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  • Niamh

Getting My Fussy Toddler To Eat a Meal...

For the last month or so, the most amazing thing has been happening in our house. It happens every evening about 5.30/6.00pm… To an outsider however, the event would look completely run of the mill and most decidedly un-amazing… but I can assure you, it’s nothing short of astonishing.

The thing I’m referring to is my toddler and myself (and often my husband if he’s home in time) all sitting down at the table eating the SAME meal…

How is that possibly amazing? You might ask…

Well, if you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I’ve had an awful time getting my son to eat proper meals… so much so, I began to physically dread dinner time and ended up reduced to tears on an almost daily basis.

Every evening we had the same battle. I’m quite sure my body would tense up, despite my best efforts to elude aloofness, and I’d sit down with the bowl praying to God that he’d just eat a few bites for me and on the rare occasions when he did, I felt as though I’d won the lotto…

Most evenings, dinner time resulted in meltdowns, tears (from both of us!), frustration and carefully prepared homemade meals being spat out or summarily refused out of hand.

I was at my wits end, and I tried everything, literally everything -

Homemade food

Pureed food

Finger foods

Frozen food

Packet food

Bland food

Spicy food

I bought every kids cookbook under the sun, tried out all the recipes

I read kid’s food guru’s advice as if it was the gospel

Talked to the PHN, read the handout, followed it to the letter

I tried not making a fuss and taking unwanted food away

I tried saying just eat what you want

I tried saying just try a little bit

I tried every type of plate and bowl under the sun

I tried bribery

I tried sticking on cartoons to distract him…

I would have literally tried ripping both of my arms off if it would have helped

But nothing worked.

And so for what seemed like months on end, mealtimes became a complete nightmare… for both of us. I became stressed to the eyeballs about it, worrying he wasn’t getting enough nutrients, that he wouldn’t grow, that he was going to be a fussy eater for the rest of his life. I heard advice from everyone, people said, he’ll eat when he’s hungry, he won’t starve, sure I never ate a vegetable until I was in my 20s…’ etc, etc.

All of that sagely advice, while well-meaning was not helpful in the least, because it gave me no solutions to fix the problem… in fact I felt like boxing their lights out when they casually said ‘it’s just a phase’ and smiled.

I didn’t know what to do and to be honest I sort of gave up… then, the weirdest thing happened.

We somehow got to the stage where we are now witting down together as a family and eating the same meal… and by that I mean, actual food… yes my son now eats carrots, mash, gravy, pasta, rice, lasagne, sweetcorn, actual meals! Now look, he’s not suddenly clearing huge plates or anything, but he is eating small amounts of actual food and veggies without the drama of before.

I wish I could tell you I took decisive action or followed a set plan, but to be really honest it just sort of happened by accident…

I started not getting so het up about whether he ate his dinner or not… and I started eating my dinner with him in the early evening, instead of waiting and having it with my husband when he came home from work. I really think these two things helped massively.

Before I was making him a separate meal and serving it to him while I sat with him and tried to get him to eat it, whereas now, I sit and eat the same food with him… it’s more of a social thing and less pressure on both of us.

Also, it’s as if my son suddenly found his appetite… now look he’s still not the worlds greatest eater, he is not overly keen on meat and there are plenty of things he won’t touch, but it’s a far cry from where we were at the start of the year even.

I mean last night he devoured mash, carrots, peas, gravy and a tiny but of chicken… if you’d of told me that six months ago I would have said I had more chance of winning the lotto.

I guess what I’m saying to other parents out there who are where I was, there is hope. And I hate to say this, but it is likely a passing phase and things will improve even though it doesn’t seem like it.

My top tip would be try to eat at the same time as your child and make it a more laid back social thing… I found my son was interested in trying what I was having or poking around on my plate at least. Also try not to get to worried or stressed out, again I know this is easier said than done, but I found the stress really counter-intuitive.

Hang in there mama, it will get better I promise.

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