Arthur’s Food Saga: What I’ve Learned

This post might be more aptly titled, “Phoebe’s Feeding-Arthur Journey” because he didn’t really have problems–I did.

Things went well when we started Arthur on solid foods. We didn’t really know what we were doing but we kept trying and Arthur seemed to enjoy the experience. We made the awkward transition from breastfeeding to eating mostly solids, well, awkwardly. I struggled with knowing when to feed him and how much because when I was nursing, I just fed him whenever he was hungry and then he ate as much as he wanted.

Somewhere during this process, things fell apart. It was probably when Arthur was 10-12 months old. I was trying to transition him to almost exclusively “real food” and it seemed to me that he was refusing to eat most things! I panicked and pleaded and mostly gave in. He mostly ate bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, potatoes, and pretzels–which was not okay. It was around this time too that Arthur’s pediatrician suggested that I give Arthur some snacks during the day. I hadn’t even thought of snacks! So we implemented a snack regimen in between meals. All the while, I was getting more and more stressed that Arthur wasn’t getting enough food or enough nutrients.

Our first epiphany came from my sister-in-law, Lauresa (who blogs here). She is a dietician and suggested that we try out Ellyn Satter‘s method. Ellyn Satter suggests that there is a division of responsibility in feeding children. The parent chooses what the child eats and when, then, the child chooses how much they want to eat. Lauresa emphasized that if Arthur doesn’t eat what I put in front of him, I shouldn’t stress because he will eat the next time I offer food. She said that kids need schedules. They need to know what to expect. Knowing we had nothing to lose, I started a more structured eating schedule for Arthur. We had times for meals and times for snacks and I tried my best not to stress or to cave and give him pretzels or goldfish if he wouldn’t eat.

The change was amazing. Within a couple of days, Arthur began to be a little more adventurous in what he would eat. I gained a little more peace of mind and things improved.

Then, a week or two ago, I was reading this book. It’s about an American woman raising children in Paris, France. She writes in detail about the differences between American and French parenting–both positive differences and negative ones. What struck me is her description of French toddlers’ eating habits. She wrote that French toddlers ate when adults ate and what they ate which meant three meals a day and an afternoon treat. In France, food isn’t catered to children (besides obviously, cutting things smaller etc.) instead children are taught to appreciate various types of food. As I read, I wondered if this attitude would work with Arthur. What if I didn’t have to prepare a different dinner for Arthur every night–a dinner filled with bland, steamed vegetables and plain bread? Could he learn to eat whatever was in front of him?

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We tried it. We completely got rid of snacks, except for one after Arthur’s nap and we started feeding him exactly what we were having. Again, it took a few days, but now, for the most part, he will eat whatever we put in front of him. And feeding him is so much more fun! Instead of cooking myself one thing for lunch and cooking him something else, I make lunch for the two of us and we eat together. Yesterday, we had spinach pesto pasta and he loved it! I put rosemary on his baked potato and that was a hit too. He gets so much more excited about mealtimes and I get more excited about feeding him.

This system has not only helped his eating habits, it has also changed mine. Because I want him to be healthy, I’ve started eating healthier as well. Instead of baking cookies for my snack, we have fruit or on especially good days, we have apples with caramel. (That was a huge hit!) Mealtimes now are far from stressful; they are fun.

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This parenting thing is such a journey. There are a lot of ups and downs and forward and backwards steps, but it feels so good when I can see the progress.

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