When Elvie was in the middle of her second hospital stay, I expressed concern that she wasn’t getting much of her medicine down because she had developed rather sophisticated ways of spitting it back out. Just when I thought I’d figured out a new way to trick her into swallowing it, she would figure out what was up and devise a new way of collecting it in her mouth until there was enough to spit back out. One of the doctors suggested that with that kind of talent for manipulating things in her mouth, she might enjoy eating. She was six months old at the time, so I decided to give it a go.
I bought both brown rice cereal and pears. I fed her the brown rice cereal mixed with her usual formula, and she made a terrible face and spit it out. She did the same with the pears, and then with every subsequent food I tried to introduce. For awhile I thought it was because she wanted to feed herself, but every time I offered something, she would put it in her mouth, make the same face, and spit it out. So I decided to stop trying so hard, and then something emerged that she actually liked to eat.
Unfortunately, that something was an index card. But it occurred to me that if she would happily try to eat paper, it was possible she would try to eat other foods she could manipulate similarly. Every time I went to a grocery store, I’d check out the baby offerings, and I finally stumbled upon something I thought might be acceptable. Two weeks ago, she tried her first rice husk, and she didn’t hate it entirely. Success! She still made the same face, but she gummed on it for a little bit before rejecting it. Since then, I’ve offered her a rice husk whenever it is convenient, allowing her to do whatever she likes with it until she is done with it. Gradually, she has eaten a bit more each time. She’s still not at a place where she’ll eat the whole thing, but she’s making progress, and I love not pushing her, just giving her the opportunity.
To be honest, I don’t know what I’ll offer her next. I want her to enjoy eating foods that are good for her and not feel pressured, to develop a healthy relationship with food. I think I can lay those foundations now by respecting her tastes and her limits. If she needs to take her time to learn to eat solid foods, and if she rejects most of what is offered for a long time, that is okay. She will learn to eat, and we will learn more about her in the process. Will she like spicy food, like her big sister? Will she have a sweet tooth, like her mama? Will she eat like she has a hollow leg or like a bird?
I think it’s important to keep in mind that children all over the world are sustained by non-solid food, whether it be breast milk or formula, until their first birthday and sometimes beyond. It’s not hurting her to get most of her nutrition from formula at this point. I’m also keeping in mind that so much of her development was on delay due to her stressed beginnings, and it’s not unreasonable to think that exploring solid foods might take a bit longer, too. As long as she continues to gain weight well and be healthy, I will be more than happy. We have such high expectations of our children, with our charts and lists and milestones, and I think that it is good to remember that different children do things at different times, including becoming comfortable with solid foods. She will get to that point someday, probably far too soon with the way time is flying lately, and I am content to wait.
More of Finding Magnolia on Babble:
With Thanks to Elvie for Finally Letting Me Sleep Longer Than an Hour at a Time
Finding My New Mom-of-Two Personal Normal
Two Kids: More Than Twice the Work of Just One Kid