Parenting

Eating Problems Revisited

I’ve never heard a mother says that her child eats well. Maybe it’s because a mother can never be satisfied with how much her child eats, or it’s because she is afraid to say aloud that her child eats well, for fear of a jinx or ‘pantang’. Whatever.

A friend of mine consulted me on her son’s eating problem lately. Honestly, I fretted a lot about Little Edison’s picky eating behavior two years ago. I always felt that he never ate enough. There were days that he didn’t eat anything at all. We were so worried that we started supplementing him with more milk.

But soon, I realized that this wasn’t a wise move. When we fed him with more milk, he became full and he will continue to reject solid foods. Then, I would try to distract him, or make the food more interesting and appealing by adding something that he likes to it. I would try everything possible for a chance to feed more spoons of food into his mouth.

In the end, I realized that it’s a complete waste of time, energy as well as efforts. It’s just too mentally-draining for both of us. We’re happier if I just let go whenever he announced that he has had enough. Interestingly enough, without the stress factor, he seemed to eat more too.

I’ve also observed that if he eats nothing at breakfast, he tends to eat a hearty lunch. Or if he nibbles at his lunch, he will have a huge dinner. In another words, if he starves today, he gorges tomorrow. So ultimately, he does make up for it. With great difficulty, I have learnt not to worry about his feeding problem and to trust his instincts.

Every child is different, and all we need to do is identify and recognize their own special characteristics. Little Edison, for example, cannot eat too much at one go. I have to give him smaller portion of food with regular intervals. He takes a long time to chew on vegetables, so I let him eats his fish, meat and rice first, followed by vegetables. I will give him fruits after that.

Most parenting books warn us no TV during meals but somehow, TV works wonders for me. When the TV is on, he will sit still to watch while I feed him. This way, he will be able to finish his meal although he may take a longer time. I have my patience tested every day now, as he takes at least 45 minutes to finish his meal.

Some rules of thumb to share:

  • No junk food, snacks, milk and juices at least one hour before mealtime.
  • Don’t serve a meal with drink but serve it after the meal.
  • Feed with patience, no force-feed or threaten to take away food. Otherwise, the kids will start to associate mealtimes with negative behaviours.
  • Lastly, the child should decide when he / she is full, not us.

Here’s an interesting fact to share. Experts say that fussy eaters usually develop after the weaning stage, until the age of four. The problem usually resolves itself by the preschool years. I find that it is quite true. Now, our Little Edison really does eat better than two years ago.

 

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Ade
    August 19, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    My boy has been on food strike since he was a year old. It’s been 1.5 years and we give up trying out to get him to eat. Nothing we did helped, so now we let him be – he’s on full milk feed. Hopefully his eating habit improves when he gets older.

    • Reply
      Emily
      August 23, 2011 at 1:19 PM

      Hi Ade,
      Yup, not to worry. When they grow older, their eating habit will change. The initial weaning phase is always so challenging that all mothers have to go through. I can’t remember how many times my boy when on food strike when he was much younger.

  • Reply
    MieVee @ MummysReviews.com
    August 20, 2011 at 1:31 AM

    I was a super-fussy eater when young — hates veges, peels off bread skin, rejects imperfect eggs, etc. Thankfully, my hubby eats well and passed these genes to our boy. He loves to eat and has been raised as mainly vegetarian. He eats lots of vegetables and fruits and on certain meals, I’ve to restrict his intake.

    You’re right that parents like us don’t say aloud that the kid eats well. We know that there’re many fussy-eaters around and don’t want to upset the other parents. (Of course, good-eaters can have their fussiness in other ways too.)

    And yes, have confidence that children do outgrow fussy eating habits someday. (I used to hate veges and am now a vegetarian. What an irony!)

    • Reply
      Emily
      August 23, 2011 at 1:21 PM

      Hi MieVee,
      You are one lucky mommy. 🙂 My hubby and I are quite easy with food, we ain’t fussy at all. I wonder where my boy gets the “fussy-eater” genes from. Hehe!

  • Reply
    Ange
    August 21, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    Erm… I am one mum who dares to say that my kids are not exactly fussy eater (though they have their own preference). I guess it is something trained from young. For instance, I started to introduce them to veggies once they started weaning at 4 mths. Like chopped spinach slow cooked with porridge, mashed broccoli with carrots.

    Therefore my elder boy now 6 loves his greens more than meat. My younger boy at 4, is slightly more difficult loving only soup and rice. However he loves his carrots cooked in soup.

