Friday, November 30, 2012

Fussy eaters: Confectionery confessions

I know I carry on about this a lot but it is the parenting issue that causes me the most distress: My almost four year old rascal Noo has no real interest in food. Fussy Eater should be his middle name!

Noo's tiny little 11 month old niece Mala, on the other hand, eats everything that is given to her and consumes twice the amount of food in a day than her older cousin does even though she does have real food issues.

Noo could, if he wanted to, eat anything. Mala on the other hand has serious food allergies to dairy, nuts, sesame seeds and eggs. Her current weight is also considered "off the chart" as far as what she should weigh for her age (according to those silly growth charts that cause a lot of parents mostly needless worry!).

My sister and her husband have always been careful about Mala's diet, not just in regards to the foods she is allergic too, but in limiting her sugar intake as well. Yo has always been vigilant with feeding times and patient, yet persistent when it come to the long, boring slog that feeding a little one can be.

Mala's parents have always fed their little girl the most delicious combos of mashed meat, veggies and grains, along with fresh fruit and soy and other non-dairy products suitable for kids her age. I am sure this why Mala has an awesome appetite!

YUM! I would eat this: Mala's lunch today.

When I picked Noo up from daycare last Thursday I noticed on the board outside the kitchen that the menu of the day included fish fingers, veggies and chips. I made a comment to the teacher standing by that he mustn't have eaten much that day. I made that assumption because I rarely see Noo eat vegetables. And fish fingers? Forget it.

The teacher went on to tell me that he ate everything off his plate, even the veggies with a little coaxing. I was gobsmacked, if a little sceptical... or maybe it was just defeat I felt.

Noo eats well at school but terribly with me.

I know I've discussed Noo's food issues in this blog several times over the years. I even admitted I felt responsible for his terrible eating habits when I wrote this post about my fussy eater and how I thought his consumption of sugar could possibly be to blame.

Confession time...

Noo has always been a terrible eater. From the moment he was born to this very day he has been a pain in the arse with food. As his mother, his only parent, I feel I am the one responsible for this and I have struggled with how to deal with it, especially considering my own sugar addiction.

Do you want to know my worst parenting secret?

On my mum's advice, I used condensed milk on Noo's dummy all his first year of life. There, I've said it. It was so effective in keeping him soothed and quiet I became addicted to it as much as Noo did. There was always a little pot of the sweet white syrup in the nappy bag along side the nappies and wipes.

My parents thought it was a completely normal practice to dip a dummy in condensed milk before popping it into an infant's mouth. They didn't do it to hurt their precious grandson and neither did I. We just wanted him to be happy... and soothed.

But think about that! (Actually, you probably don't have to think that hard to know that what we did was terrible.) Here was a baby that refused to attach to the breast, was bottle fed and also had a dummy dipped in condensed milk everyday, several times a day. Sugar was a dietary staple from the very beginning.

I know. Bad. Very bad. Go on. Judge me. I judge me! Call DOCS now. Actually, you better not, they have more serious cases of abuse to work on!

I knew in my heart it was wrong but it worked so well to keep him quiet and as I was living with my parents I went along with it. My parents are strong people and I can be heavily influenced by them. I cannot blame them though. I am the mother, I make the decisions and I should have put my foot down. That first year of Noo's life was so challenging. I just did what I thought worked. I couldn't look toward the future to see what the long term consequences might be. I was just surviving day to day.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Mala is a mere 11 months old and eats twice as much as Noo does now at nearly four years old. Her mother never caved to the pressure from mum and dad to give her baby condensed milk (and yes, they did suggest she do it!). As I said earlier, Mala is allergic to dairy foods so it is so lucky Yolanda stayed strong!

YUM! Home made beef and vegetable stew then watermelon for lunch.
She also had half an avocado and some baby crackers.
Oh and some boob to top up.

