What it’s like to have a child who doesn’t eat
It’s been nearly 11 years since my journey with attempting to feed Lillie began, and it hasn’t got any easier; in fact, if anything, it’s getting worse.
She’ll grow out of it
As a small child, I was forever being told: “she’ll grow out of it; my daughter was a picky eater at that age”. So many times, I heard that one. The other favourite is “don’t fuss with them, she’ll eat when she is ready, a child won’t starve themselves” or “we didn’t have this in my day, you either ate what you were given or you went hungry”.
Lillie started her aversion to food when she was being weaned from breast milk to solids. I listened to the advice of the Health Visitors and of other Mums who were weaning their children. I tried following the Annabelle Karmel food plans and made purees, but she would not entertain them. She would gag, scream and spit it all back out. I stayed calm and persevered, but things didn’t improve for another four months.
The breakthrough came with yoghurt at ten months, only to be told by the Health Visitor, “oh no, don’t give her yoghurt; you’ll never get her eating solids”. Eventually, she began to eat Stage 1 baby food and came to love Ella’s Kitchen fruit pouches and the odd jar of food provided it was smooth. You can read the full back catalogue of those years further back on the blog; I have written about it all under #Talesofafussyeater.
Obviously, things improved slightly as she isn’t still eating baby food at the age of eleven, but I think it would be easier some days. At least you know baby food has some goodness in them, better than just eating bread-based everything.
Mealtimes are my least favourite time of the day. I have tried taking some of the stress out of it by creating a meal plan (with the children’s help) to make tea a sudden surprise. Lillie knows exactly what she is getting, and I know exactly what I am cooking. For a while, this worked, and she gave us three options for her tea; pizza, pancakes (with chocolate spread) or fishcake and chips. Sooooo nutritious.
Everything about my children’s meals makes me feel like I have failed as a Mother. This was not what I expected to be feeding my children, although the boys eat marginally better, with some meat and fruit in their diets but still no vegetables. They will, however, often go through periods of copying their big sister, which adds to the frustration.
Recently Tesco has been changing the packaging on own-brand labels. Lillie has been happily eating their children’s pizzas for years, but now that the packaging has changed, she refuses to eat them. I have tried numerous different brands of pizza (including allowing her to make her own), but something is wrong with all of them; wrong cheese, wrong tomato sauce, too much cheese, not enough tomato sauce, bread is too hard, too soft . . . the list goes on and on. I try so hard to stay calm and not get frustrated, but it’s not easy.
One of Lillie’s favourite places to eat is Pizza Express. When in the restaurant, she will eat doughballs followed by a whole children’s Margherita pizza, but she won’t entertain them if I buy the Pizza Express pizzas from the Supermarket. Explain that one??
We are now down to just two meals that she will eat at home; pancakes or fishcakes, but even they don’t come easily. She doesn’t like a pancake if Dad cooks, and she only likes my pancakes if they are wafer-thin and made with plain flour, not self-raising (she can tell the difference). Once I dared to cook her pancake in coconut oil to be healthier for her, but she could tell the second she took a bite that something was different so that she wouldn’t eat it.
We signed her up for a cookery course at school which helped a little. She tried her own breadsticks (but not the guacamole), she tried her own cheese scones and loved them but didn’t like the soup because it was too lumpy, she tried the carrot cake but was undecided. I am hoping that as she progresses through senior school, her tastes will improve. Wish us luck!