The best-laid schemes o' mice an men

Hunger Games

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Our daughter’s been on and off with her food. Sometimes she’ll go a week of taking two mouthfuls at dinner time and refusing to accept anymore to the following week chowing down anything she can lay her hands on. At first this was easy, refusal meant a closed mouth, shaking head and annoyed cries. But then she learnt how to spit food back out.

She will greedily open her mouth wide anticipating the next mouthful, then push it all back out with a little raspberry blown upon completion…just to make the point. And if her ignorant parents attempt another mouthful (just in case she’s faking and really is hungry), she’ll systematically begin picking food up and dumping it or worse, flinging it to the ground. And we rent in one of those old-school houses that has carpet in the dining room…carpet. It didn’t take me long to buy one of those plastic mats used to protect carpets from office chair wheels.

My approach to her eating has
always been a casual, “she won’t starve herself” attitude…at least, in theory. In practice it’s much harder to remain calm and rational when that delicious meal I slaved over for the past hour, sacrificing salt and chilli for her sake is being pushed out of my one year old’s mouth and dribbling wasted onto her bib and clean pants. I admit there were a few occasions when in tears I stormed away from the dinner table and curled up in a foetal position on the couch, yelling at my husband “YOU FEED HER!”

But now this cycle has played out a few times I can see patterns. When she is sick, possibly getting a tooth (this one often seems to proceed a hunger strike), or just feeling a bit out of sorts, eating is not a priority for her. And it’s usually only a few days, at worst a week, before that appetite is back with a vengeance. What have I learnt?

  1. I don’t look at how much she eats per meal anymore, but how much she’s eaten over the course of a week.
  2. I make meals for the family, not specifically for her, if she doesn’t like it then dad can have it for lunch.
  3. I never make her extra food if she won’t eat what’s at the table…instead she gets a bottle before bed and that’s that.
  4. I don’t fuss or make a deal about eating. My husband and I have a chat, we play with her too and when she’s stopped eating and starts ditching that food, dinnertime’s over, no big deal.
  5. We don’t presume Curly doesn’t like a certain food because she’s refused it a few times. I keep serving her vegies, lentil, beans, rice etc. and we ride out those fussy periods. She always comes around in the end (carrot still hasn’t made the cut though! But I keep offering).
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