Now I believe Noo's taste buds have been ruined by sugar in his first year but still I allow him to eat lollies and chocolate. Even when I gave it up. I am so weak at saying no to him. Over Halloween we had heaps of the crap laying around the house. Although I never let him sit there and binge he pretty much has a couple of chocolate or lollies everyday. Add that to the BBQ sauce on fish fingers (which he ate for me earlier in the week!), the Nutella on toast, the fruit flavoured yoghurt squeezies... The sugar load adds up!

Below is a little collage I did a little a couple of weeks ago for a confessional post like this. It has just taken a while to write it!

Check out the sugar hidden in nearly every corner of the kitchen!

The other vice I let Noo indulge in is what my skinny little redhead calls a "Warm Chocolate". It is a hangover from the days when he used to suck on a warm bottle of milk more than a few times a day. "Hot Bo!", "Hot Bo!", Noo would call after putting the sofa cushions in position for him to lay back and suck back the warm and comforting liquid that became a meal replacement for a fussy, lazy eater.

When I was certain Noo's milk addiction was keeping him from eating properly I threw out every bottle and teat in the house. Not long after "Mama", Noo's dummy, was disposed of too. But then came along Warm Chocolate in a sippy cup.

Transformer the cat, Noo and his warm chocolate, Peekaboo the bird
and Marco the dog in bed earlier this week.

"Please, Mummy, can I have a warm chocolate?" 

Do you know how many times a day I hear this request? Ah, probably between 4 and 100 times! He goes straight into position on the couch (or in bed), cushion in just the right spot behind him so he can balance his Warm Chocolate, Transformer and the iPad all at once.

I'll admit there have been plenty of times I've let him feast on chocolate milk because I haven't had the time or energy to fight him to eat proper food. This is where I take responsibility but we are finally making some changes.

2013: the year we finally give up milk as a meal substitute

Just like with Hot Bo and Mumma, we are giving up Warm Chocolate.

Here is my plan of attack:

  1. Throw out all but two sippy cups until Noo's 4th birthday on 22 December when remaining two sippy cups will be chucked (I can't make the kid go cold turkey!).
  2. Cut out night time Warm Chocolates immediately (started this on Monday this week). 
  3. Give Noo an awesome mug he can call his own for his 4th birthday so he can sit up at the dining table and have a warm drink in the morning like a grown up.

I'm hoping by taking away the comfort of laying down to suck back sweetened milk will reduce the attraction of the Warm Chocolate. 

By not letting him have any warm drinks at night means he will feel more hungry and therefore more compelled to eat the food I provide for him.

I will also stop buying chocolates and lollies... after his birthday and Christmas.

Fingers crossed this works with as few battles as possible. I've just got to take responsibility and get this little kid eating for me.

Do you have a fussy eater? Any tactics you'd like to share on how to get fussy eaters to, well, EAT?


Linking up with the ever awesome Grace from With Some Grace
to do a bit of floggin'


Sophie said...

No Evie is not a fussy eater but I am reaaalllyyy strict with the food and the sweets - she does have sweets (too many as far as I am concerned - but it is hard to say no to their beautiful little pleading faces) but when it comes to dinner whatever it is - most of the time it is home made goodness - sometimes it's oven quickness for us all such as fish fingers - or sausages and chips (oven though - not fried) but I do one meal for all three of us and if she doesn't eat it then there is nothing else to eat until breakfast, If I hear the words 'i'm Hungary I re-present the food I cooked (even if it's gone cold!im evil I know) and that is what is on offer - we don't have much of a fuss around tea time now, but when she was about three ish there were some very heated (from her point of view) tea times where she refused to eat and there was nothing else. (the naughty step was involved then too). Be sure to know that your Ned will not starve himself to death from not eating, and when he gets Hungary he will eat what you have to give him - so be strong - I sometimes make a dinner of just veggies - like veggies and pasta so that I know she has eaten loads of them - there is no getting away with it then. Also when you stop buying all the snacks you will save a huge amount of wonga and you could save up for something nice - a treat for the both of you maybe :-) You go you can do it :-)

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