy food, nothing too hot but certainly full of flavour. There are some things that they genuinely dislike such as raw tomatoes, cooked peppers. I think that is fairly reasonable and to this day don’t worry about it.
Then the age of two arrived for Pinky and suddenly she wouldn’t eat anything I made her. Things she had previously eaten were refused. If it wasn’t beige and devoid of flavour she wouldn’t touch it. I started to worry, panic even, that my poor baby girl was going to starve. It’s ok… You can laugh again. I started to cook her special meals, came up with fun names for food so she would eat something of some sustenance other than plain pasta and cheese. I tried hiding vegetables, which never worked not once. I tried savoury muffins but she hated them. This went on for a long time, easily a year to eighteen months. I started weaning Perky during this process and found myself cooking three separate dinners. One for Perky at the same time as something beige for Pinky, then dinner for myself and Hubby. The girls would eat at about 5pm and we would eat once they were in bed. It was ridiculous. Once Perky was about 16-18 months old both the girls were able to wait a little longer for their dinner so I merged theirs and ours together. I really didn’t want to have to cook two different meals and I knew that it is actually recommended to all eat the same and normalise food anyway. I would love to have done this sooner and I know people that do but I really didn’t want to eat at 5pm and equally I didn’t want two grumpy, miserable children under my feet whilst I tried to cook a dinner for 6pm that at least one of them was probably going to refuse to eat anyway.
Eating together has revolutionised our meal times and my attitude to their eating. Pinky is coming out of her fussy phase now she is nearly four. I know she isn’t really fussy as she eats everything at nursery, why do they do it to us? She eats most things with us now and she loves the social side of it, she likes telling her Daddy all about her day. The thing that has changed the most is my attitude towards it all. If she doesn’t eat it then fine. I am not making anything else just for her. If she only eats a plate of rice, then fine. She isn’t going to go hungry and she doesn’t look like she is lacking in vitamins, as she will likely have got them through other meals that day. Some days this is really hard to do, I want to feed her and make sure she isn’t hungry but then I realise she simply doesn’t always need a huge toddler sized meal. I have hungrier days and then days where I eat less. She eats when she is bored sometimes like I do, that is a far worse habit than saying no to food when you simply aren’t hungry.
I thought I was winning with Perky; she eats even more things than her sister did at her age. She is approaching two and again we have the fussy signs starting. She is starting to turn away non-beige food. She likes full flavoured foods less and less. She is having some hungry days and some days where she barely eats anything. It is about to start all over again but this time I know it is nothing I have done wrong. I have never made her an alternative meal until I find something she will eat. I have never tried to make her eat more than what she wants. I have exposed her to ridiculously huge variety of foods and flavours. But still the phase is starting. All I can hope is she will get over it quicker than her sister did as we have some really good eating habits firmly in place this time. But if it lasts a few years then fine, I don’t feel guilty and I don’t worry she is hungry like I did with her sister. I have learnt from past mistakes and I think as a mother sometimes that is all we can do. I have definitely not caused the fussy eating this time and yet I have fussy eaters. Like I vowed I wouldn’t… So naïve!