Feeding my toddler. Sigh. I think, conservatively, that this task consumes about 80% of my waking life. Consider that I’m also in the midst of a series of ongoing food wars, and I’d say that it consumes most of my energy as well. Yesterday was a perfect example.
In the morning, when I opened the fridge to get out the milk, she was pointing excitedly at the grapes. I was pleasantly surprised, as she usually shows zero interest. I put little girl in her high chair and proceeded to wash and quarter about five grapes, which took me about 90 seconds. By the time I was done and presented her highness with her choice, she was OVER IT. She brattily squawked her disapproval and swatted at the plate, almost knocking it on the floor. Maybe she didn’t realize they were grapes anymore? Maybe she didn’t want them cut? I even ate a few (the old “pretend it’s mine” trick works like 63% of the time), but she was not having it. It eventually turned out that she just really wanted to hold a whole grape, and she carried one around the house for like half the morning without ever trying to eat it. Toddlers. Are. So. Weird.
File feeding a child under “Areas of My Pre-Baby Expertise.” I clearly remember the conversations I had with my husband as I rubbed my pregnant belly and dreamed of the future.
“We’ll make her try everything. That’s the only way she’ll learn!”
“She’ll eat what we put in front of her or she won’t eat at all.”
“We’ll have her eat what we eat.”
As you all know, there are lots of problems and loopholes here. First of all, from the start of their solid foods career, babies can only eat certain things. Once they turn six months, it’s not like you can put a steak and a side salad in front of them. You have to ease them into solids, so while you’re working up to those things you really WANT them to eat, they are already developing their preferences. We’ve only got 9 teeth over here, so a lot of crunchy things (including many fresh fruits and veg) are still a no-go. Maybe it’s lazy of me, but I’m not one to throw dinner in the blender just so baby can partake. Because no.
Also, it turns out that I do have a problem with my little girl going hungry. It’s not so much that I feel bad – it’s more that it hurts my ears. If she doesn’t eat what I put in front of her and I call lunchtime done, she is just going to scream at me until she gets her food pouch or crackers or cheerios or cheese or pasta or whatever it is she’s got her mind set on. Hungry is hungry, and in the black-and-white, poor-communication-skills toddler world, hungry = YELLING.
Probably the biggest problem with feeding toddlers is that they cannot be reasoned with. I know, BREAKING NEWS. Unlike a baby, they won’t just let you put whatever you want into their mouths. And unlike with an older kid, there’s no, “Take three bites of chicken, and you can have cheese.” I never know when she’s going to take a hard look at whatever I put in front of her and think, “Hmm. I don’t quite like the looks of you.” And what am I going to do, force feed her? (Well actually, I’ve been known to try this on occasion!)
So it’s a constant compromise. You’ll only eat pasta today? Well it’s going to be whole grain. On an applesauce kick? Then I’ll look for something low in sugar. I do try to offer her new things, but MAN it hurts when she rejects my sweated-over home-cooked meals for food pouches or cheese. So I always keep the healthy stuff she likes on hand (broccoli, bananas) and allow her treats on occasion.
A final thought: I am such an advocate for women to have confidence in their infant feeding choices. Toddler feeding is no different in a lot of ways; we still have to balance what is healthy and what works. Mamas, try not to get down on yourselves for not feeding your toddler exclusively from the farmer’s market or for giving in to their demands. Do your research and try to keep it healthy, but just keep on doing your best. That is good enough!