The parent decides when to eat, what to serve, and where to serve it, and the child decides whether and how much to eat.
But what if there’s never a whether or a how much.
What if your kids just don’t eat. What’s a mama to do?
I was complaining to my husband about my kids lack of nutrition, and he remarked, “Where are the kids getting all their energy? Photosynthesis?” My reply was milk. We have milk drunk babies who would prefer to drink their calories than eat.
Our children are extremely picky, not picky as in what’s developmentally normal.
Let me define picky for you as defined by my children. Picky is no cake and ice cream at birthday parties. No McDonald’s french fries. No ooey gooey grilled cheese. No pizza. No burgers. No spaghetti. Or even buttered noodles. Basically, nothing that’s on a children’s menu!
My husband doesn’t think their eating is a problem because they’re both staying on their growth curves and hitting developmental milestones. I don’t like that they’re at lower weight percentiles, but he’s right – they’ve never fallen off their curves. So what they don’t eat off of fast food children menus. My husband’s pointed out they’re eating organic yogurt, whole grain Kashi cereal, a variety of fruit, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, deli meat, macaroni and cheese, carrots, corn, and other occasional foods. It could be worse.
Oftentimes, when I try to commiserate with other moms on the playground or around town, they all chime in about their picky eaters. However, picky eaters for them means their little ones didn’t eat the vegetable or the salmon that was being served that night for dinner. It’s a very frustrating experience, but it doesn’t begin to describe mine.
Picky eating for me means my kids have a very restrictive diet where they eat fewer than ten foods in a food group (fruits/vegetables, whole grains, proteins, etc.). The point of my post is to reach out to all moms and dads who have kids like mine. How do you deal?
For me every breakfast, lunch, and dinner feels like a failure. Another moment for me to berate myself as a parent. And I hate it and want it to stop, but somehow I can’t make it end. I’m confronted with a negative thought when I see a full plate of food that I must throw away. With each scrap of food in the trash, there goes my dignity.
It’s deeply ingrained in me that a parent’s job is to feed her kids healthy food. Moms feed her kids. The fact that I can’t get my kids to eat a) a quantity or b) a quality of age appropriate foods feels devastating. It makes me feel like less than a mom. I need help thinking it’s not my fault if the kids don’t eat. Instead, it’s my job to provide the healthy food only. The rest is up to the kids.
Here’s what I do at mealtimes. It’s been informed by my sessions with occupational therapists who have worked with me and my son. I’d love to hear what works at home for you though.
- There’s always something on my table the kids will eat. Anytime there’s a new, “non-preferred” food, it’s paired with a familiar “preferred” food. I try to introduce a new or “non-preferred” food at least once a week.
- I encourage them to take one to two bites of the vegetable, protein, fruit, etc. they don’t want to eat that’s on their plate. I don’t force them to “clean their plate.” If they choose not to do this, then they don’t get their chocolate milk or apple juice.
- They drink water during meal times.
- They have to sit at the table until everyone is finished eating. This is just at lunch and dinner. (We’re working on this with our 3-year-old.) The kids eat breakfast in the living room, while watching cartoons.
- I try to keep the chocolate or white milk to 16 oz max daily.
- Keep desserts or treats to one a day.
In between meal prepping and meal cleanup, I can’t help but wonder would the kids eat better if I was a better cook? If I tried harder? Or if they had a different mom?
I tend to write more outcome oriented posts, but this one is a call to help from my readers. Not getting your kiddos to eat is an emotionally tense situation, and my nerves are overwhelmed. If you have any suggestions for this mama who all-she-wants-to-do-is-stay-in-bed-at-mealtime, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me a line or two in in the comments, by email firstname.lastname@example.org, or on one of my Instagram posts or via direct message @stayinbedmomblog. It takes a virtual village, and Stay-in-Bed Mom Blog needs you. I’m no Stay-in-Kitchen Mom!
In the meantime…
A Final Thought – From the Pillow
One day your son may grow up to be a Michelin chef. (fingers crossed)
So in the meantime keep presenting healthy food.
Is there an issue that has broken you or affected your mental health? Please tell me more.
Do you have an extremely picky eater at home? What has worked for you? I’m desperate for tips!