Saturday, May 3, 2008

I want you to meet somebody....

This is my Little Guy, or LG as we call him around here. He is a delightful, intelligent, strong-willed boy who has such a warm sense of humor. He brings so much laughter and fun into our home--we love him dearly! There is just this one little, itty, bitty thing about him though (tongue in cheek) that has caused our entire household to turn upside down and backwards.

The boy doesn't like to eat.

When he was a newborn and nursing, everything was fine. We cruised through breast and bottle feeding until he was 6 months of age without a concern with his feeding. The minute it was time to eat food, that tiny spoonful of baby single grain cereal that pediatricians want 6 month olds to try, that was the exact moment that eating became an issue.

At that time, every several days I would place my sweet little guy in his high chair, mix up the baby single grain cereal, and sit down with a big smile on my face anticipating a typical mommy-feeding-her-baby kind of situation. Each day when things did not go well, I mentally envisioned the next feeding would be different. Normal. When LG kept turning his head to the side, crying, and pressing his lips together as tight as humanly possible, I would tell myself that it was just too early and we would try again later. But LG was not my oldest child and I knew in my gut, like only mothers know, that something was just not right.

I told my son's pediatrician at each and every well child check-up that he would not eat. Each and every time, my pediatrician told me LG was fine. I talked about it with the nurses, my friends with kids, and every mother I met. Every one of them told me LG looked fine and that I should not worry. In fact, LG did look fine. He was a happy, healthy, adorable, little boy in every other way, and so I began to trust other people's judgement over my own.

The battle with food was constant, but he did begin to willfully eat baby oatmeal as well as three or four different kinds of baby food. If I remember right, it was applesauce, pears, and bananas, but never a vegetable, especially not peas or green beans.

By the time LG was twenty months old, mealtimes were at an all time low point for the entire family. He had transitioned to toodler foods and had four foods that he would now eat: Chicken McNuggets, raisins, cheerios, and grapes. Four! That's all. I can't tell you the anguish of feeding your precious little child the same foods over and over, day after day, meal after meal. The worrying about the actual nutrition he was receiving was constant. And still, every time we presented new foods, the crying, the head turning, the pursed lips, the antics...they were simply unbearable.

It was at this point that I asked my pediatrician through eyes swelled up with tears when he thought LG would have a legitimate feeding problem. His answer stunned me into a full burst of emotions. "By the time he is five or six years old, and he is still not eating, we will know if he has any feeding issues or not."

The words still resonate with me. My child, my family would not survive another three to four years of this. My LG was not a chunky looking toddler anymore. He had fallen from the 75th percentile on the growth chart to 5th percentile. My family's mealtimes were so stressful that no one wanted to eat. LG cried the moment we tried to put him in his high chair every single time, and as a 2 year old, he was being sustained by milk.

Needless to say, that was our lowest point in the entire journey. I ran to a new pediatrician's office and decided that it was time for me to personally find the help I knew my son needed. I would no longer accept anyone else telling me that everything was fine, because it was not fine. My son needed help eating and I needed help feeding him.

That was eight and a half years ago.

The journey to try to help LG learn to like food has been a long and often painful one. There have been doctor appointments, feeding therapy, occupational therapy, and food programs. If there has been something to do or try, we have been there. It has been a journey filled with tears, turmoil, anguish, and frustration.

The good news is we have journeyed far from that place and though our long adventure is not over, we have had joy and triumph. LG now ten years old and has a variety a whole foods that he eats AND enjoys. Mealtimes are now a pleasant experience for the whole family. LG eats the same meals that I prepare for the rest of my family and he is healthy and happy. He is still a little guy, and probably always will be, but he eats!

I share his story with you because I know LG is not the only child with a long and worrisome eating history. He may be an extreme example, but he is not alone. As a mother, it is one of the worst feelings to not be able to care for you child the way you want to care for them, whether your child is a picky eater or has a significant feeding problem, like LG.

From the bottom of my heart, I know, if my family can get through this journey, anyone can.

Revised January 2011. Original post May 2008.


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, hard to see from the misty eyes. I can't fully imagine what you've gone through but I've definately had similar experiences with my son Evan. But not with eating, he hasn't slept through the night, ever. He's 14 months old. And would wake up to 10 times a night but mostly 3-5 times on average. We've tried EVERYTHING looking for a solution. And gone through Dr.s & others who wouldn't heed my concerns of reflux etc. But for some reason in this last week he's starting to make Huge improvements to sleeping at night! And I'm afraid to say that he's about to sleep through without assistance in fear that I'll jinx it but it does feel close & we couldn't be more relieved :) And ours aren't the only stories of mothers etc. who've gone through what ever the issue and dealing with critics & doubters at every turn but it certainly feels aweful, frustrating, lonely, and especially in your case, terrifying much of the time. I'm So glad that it's finally working out for your son & family & I hope that it's about that time for mine :).

Mona @ Healthy Homesteading said...

Wow! You sure did have a picky eater. My nephew was similar to your son. I was his regular baby sitter when he was 2 and all he would eat was graham crackers and juice. Everyday for all meals. The strange thing was he was a really tall kid. I couldn't figure out how he could be growing on that kind of diet. He is now a 6'3 healthy 18 year old and is no longer a picky eater.
My youngest daughter (age 6) was the pickiest of my three kids. I think it would have gotten worse if I had not made the health changes we did. She now eats most of what I make for everyone else and I always encourage her at least try something that she thinks she won't like.
I am glad to hear you son is a reformed picky eater :)