At birth, my first baby was tongue-tied and struggled with nursing. We got over that hurdle, and then at five weeks, he started getting a birthmark called a hemangioma. It appeared on his lower jaw and eventually grew to be the size of a baseball cut in half. A couple weeks later, after vomiting and crying incessantly for several days, he was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux. By eight weeks, he had lost so much weight that he was classified as “failure to thrive.”
Ask any new mom to live with that label for even a day. As if questioning the ability for your baby to “thrive” wasn’t horrible enough, they threw in “failure.” Even now, seven years later, getting food in his little body remains a struggle and he rides a line well below the zero percentile on our doctor’s growth chart.
I’m no expert on child nutrition. But, I can say I have learned a thing or two about getting a willful child to eat. For what it’s worth, here’s some advice from a working mom (WoMo) who has exhausted more time and energy on food and childhood growth than she’d care to think about:
Avoid getting emotional about food. From what I can tell, you either have an eater or you don’t. If your munchkin isn’t big on eating, so be it. The more pressure you put on a child, the worse it is for everyone. Stop hovering over every morsel. Lose the pleading, and the bargaining, and the bribing. I have tried every strategy in the book, but I eventually learned a very simple lesson: the more I made a fuss, the more fussy he became. Even a picky child will eat eventually, and believe it or not, it’s usually when they are hungry.
It’s OK to be sneaky. Because of my son’s medical situation, I’ve been cramming in goodness since the bottle. Between the massive growth on his jaw and the pain in his belly, he wouldn’t get his little mouth near anything. Eventually, I started pumping breast milk and mixing it with powdered formula so that he was ingesting double-duty dairy (under the guidance of a doctor). Did it help? It’s hard to say, but I’m glad I did it. And I actually continue to rely on hiding nutrition. Here are some quick food boosts that are easy for a working mom (WoMo) to sneak in at most any meal, even those 5 minute frozen fixes:
- Olive oil. Pour it into and onto everything, and don’t skimp. (I also cook with a little coconut oil).
- Carton egg whites are pasteurized, do not need to be cooked and have very little taste. Add to most anything for a healthy dose of protein.
- Carrot baby food and carrot smoothie juices can be added to all that orange and red food that kids love.
- Extra firm tofu can be chopped into small curds and boiled with pasta. There’s no taste. And when asked what it is, casually reply, “cheese.” They’ll never know.
- If you do have some extra time, puree pre-cooked chicken pieces (store bought or leftovers) and throw into mac n’ cheese and pasta sauces without detection.
- Sneak in the unexpected. I just discovered yellow carrots and they went over big. And, in our house, breakfast for dinner is always a hit.