Shauravi’s son was a champion eater. Until the tender age of 14 months. There was much initial success with homemade baby cereals experiments. She was patting herself on the back for his gastronomic taste buds. And then, it all came to a crashing halt. He stopped eating. Everything. Except milk and cheese. There was no luck with airplane spoons, songs or any amount of cajoling.
Thank god for a sensible paediatrician at the time. He wrote out his diagnosis and it was not what she expected. But in hindsight, it was also entirely accurate. He wrote “I have reassured his mum that this is just a case of him asserting his independence. He will eat what he wants, when he wants. And at this stage there is no need for further investigation provided he continues to thrive.” Feeding your child is such an emotional act. It’s what we want to do for them, to watch them grow and be healthy. Here are a few things that helped us manage the tantrums along the way….
- Try not to make food a battle. In rare cases this could also lead to eating disorders at a later age. It’s not easy to do this, but do try saying “you don’t have to eat it” even though your head is willing you to say the exact opposite. Doing this consistently made a difference.
- Keep a little diary of what your child actually eats in a day. Ask everyone who has been around them. You will be positively surprised! Kids pick up a toast here, a fruit there, a cookie as they go through the day. It all adds up. Just because your little one is not eating massive main meals, doesn’t mean some degree of snacking is not going on.
- Try to keep some high calorie easy things at hand for small victories. Nut butters are high in good fat, protein and calories. Its surprisingly easy to make peanut butter and almond butter at home. A little sprinkling of raisins made it a winner in our home. Two or three large spoons is an easy way to have a large number (almost two hundred) calories in a small serving. In a nutshell, be prepared for little appetites that like to eat at odd times. Cheese, oat bars, fruit, nuts are all handy.
- Plan menus ahead. We all tire of eating the same thing day in and day out. Write down what your child does like and work around it. It might be that they just like finger food. We made daal kebabs and fish cutlets, with little bowls of colourful dip.
- On the worst days, just relax. For a while, you may need to ask other people to step in to solve what can become a mom vs baby battle. You can enlist others in your family, or help at home to feed your child. And just twenty minutes of Peppa Pig or a favourite cartoon can go a long way. Some people might not agree, but I’ll take a full stomach over a bit of much maligned screen time!
- If you can bring yourself to do it, then for a day don’t ask them to eat anything at all. You will normally find that just by doing that your child will soon be asking for food themselves.
- Take a chill pill on what they can’t eat. For us, the absolute no-no’s are sugary drinks, outside fries and coloured, excessively sweet junk food. But we also believe in the old age, that the only poison is excess. Some days your child might just want to eat cake (and don’t you too?). So seize the day, and bake a cake, or say hello to Betty Crocker together. There might be days when your little toddler wants to eat only raisins and drink only milk. Just let them do that. They are very unlikely to continue this the next day.
- Get a good supplement they like (a syrup, or a chewable, gummy one) and ensure they take it. If their diet is difficult, try to avoid any inadvertent micro-nutrient deficiencies. One spoon of fish oil if you can!
- Lastly – do not be stressed out by what other kids are eating. Or people asking you the question that is already keeping you awake every night “Why is your kid so skinny”. If someone says it once, let it go. If it happens again, do gently ask them not to keep repeating it. You don’t want your child to feel like they have an eating problem or to learn ways to exert unnecessary control over you!
At the end of the day: if your paediatrician says there are no growth and height delays, then just let your child breathe a little and don’t give in to junk food; it will pass. If you eat YOUR broccoli, they will too! So in all your anxiety, don’t forget to be the good example!
Meghana Narayan and Shauravi Malik
Two mums on a mission and founders of Slurrp Farm. Meghana used to lead the public health practise at McKinsey India, and has studied at Harvard Business School, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and a Computer Science engineer. She was also on the Indian national swimming team and it is her personal goal to up the nutrition table for Indian kids. Shauravi used to work for the Virgin Group, and in the Consumer and Healthcare team at JP Morgan in London. She studied Economics at Cambridge University and at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi University, and has always loved food and eating it, after a fussy start as a toddler!