We’ve struggled with Noah’s weight gain and eating habits right from the beginning. Our PD initially recommended starting him on solids at four months, because he wasn’t putting on much weight, but I was feeling emotional at the thought of breastfeeding less, and decided to wait till he turned six months old. Many of our friends have kids who love eating, and even before they turned six months old, they showed an interest in whatever the adults were eating. However, Noah was nothing like that, and wasn’t even very interested in eating his rice cereal and vegetable purees.
After a while, Noah starting rejecting his solids at every meal, and I decided to take a break from trying to force-feed him, because it was too stressful for everyone involved. When we saw the PD for Noah’s nine-month-old check-up, she was very concerned that he wasn’t eating or getting enough nutrients, and prescribed a multi-vitamin supplement for him. She also said that she would refer us to a specialist if Noah wasn’t eating by the time he turned ten months old.
Some of my friends suggested giving him porridge instead of rice cereal, and thankfully, he started eating some porridge. I made a simple, but nutritious porridge for him, with pork, salmon, broccoli, and pumpkin, and he ate the porridge once a day. After a while, our PD suggested loading him with even more carbohydrates, as he still wasn’t gaining weight well, and didn’t seem to even grow in either height or head circumference. I added potatoes to his porridge, and even though he took ages to finish each meal, I was still able to get him to eat. I ‘perfected’ the right texture of porridge, soft enough for him to swallow without much chewing, yet solid enough to be rolled into a ball of sorts, so that it can go into his mouth without much spillage. Sounds crazy, I know, but when you’ve got a baby who refuses to open his mouth for food, you do all kinds of weird things to get him to eat. I added chia seeds to his porridge, because I read that it is a good source of protein and has many other health benefits, and I was desperate to ensure that every bite was as nutritious as possible.
Different types of porridge and textures that I’ve tried
Rolled into a ‘ball’
Watery but with small chunks of salmon and broccoli
I tried baby-led weaning on a few different occasions, but he wasn’t interested in putting any of the food in his mouth at all, and would simply throw everything onto the floor. If any of the food accidentally got into his mouth, he would frantically spit it out with great gusto, as though it disgusted him greatly. I also tried giving him a variety of food textures, from the really mushy porridge, to pieces of vegetables, fish and meat, as well as rice and noodles, but nothing interested him.
After we came to Australia, Noah suddenly decided that he didn’t want to eat porridge anymore. I was horrified, mainly because I had a whole freezer full of porridge and different purees, which I had prepared the week before. I read that another mum fed her son pasta when he started rejecting porridge, and decided to try pasta too. Back in Singapore, I boiled pasta with some pork and vegetables, but Noah refused to eat any of it. This time round, I decided to give him plain pasta, and thankfully, he was willing to open his mouth for that, but only if I fed him with my hands, instead of from a spoon or fork. After a few meals of plain pasta, I bought a few different types of baby food, to serve as a sauce for his pasta. I first tried putting the baby food into a separate bowl, and dipped the pasta into it before giving it to Noah, but he spat it out immediately. Mind you, the sauce was hidden from his view, and he didn’t see me dipping the pasta into it at all, so it’s clear that he is extremely choosy about his food. My only consolation now is that the pasta he’s eating, is a mix of spinach, tomato, and durum semolina wheat, rather than plain wheat pasta. I emailed our PD, and she recommended giving him a multi-vitamin supplement with lysine or iron, to boost his appetite. Honestly, I don’t think there’s been a change in his appetite ever since we started the drops, but I’m still giving them to him anyway, just in case it actually helps.
His bowl of pasta
Different types of baby food
Noah only eats when he is distracted, and can take up to two hours for each meal. When he was younger, I was able to distract him by reading to him, and handing him a variety of toys to play with. (Tip: Use only board books and plastic toys that can be wiped clean, as meal-times can get really messy.) I’ve also given him bags and purses with zips, for him to practise his fine motor skills during meals, and he is kept busy zipping and unzipping them, followed by taking the money and cards out. He plays with stacking cups and blocks once in a while, but they don’t usually hold his attention for very long. He likes pom-pom balls, so if I give him an empty bottle and some pom-pom balls, he will spend a bit of time putting them into the bottle, before losing patience, and throwing everything onto the floor.
I resisted using the iPhone or laptop to show him videos for the longest time, but after a particularly trying few meals, I caved. I showed him photos of himself at first, but when that didn’t work, I discovered that he would open his mouth to eat if he was watching videos of himself. Not every video had the same effect on him, and I quickly learnt which ones to show him, to get him to eat. If he didn’t like a particular video, he would push my hands away repeatedly, or spit out the pasta that was already in his mouth. I started taking more videos of him, as he got bored of the videos quite quickly. His highchair here has a cup holder, which holds my iPhone perfectly, and frees up my hands to feed him. Why do I need both hands to feed him? Well, I have to hold down his left hand with my left hand, and use my right hand to shove the pasta into his mouth, as he uses his left hand to push my hands away if he doesn’t want to eat. I actually got C to take a video of him doing that, but I look very unglam in the video, so I decided not to post it here. Heh. Sometimes, when he refuses to open his mouth even while watching the videos, I have to stand behind him, and stuff the pasta into his mouth from my position behind his right shoulder.
Noah is extremely interested in vehicles of all sorts, and for some reason known only to himself and God, he LOVES the Wheels on the Bus song. Thanks to YouTube, he is able to enjoy different versions of the song, but again, he only likes some of the hundreds of videos of that song, so I created a YouTube playlist of Wheels on the Bus videos, just for him, and he watches them repeatedly during each meal. This boy is clearly the boss of me, and he knows it.
Before I started Noah on solids, I really never understood why some people said they were very thankful to have children who loved eating. I thought that since Noah liked putting things into his mouth, and since both his parents love eating, he would enjoy eating too. Clearly, I was wrong. He only puts inedible objects into his mouth, and even then, he will spit them out after ‘sampling’. Once in a while, he will deign to feed himself some pasta, but only three or four pieces, before I have to feed him again. He will hold his own tiny pieces of bread, biscuits, Cheerios, yogurt buttons, strawberries, french fries, and keropok, but not his pasta. Yes, we feed him ‘junk food’, something which I never thought we would do so early, but right now, all we care about is that he eats.
Many people have been very kind and reassuring me that it’s just a phase, and that he WILL outgrow it one day, and I pray that that day will come really soon. It’s really very worrying and frustrating to have to sit with him for two hours at each meal! So much time is wasted daily, just trying to get him to eat. I’ve had suggestions to just starve him and let him skip meals, based on the assumption that he will eat when he’s hungry, but trust me, that doesn’t work with Noah. He is more than happy to survive only on my milk, and when he starts crying because he is hungry and tired, that’s the point of no return, as the only thing he is willing to take then, is my milk. I still haven’t been able to wean him and get him to drink other types of milk, but that is a story for another day.
If you have similar experiences with your children, please do share them with me. It’s always good to know that we’re not the only ones with a fussy eater!
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