Last year, I wrote this very popular blog post listing 9 things not to say to a parent of a fussy eater. Soon after, I connected with Libby. She had posted a raw account of how other people’s opinion’s of her child’s fussy eating made her feel. It was like we had read eachother’s minds. I am so glad that Libby has let me share her story with you today. If you aren’t sure on picking the difference between a fussy eater and a problem feeder, have a look at my advice for parents here. I am also so pleased to hear the progress she is making with her speech therapist.
Hey mumma over there, watching me try to get my son to eat.
I know what you’re thinking; if that was my child I’d know what to do. I’d send him to bed hungry! He’ll eat when he’s hungry!
Feed it to him for breakfast in the morning and he’ll soon learn to eat his dinner!
Sneak veggies into his meals!!!
If that was my kid I’d be able to get him to eat.
Ohhhh, you have a fussy eater and want to hand on some pearls of wisdom? Spare me. Sorry, that was a bit harsh, I know you mean well. Let me explain.
There are fussy eaters and there are problem eaters, and until you have a problem eater then you haven’t experienced the exhausting, gut wrenching, stress that is a child who has problems eating.
Let me take you back to the start.
Our son was born at a healthy 3.4kg and breastfed perfectly as a newborn. Life was grand! At twelve weeks it all stopped. Sleeping stopped, feeding stopped, crying started. Everytime I tried to breastfeed him he would throw his head back and scream bloody murder.
There were days when he wouldn’t feed for 24 hours. Sometimes I would rock him to sleep then feed him while he was asleep just to get calories in him. We spent a week at a mother baby unit and three nights at the Royal Children’s, figuring out that he had a range of allergies and had developed an oral aversion, which meant he didn’t want anything near his mouth for fear of pain. My boobs had literally traumatised my baby!
There began three years of trying to get my little boy to eat. Anything. And at three and a half years old, he finds no joy in food.
I’m a personal trainer, so I hope that gives me some credibility when I say I have a passion for health and wellbeing. Good foods are staples in my household and I make most of our food from scratch. So I persisted, thinking that surely if I could cook anything in the world, then I could find something he would eat.
But as the months wore on and some nights he was still going to bed having eaten a handful of frozen corn (still frozen…) or a couple of chips. Our paediatric dietician referred us to a speech therapist and encouraged me to look into the SOS approach to feeding.
When we walked into the speech therapist’s office she said she already knew what was wrong. Max has chubby cheeks, like that of a baby. When babies learn to chew, their cheeks become more defined as their muscles tone from chewing. She knew just by looking at him that Max had difficulties chewing. As it turns out, Max never learned to chew “hard mechanicals”, these are foods such as carrots and nuts, which never break down or dissolve in the mouth like biscuits or bread.
So I am literally teaching my son how to chew. I am literally teaching him how to move food from one side of his mouth to the other.
What. The. Hell.
At just on 11kg at three and a half, I’m pretty desperate to get calories into my son. My twelve month old is rapidly approaching the same weight! So during that initial session, the speech therapist sat me down and said “Libby, right now you need to worry less about what Max eats, but that he eats anything at all.” And with that, all my obsessions with making everything he eats from scratch and focusing on all natural products went out the window (for now…). I drove to the supermarket, bought a box of dinosaur chicken nuggets and watched my son devour twelve of them. TWELVE OF THEM!
I cried that night. I cried because instead of responding to a situation, I had let my own preconceived notions of health and parenting get in the way. So here we are working with new strategies and taking all the pressure off food. We work fortnightly with our speech therapist on eating rituals, food progressions, trying new things and making it all fun.
We have quite a journey ahead of us as we follow the strategies of our speech therapist and work with our cheeky spunk of a son. But for now, we’re doing our best.
Thanks so much for sharing this Libby. Far out! I get teary when I am just reading this because I totally get it and when I sit with kids teaching them to eat pringles, sometimes I do think – I hope mum (watching me closely) gets what I’m doing. It’s learning. It’s not about the calories in that pringle today. It’s about learning to move that pringle around in the mouth. Learning to chew it. And tasting success.
More about Libby!
Libby Nuttall is a women’s personal trainer in the Macedon Ranges. When she’s not hanging with her two sons, husband and Weimaraner (a.k.a; the boys), she is running fitness classes, volunteering as the president of the local playgroup, or working on her range of online, pre and post natal wellness programs, Miracle Months. Libby had her second son in December 2015 and is loving sharing the journey back to fitness and strength post baby with her social media following. This year she is looking forward to competing in a number of runs and obstacle races. You can find her at www.miraclemonths.com