**All within 24 hours, or sometimes within the space of one mealtime!**
Naomi started becoming a fussy eater at 10 months old. Her eating habits (or lack thereof) are something that has kept me awake at night, worrying and trying to figure out how to change things. Mealtimes are an emotional rollercoaster in our house, and it’s only now that I’ve come to accept it and roll with the punches.
To moms of fussy eaters, I may not have any magic bullet solutions, but at least we can see some humor in this situation right?! So here are 10 emotional stages you go through when you have a fussy eater. Which stage resonates most with you?
This first stage typically kicks in at the beginning of the week when you’ve emerged from stage 10 (see below) and you’re ready to try again, full of optimism. You spend hours researching articles on ‘how to deal with a fussy eater’, ‘list of good fats to offer to toddlers’, and you’re intrigued to try out this recipe that this mom from your mommy forum swears “my kid can’t get enough of this stuff!”.
Armed with new knowledge, tactics and tips, you enter the second stage, deluded, when a mom starts building the expectation that they can change their little one’s (LO) fussy eating habits. Meals are prepped, veggies strategically hidden underneath a bear-shaped sandwich. You just have a feeling that this avocado pasta with spinach sauce you saw from the My Fussy Eater YouTube channel will be a hit with your LO.
30 minutes prior to mealtime, you fall into the anticipation stage. You are simultaneously excited and anxious, but you try to be cool about the tension that usually comes at mealtimes. You lovingly prepare a well-balanced plate and dessert in their favorite plate and sippy cup, mealtime strikes and it’s time to feed the monster.
You put the plate down in front of your LO and before even casting an eye on what’s in front of them, they quickly say ‘NO DAT’. You take a deep breath, and you talk nicely. When that doesn’t work, you whip out all of the bargaining and negotiation tactics you know, and if that doesn’t work, you slip into the next stage of Desperation…
A far better scenario is when your little one immediately starts eating the food offered to them without question and heck, they can’t even get enough of it! (You can already feel the joy of typing the caption when sharing this recipe on your mommy forum). You enter the Joy stage and feel relieved, happy, and even motivated to grab a plate of your own and share a meal with your LO. Mealtime was a success and you even made it through dessert. You milk this stage until they inevitably get over eating this food (because strawberries are so last week’s food!), then you slip into the ‘desperation stage’.
Moms of fussy eaters quickly skid into the ‘desperation stage’ after failed negotiation and bargaining. You just want your kid to eat something, or, quite frankly, anything! During this stage, I have shamefully flopped my toddler in front of the TV while spoon feeding her, I’ve chased her around the house and force-fed her, I’ve let her cry out until she has a bite, and I’ve even yelled at her and banged my head on the table. No one ever said desperation was pretty!
While my toddler is crying in her highchair, I distract myself by watching my friend’s instastories only to see that their child is eating a big plate of sweet potato mash and panko-crusted cod fillet without a problem. You feel jealous because one, the food looks delicious, and two, you wish your little one would eat the same or something, or anything at all.
You’re tired, the kitchen is a wreck, and you still need to think about bath and bedtime. So, you give in and accept the fact that they’ve eaten nothing but thin air. The little monster has won the food battle yet again.
This stage strikes when you’ve made it to your own bed and you’re almost ready to sleep. Your guilty for having lost your temper, for not being patient enough, for not trying hard enough, for not standing your ground, for making them cry, for letting them eat ice cream for dinner, and for being a bad mom. After this guilt-ridden trip, you sneak into their bedroom and watch them sleep as you worry about their wellbeing and feel like a total failure as a mom.
Because no matter how much emotional turmoil you go through within a span of 24 hours, the fact is you would do gladly do it over again, because you love the little monster like no one else in this world. You realize that there is nothing left to do other than accepting the situation and trying your best every time.
So you wake up the next day, and it’s back to stage 1.
On my next blog post, I’ll be sharing with you some to the tips that have worked for me when dealing with a fussy eater. Obviously they don’t work every time or I’d never have had the inspiration for the above post!
Moms of fussy eaters, let’s hear your story in the comments section below.