My Son and Food - A Rocky Relationship
Updated: Jan 24, 2022
I love food. I am in no way a picky eater and will be quite adventurous and willing to try new things. I thoroughly enjoy cooking and would make elaborate meals all the time if it was possible! A part of me figured my son, once we got rolling with solids, would be a fellow foodie. Wrong. So very wrong. My son isn't picky. Oh no. He is beyond picky. I would go as far as to say he almost loathes food. Right now he is just over 2 years old. His relationship with food is incredibly negative and his diet is so poor and in need of some serious renovation. I want to share our story about our food journey, the past struggles and our ongoing work of figuring this out. I have felt very alone in this and have personally never been able to find anyone who has ever experienced a picky eater to this severity. So part of the reason I share is that if anyone out there has gone through or is currently going through something similar, maybe this can be encouraging. Also, I'd love to hear your story! The Beginning I began introducing solids to Leroy at the recommended 6 month mark. He hadn't been showing any signs that he was interested but I know that can be normal. I was incredibly nervous about him choking so I stuck with purees for quite a long time. My choking anxieties also increased because he gagged a LOT. When I mentioned it to the doctor she said he probably just has a very sensitive gag reflex.
The first few months of food weren't too bad. Eventually I got over my fear of the choking and gave him solid munchables that weren't all mush. Rice puffs were a favorite. However, no matter what we tried, he would not put fruits or veggies in his mouth. The rare times he did it was all gags and sometimes tears. Some meat worked its way into the diet for a short time but that eventually dropped off into nonexistence. Also for a short period of time I could coax Leroy to eat spoonful's of soup with veggies and chicken. A Flick of a Switch When the switch flipped, I don't know exactly. But it seems that all of a sudden, he was rapidly refusing just about everything until a very small list of foods remained that he would eat/tolerate. Yogurt used to always be acceptable, but now it makes him gag just by looking at it. An apple slice? He gagged from touching it, not even from tasting… Touching it. Placing food in front of him at mealtimes would trigger a full on meltdown. There would be times I would try to place food nearby and he would freak. As this was going on and getting worse, my emotions took a toll. What was I doing wrong? I felt like an awful mother because I could not get him to eat healthy food or put any sort of variety into his diet. I cried often after enduring a dinner time battle with my son. In desperation, we did indeed try forcing him to try things. You can imagine how that back fired and took an emotional toll on all of us. My husband and I would hold him on our laps and say over and over again that if he could just try putting this piece of chicken, or carrot, or whatever, into his mouth then he could go. He wailed and screamed and was completely upset. We would pick this battle but felt we needed to follow through even though it was quite awful.
Looking Back In hindsight, I can see how food in general has become a negative activity for Leroy. Mom crying, us forcing him… Lots of stress was rising up revolving mealtimes that he now clings to his very few comfort foods and refuses to expand beyond that small list. I see the mistakes. I felt very stuck and did not know where to go in order to pick up the pieces and begin building a new positive foundation for my son's eating. Putting the negative feelings towards food aside, there was also some noticeable signs that Leroy had some texture related sensitivities. Perhaps there was a sensory element that needed to be addressed. Seeking Help Enough was enough. It was time to reach out for specialized help. I brought Leroy to the doctor and we discussed his diet and possible sensory processing issues. She recommended an iron supplement, multivitamin, and a gentle laxative to administer on an as needed basis. As much as this could help, this obviously wasn't to be a long term solution. I didn't (don't) want him to be on supplements, I want him to receive the nutrients and vitamins he needs naturally. The doctor put in a referral to an Occupational Therapist. It was 6 long months until I finally got a phone to call to book an appointment. Which of course was another month later. I had an hour long phone interview with two OT's, one specializing in speech and motor skills and the other on food and sensory processing. Then it was a 2 month wait until I could finally bring Leroy in to see them in person. During the 8 months since the referral to the actual in person appointment, there was no progress on our end. I was so glad to have reached out when I did. This situation clearly required some tools and changes. A burden has lifted off since we started visiting the OT. I'm no longer alone trying to figure stuff out on the internet where there are a million different views, advice, and information which only caused discouragement and overwhelm. I needed someone with expertise to really look at my son and our specific circumstance. That the right plan can made to suit our particular exigency. Let's See How This Goes So far we've had 2 in person appointments with the OT's and I also had a virtual appointment with a dietician. I've been learning so much and feel very validated. I will continue to update with other posts on how this journey is going, and like I said before, I would absolutely love to hear your stories! If you are experiencing similar picky/sensitive eater woes, I highly recommend reaching out to specialists. In the meantime, I will continue to apply the new strategies we've already set in place and here's hoping we will make some significant steps in restoring my boy's relationship with food.