Feed me Feed me now!
This too shall pass. I’ve long sworn it is my parenting mantra. And yet time and again I find it hard to accept. We had the most worrying time with my daughter in late December and early January.
Actually it was building for months before that. Back in late August, she cut her first tooth at the ripe old age of 17 months and lost her appetite for a week or two while it was happening. Then we went to Vancouver in October to visit my brother and his family, and never a great traveller, she was off her food while we were there. I think she ate one good meal in two weeks.
It was a similar story on our return. It took her well over a week to readjust to the time difference. Finally she perked up in mid-November. And then disaster – she got a mild tummy bug and spent a couple of days vomiting. Oddly enough she was still eating then.
Just before Christmas she got very sick – you know one of those viruses that leaves them with a high temperature, no energy and no appetite. The fever passed but her appetite didn’t return. Small wonder because she cut several more teeth that month.
But when you’re small to begin with, a few illnesses in a row like that can really knock you. Which is what seemed to have happened.
We were at a bit of a loss. When our son went through similar periods as a toddler, we just gave him extra bottles. But cows’ milk plays havoc with my daughter’s digestion and can leave her screaming with constipation if she has more than a few ounces in a day. Thank goodness I was still breastfeeding. As my father gravely pronounced one day “It’s the only thing that’s keeping her alive.” Not quite the reassurance I was hoping for but he had a point.
The lowest point came in mid-January for me. I really thought she would come back to herself within a week or so after Christmas, but there was no sign of it happening. I was getting ready to bath her one Sunday night when I decided to weigh her. Just under 9kg. Less than she weighed 12 months previously as far as I’m aware. (I don’t normally weigh my kids so I can’t be sure.)
On the advice of a friend, I bought My Child Won’t Eat and read it from cover to cover. She was right to recommend it. This book should be on the must-read list of every new parent.
We took some deep breaths and went back to trusting ourselves and our child. I kept breastfeeding her in the evening, and she had a bottle of cows’ milk too. We added some Complan to her bottle to add some extra calories. And then we followed her lead with food. When she wanted to eat only butter and no potatoes I reminded myself that Americans pay a fortune for our butter made from the milk of grass-fed cattle, and I got her a spoon. I didn’t realise it yet but that was the turning point.
She sought high calorie, high fat foods for a week or two. Would eat nothing else. And then gradually started to show an interest in regular foods again. In early February, we had her 18-24 month checkup with the public health nurse and when she was weighed, she had gained half a kilo.
Out of nowhere, her eating ramped up a notch – or ten – a week or two ago, and now this child who we couldn’t feed – well, we can’t keep her fed! The irony isn’t lost on me.
If you think I’m exaggerating, let me run you through her breakfast the other day. A bowl of Weetabix. A bowl of Cheerios. A bowl of Ready Brek. A sausage. A yogurt. I honestly don’t know where she is putting it.
20 minutes later and we hear what is fast becoming a familiar refrain “Eat! Me Hungry! Eat!” A mandarin and some apple later and she was satisfied. For a while at least.
I laughed when I put on her pyjama suit tonight. A fresh suit that she hasn’t worn in two weeks. When she last wore it, it fit perfectly. Tonight it seems to be an inch too short. Out of curiosity I weighed her. A smidge under 10kg.
I think the biggest surprise to me here is that I am over five years at this parenting craic and I can still forget to trust myself, and more importantly that we can still forget to trust our kids. It’s the fear that does it. The little voice in the back of your mind whispering “what if”. Next time, I’ll try to add a second louder voice to the mix, one to remind me that “This too shall indeed pass.”