Ayemye and food! Oh my. The relationship is…let’s just say, the love is not deep. Lol.
Let me take a few steps back to when I was about to introduce Asempa to solid food. Most materials that I read prior to when he turned six months placed so much emphasis on how challenging it will be, how most babies will struggle to get used to the idea of taking in something other than breast milk, etc etc. In fact, I was more than prepared for the worst. Then we introduced this guy to solids and it was that “Ah” moment. Like, what exactly were these people talking about? Asempa can eat! Like he eats to a fault. He can eat so much that we have to think of how to hide food from him. Like literally. Smh.
Fast forward to when Ayemye was almost 6 months too, I skimmed a few materials. I mean, it was my second time after all, what was there to fear? I’ve got a hang of this already right? What’s the worst that could happen?
Day 1, we started with Cerelac. He opened his mouth and ate so happily. I’m like “I’m blessed oh!” My two boys aren’t giving me any stress with eating kwraa. Day 2, 3 and 4 or so went well too. And then that was it! Whether he finally realised he was doing something wrong by eating oh…I don’t know. Like he moved from opened mouth to closed mouth. Literally. I simply can’t say what happened.
So I’m like okay…maybe it’s time to read again and restart this business. So I read and read, meal plans, food options, what didn’t I read? I read about picky eaters too. Charley, this guy says breatmilk naaa is the king of all foods. So I felt, well…maybe he’s not really ready yet, maybe I rushed him…maybe he’ll get there with time. So I decided to just keep calm and let a man enjoy his breast milk. I also changed his formula milk several times…it was SMA then NAN. I decided to check online for a formula milk that had a taste similar to breast milk. Prof. Google told me to try Similac. I checked the stores and realised they are only sold in bigger sizes and so I was not willing to get such a huge pack only for this boy to reject it. Luckily, the shop had the ready-to-feed 236 ml bottle. I got that, no thank you. Asempa drank our milk for us. What else did I try? Yeah Aptamil. And Nursie. Still! You can imagine the frustration.
You see, when you read about picky eaters, the babies or toddlers usually have a profile of having a preference for one or two foods. Not my Ayemye. There was a particular week when he ate some rice we offered him. I was thrilled! Finally! He’s eating something at least. Ho! I wonder how long that lasted. Then it was scrambled eggs. I think that lasted even a shorter time. So it was. Once in a while, he will like something, but it will barely last. You know the funniest part? This guy didn’t cry or fuss like a hungry baby should. It was as if he knew exactly what he was doing!
He had repeated his weight about twice when we attended the monthly weighing clinic. But what got to me was when it dropped even though it was just by 0.1kg. By then, he had just turned 1. Considering his birth weight of 4kg, he should have tripled his weight nicely to 12kg but age 1. He was 9.6kg at 11 months. I went in for his 12th month weighing crossing my fingers for a 10kg and I was rewarded with 9.5kg. That did it for me. I was so broken that day eh! You should have seen me.
Anyway, so that event gave me a “this must end” disposition. I am not one who likes the idea of forcing food into a baby’s mouth but desperation pushed me. He cried! But at least a few spoons of the cereal/porridge I made for him went down. We got Zincovit for him but after a few days, I saw no change and also abandoned the Zincovit because guess what? We have to open our mouth to take medicine too. I couldn’t fight two wars at the same time. After forcing him to eat for about a week, I went to see a dietician. She recommended that we allow him to take the small portions as he currently does but increase the number of feeds instead. She also advised that we pack whatever is in the bowl with as many nutrients as possible so he gets a lot from the little he takes in. For example, she recommended tom brown over “koko” (maize porridge) since the tom brown has at least three other ingredients in addition to the maize. Also, she asked that we add a lot of milk; the quantity of mixed milk should be equal to the quantity of the porridge. She sent us home with a 7 meals a day plan for Ayemye.
7 meals? Ha. Interestingly, we started off well. I even kept a food diary, recording the number of spoons he will take each time. Ha! At best, we will do 5 meals a day, at worst, maybe 3. Then like two weeks into this, the fire was gone. When I tried forcing him to eat as always, he will kick, squirm, push away the spoon and sometimes go to the extent of bringing out whatever he had managed to take in. Can a person hate food like this? By our 13th month weighing, we were back to our 9.6kg. I could have cried. After all the effort.
Well, enough of the tears. Motherhood continues right? Sigh. I contacted a pharmacist friend about why the Zincovit had not boosted my son’s appetite as quickly as I expected. He encouraged me to keep giving it to him. It may take a while sometimes but once I am consistent about it, it will eventually work. I continued with the meal plans as the dietician recommended. Most importantly, I prayed. Yes, as Christians we always say “take everything to God in prayer” but sometimes, we limit the “everything” and regard some things as too…I don’t know…small, trivial or maybe unimportant to God? But charley, God cares about everything oh. At that point, apart from praying for Ayemye to eat better, even more, I needed to ask God for strength to consistently be committed to this journey because, really, it was not easy. Guess what, the morning I began a novena, Ayemye took two bowls of cereal for breakfast! Granted, he did not eat much for lunch, hehe, but I think that immediate answer was God telling me that it’s good you have finally come to me with this challenge, I’ve got this!
So we had a consistent month of Zincovit, prayers and eating what we could eat. A little some days, a bit more other days. When our next weighing appointment came, I knew the story would be different. I felt his weight had increased when I carried him and I felt it within me that we were there.
10.1kg! I didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh. It was such a relief eh. Finally!
Today, we are still on the journey. In fact, I NOW have a picky eater. The other one was a non-eater or a closed-mouther or something. The funny thing is if I hadn’t gone through that phase, I would have been complaining oh. But now, I don’t complain. Rice is by all standards his favourite. So if I have tried all my skills and he won’t take his porridge but I have some rice, I give him the rice oh. But he’s really improved…we do banku, yam, fufu, you name it. It’s only that rice is his rain or shine, the others he can be comme ci comme ça about them. Currently, he does breakfast, lunch and supper which he takes in varying portions. Usually one of them is bigger than the two others. For snacks, he takes crackers, choco milo, popcorn, groundnuts, packaged fruit snacks. Liquids are our challenge now though. He still won’t go near a bottle of milk or milo (okay, he will go near it to play with it, lol) but he loves water. I was recently taking FanMaxx and he got interested and took some! So let’s see if he likes it consistently. I need to get him something to substitute breastmilk when I finally wean him off. Oh you thought we had stopped breastfeeding? Oh naa. It’s still our king. Hehehe.
So you have a picky eater? What is my advise for you?
- Be consistent. We can’t give up. Ask for strength from God.
- If he/she likes something, don’t feel bad about offering it all the time. Sometimes, I will put just a little rice and mix with the new food I am trying on him just so he can have the taste of the familiar with the unfamiliar.
- Listen to your child. I still do not agree with constantly forcing a child to eat. I try to keep the “forced” meal to one meal a day. Even with that, if he is fighting too much, I will stop. If I can get a few spoons in, I will wait till another meal when he might be willing to eat some more.
- Consider a distraction. As I have mentioned in other posts, Ayemye loves TV a lot so I use that as a distraction particularly for the meal I am forcing him to take.
- Make the meal as nutrient-dense as possible so that the body can absorb enough nutrients from the little that he/she eats.
- Chill! Once there is appreciable weight gain, your toddler is happy and playing well, don’t set goals especially based on another person’s child or your own other child.
Hope you picked up great points. Let us know in the comments below.
Got your own experience or tips? Share them too!