My six-year-old son has never been a great eater.
He would now be regarded as a picky eater, but when he was younger it was more severe than that, there were only about six foods he would eat.
I blamed myself of course, because when he was born I tried desperately to breastfeed to no avail, but I kept trying anyway.
I did this because everyone told me I had to and I did want to. Plus, my mum and my sister and my sister-in-law all did it easily and so I should’ve been able to as well. And if I tried hard enough, I would be able to, I would!
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Except I wouldn’t, because five months into motherhood I discovered that my son couldn’t suckle properly because of the shape of his mouth and tongue, and by this stage, he was drastically underweight.
I didn’t give up though. I pumped 12 times a day, used supplemental nursing systems and did regular myofunctional tongue exercises with him. I did all of this because back then I believed I’d be a complete failure who wouldn’t bond with her child if I didn’t breastfeed.
Update: I wasn’t a complete failure and I did bond with my child because newsflash, motherhood is not breastfeeding.
Anyway, because motherhood is living in a perpetual state of guilt, I still believed that this difficult start with breastfeeding might have caused him to have an aversion to eating generally.
It might be true. It also might not be, because I know lots of women whose babies breastfeed beautifully and they still won’t eat anything but vegemite toast to this day.
To most people a picky eater sounds like a minor issue, you just crack the whip, tell them to eat and eventually they will.
And when you have a child that is hungry and cranky and can’t cope with life but refuses to eat, life gets very hard, very quickly.
Well-meaning friends and family (as well as quite a few meddling strangers) shared all the standard lines, and homespun remedies with us.
“He’ll eat when he’s hungry.”
No, he won’t, he’ll scream-cry himself to sleep with hunger pains rather than eat something he doesn’t like.
“If you serve enough healthy food eventually, he’ll learn to like it.”