How My Toddlers Went From Being “Picky Eaters” to “Everything Eaters”
Before I became a mummy to adorable twin brats, my experience with kids was limited to my interactions with kids of my friends and family member. Whenever any of the other mums told me that their child was a picky eater, I would listen and nod sympathetically and say “I totally understand!”, when in fact I didn't really understand how hard it is to be a parent of a fussy eater. I’d very smugly think to myself that my kids were going to be different. They were going to eat anything and everything and I would follow the right processes for weaning and feeding.
Yes yes, I know, by this time all those mums with kids who are picky eaters are shaking their heads and laughing at me. Laughing at the irony of the whole situation, that at 23 months, in spite of me doing everything I could, my kids were the pickiest eaters in the world!
I’ve always been a real foodie, and being pregnant didn’t in the slightest way affect that. Once I got through the initial miserable trimester and the nausea and vomiting associated with it, I ate anything and everything I could lay my hands on- from dry fruits to spicy food to pastas to khichdi and much beyond. After my kids were born and the embargo period of 40 days was up, I continued to eat everything normal in the hope that the taste of all the food that I was eating would be introduced to my boys via my breast milk.
When at six months I started giving them solids, I didn’t want to give them cereals and instant food, rather I got them to start eating fruit and vegetable purees, mixing and matching tastes and spices so that they got the hang of everything they should be eating.
Whatever I cooked for my husband and I, was initially blended and later mashed and given to the boys. They were little champs, my boys, and almost never refused anything I tried to feed them. They had been weaned off breast milk by this time as well; they now drank cow’s milk albeit from their feeders.
My strategies of feeding the boys seemed to be working so well that I fell into the category of smug mums, who are triumphant about their kids no matter what they do and say. I felt I had deserved it and my hard work was paying off.
But of course, I had not predicted that it wasn’t going to be smooth ride for long. Just around their second birthday, the boys learnt to shake their heads and emphatically say “no! I don't want this!” and suddenly everything changed. My boys started saying no for most things. They didn’t want the fruit smoothies that they loved till a couple of days ago, they shook their heads at the vegetable khichdi I put in front of them and gagged when I tried to feed them oats. Little pieces of roti or bread would go flying out of their plates and down from their high chairs.
My worst nightmare had come true. My little adventurous eaters had now become horror of horrors, Picky Eaters! I tried every trick in the book to stop this behaviour. The boys started eating less, and consequently, started losing weight.
In my mind, I knew that this was just a part of being a toddler. Their new found sense of right or wrong was manifesting itself in the food placed in front of them. They were learning to assert themselves and their choices, a task that would keep them safe as they grew up and became “adults”! In my heart though, I was pained and hurt. Feeding my picky toddlers and trying to keep them from having meltdowns if something that they didn’t like was put in front of them was making me frustrated, stressful and just so exhausted.
I tried and used so many techniques to reverse this picky eating phase. I got their father and also my parents to help me feed them when they were around. I thought being emotionally less involved in the process of my kids eating would keep me sane. It didn’t!
I realized that family dinners were a slight relief, and the boys ate so much better when we were all at the table and eating together. My husband and I both worked like a team to get the boys to eat. We had to constantly distract the kids and force feed them, and that got me to an emotionally draining stage.
Around this time, alarmed with their weight loss and subsequent not gaining back weight, I decided to pay my pediatrician a visit. They were two years plus then and the first thing my doctor told me to do was to get them off the feeding bottle and onto milk in glasses or sippers. He also recommended the addition of a nutritional health drink to milk to enhance its taste and give the kids the nutrients they were missing in their rapid growth phase.
Armed with this advice, I started research on my best friend, Google. Nutritional info, stats, children’s growth, etc.- keying in all these keywords I frantically hunted for while looking for the best health drink for boys.
All my mummy friends and Google, of course, helped me in my research and I narrowed down the list of health drinks through the study of various pros, cons and probabilities to Junior Horlicks, that was advertised as a nourishing health drink - rich in the goodness of natural ingredients like milk, wheat and malted barley with essential vitamins and minerals.
The next day, once the boys came home from school, I was armed and ready, with two new sippy cups emblazoned with the kids favorite cartoon character Chota Bheem and my packet of Junior Horlicks in the chocolate flavor.
As usual, when I asked them if they wanted milk, they held out their hands and waved No, No, No! And I very coolly told them “Oh ok. Maybe then Papa and I can use these new cups, wow! They are so nice and bright, I love them!” At this point, tempted by the brand new cups, they said “Ok Mumma. Little Milk only. But in new cups. Throw the old ones!” SCORE!
Mumma had struck her first deal. But there was still more to come. I had to get them to try it. I quickly opened up the bottle and said “Wow look at this! Papa has got us such a yummy chocolatey powder! It smells so nice!” and yes, they took the bait and came sniffing like little puppies. “Wow mumma, this smells yummy.” and I used this to my advantage and said “Ok then, why don’t we try mixing a little of this in our little of milk? It will make the milk yummy!”
SCORE AGAIN! Mumma was on a roll. They said Yesss very excitedly, and I made their milk even more excitedly, mixing a spoonful of the yummy powder, rich in protein, DHA, Choline and other smart nutrients, into their milk, which I very excitedly noted, they slurped down with glee!
And that was that. First hurdle crossed, and with such ease and excitement! I kept pinching myself to see if this was real, that my picky eaters had taken to this glass of goodness with so much excitement, but it was real. I was ecstatic that not only would they be getting their daily dose of nutrients but this would also help in healthy weight gain for them as well!
Quite unsurprisingly, because the boys were getting their daily dose of nutrients and proteins, their body system became well settled and they started eating better as well! They now like to experiment with all kinds of food and I’m just glad that all the efforts that I put in at the beginning of their lives is paying dividends now.