    At their age now, there are times they try take chances but I always re-emphasize to them that they have have to clean off whatever I out on their plate.

    So I guess it is a matter of not fussing over them or starting from young. I am not too sure myself either.

    • Reply
      Emily
      August 23, 2011 at 1:22 PM

      Hi Ange,
      Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s good to hear that you had a good start and now, both your sons are having a well-balanced diet everyday.

  • Reply
    jaime
    August 22, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    my son is on pediasure..which are meant for fussy eater, as it is being marketed
    But i dont think he is a fussy eater ..just that his milk intake is quite low since birth coz he was never a milk monster
    When he was baby gg to toddler..i was so worried about his milk intake that i monitor by the ml and his weight by the grams ..but i guess he has grown older (28 months now)..n i think he prefer his solids and the milk intake stabilizes
    (i rather have this pattern than those who guzzles milk n eat little rice)..but of coz there are meals he just ate a little rice etc whihc is not his normal intake but there are times he just eat wat he should eat or even more, n the mum wil be overjoyed!

    i guess the biggest mistake parents make its overfeeding (esp to the mum, food intake is a MAJOR CONCERN)
    n yes, iphone n tv are the biggest distractions….miraculously, a few extra morsels does enter after the tv or iphone is introduced in the middle of a meal after he keep pushing the food away…

    and i hide his soup away until he finishes his meals…if not he wil be just fixated wiht the soup and not his meal…once he finish his meal.he can have how much soup he wishes…

    • Reply
      Emily
      August 23, 2011 at 1:23 PM

      Hi Jaime,
      My boy is on Pediasure too. He loves the chocolate flavour.

  • Reply
    Rachel
    August 23, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    My child fussy eating problems have been going like forever. Started rejecting porridge at 7 months, when we barely started on it for like 1 month. Still have specific preferences now at 4. But picky eating have improved since I have done the ‘cruel’ thing by taking away food when he refuses it and not offering any alternatives, and letting him feel hungry for a meal at least. That seemed to have helped and he is more willing to finish up whatever he is given, and try new food. But try not to do wat I did till your child is 3.5 – 4 years…any younger they will not be able to relate.

    • Reply
      Emily
      August 23, 2011 at 5:22 PM

      Hi Rachel,
      I tried the ‘cruel’ thing before too, but it didn’t help. 🙁 Now that my boy is almost 4, he is more adventurous with new food. When he was much younger, it’s very difficult to get him to try. And oh, btw, you have a really nice blog. =)

  • Reply
    Jus
    August 24, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Hi there! Found your blog while browsing and I can totally relate to this article! We have one of those “fussy eaters”, and he was on purees for the longest of times since he would just store everything in his mouth and spit if it was hard to chew! I kept puree-ing everything since my mother claimed that I was permanently on porridge til I was past 4 years old… but realized it wasn’t helping him to get used to new textures etc. Thankfully now I must say he’s a better eater at 2.5 years. Not fantastic, and he’s at the bottom 10% of the percentile chart (I guess every mum worries about growth), but hopefully like you said, they’ll outgrow it!

    • Reply
      Emily
      August 25, 2011 at 12:37 PM

      Hi Jus,
      Don’t worry, they will definitely outgrow it. My son has been on the bottom 10% of the percentile chart too. I used to be worried but not now. As long as they grow up happily and healthily, we’re on the right track. So, not to worry about the chart. Cheers!

  • Reply
    sidahang
    September 2, 2011 at 8:03 PM

    Thank you after reading your post, now i become confident that i can do so. My son is also a fussy eater as well as he can starve for a day wo any food but he only loves to drink etc. Milk,ribena n yakult. If he eats, i have a stress time feeding him. I even tried to let him eat by himself but he loves to play with his food instead. When i spoon fed him, he will start running away from me just like playing catching. Recently i bought online food cutter for cartoon like mickey,pooh,frog etc. im getting them in next 2weeks. I really do hope he do eat after all the hassle i’ve gone through. Plus its not so easy to feed him food when he watches cartoon on TV. Anyway, ur article teaches me nt to worry too much if my son doesn’t eat. Thank you 🙂

    • Reply
      Emily
      September 3, 2011 at 8:08 AM

      Hi Sidah,
      I tried the cartoon cutters too, they do help a little. But don’t worry, as long as your son is growing healthy and happy. It’s a phase that they will outgrow on their own. Cheers!

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