Q&A: baby likes bland foods?

"Working in the coal mines, going down down down…"

I have had so much to do that I actually FORGOT to post yesterday, and didn't even realize it until around midnight last night. My apologies.

Bonnie writes:

"A quick question. I started my baby on solids at 5.5 months oldbecause he seemed ready for it. For about 2 weeks he LOVED his solids.
We didn't really follow the "4-day-rule" (wait a few days before
introducing new foods) because neither his father nor I (nor our
immediate families) have any allergies. We did mostly fruits and vegs –
carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, peas, apples, pears, spinach,
zucchini, broccoli, roasted peppers, potatoes, etc., pureed. He'd just
eat, eat, eat, so we limit solids to just once a day. Some days I would
give him 3 or 4 different types of vegs (I figured that if _I_ don't
want to eat only potatoes, he probably wouldn't either, so wanted to
make it a bit more exciting in the flavour department by offering him
different types. He'd eat all of it.) – and dessert might be some apple
or pear with cereal. We love our vegs so we mostly offer him vegs.

About a week ago he started to refuse his solids.
Pursed lips, turning away, whining, etc. We think it was (is?)
teething-related. Also one night I gave him tomatoes (bad baby cookbook
suggestion for "first tastes") and it made him vomit later in the
night, probably the acidity. He has just started to seem to accept
solids again, but he would only take cereal (bland) and maybe some
pureed veg mixed into it. He doesn't open his mouth wide in eager
anticipation the way he used to. He is no longer into the flavours he
loved, and certainly no longer the champion eater he used to be. Now,
his father and I love our food. We are very adventurous eaters. So it
is a little upsetting to us that our baby now only wants bland baby
food. Do you have any ideas as to why he is rejecting the flavourful
stuff? Is my kid going to live off of cereal for the rest of his life?"

Remember back before you had a baby and you thought yours would be sleeping through the night within a few weeks? Or that it would all be gradual, so once your kid slept for five hours straight one night her sleep would just stretch out longer and longer and soon she'd be asleep all night?

Well, pretty much everything with a baby is forward and back, forward and back. Feeding seems to  be particularly susceptible to leaps and surges and retrenching and backsliding and just plain orneriness.

I think there's a whole lot going on with your baby and babies in general about eating. The first thing is that they pretty much have ultimate flexibility with eating at this age (Bonnie doesn't say how old her son is, but I'm guessing in the 7-8-month age range). Since their main nutrition still comes from breastmilk or formula, they can pretty much eat or reject anything else, and it's not going to leave them hungry or malnourished. So it's all just At The Pleasure Of The King.

While that can be annoying for you, it's also kind of freeing, because it means no meal, or even series of meals, is high stakes in the least.

Let's list all the other stuff going on for a baby in this age range: teething, movement, growth spurts, developmental spurts, increased awareness of self, sleep stuff, seasonal changes. It's a whole lot going on, and any one of those things can affect how much, what, and when they want to eat, so add it all in together and it can be a big unpredictable mess.

The other thing (and this is Idea #1 To Keep In Mind About Toddler Eating) is that controlling what they put in their mouths and consequently swallow is often the only form of control kids can exert over themselves and their environments. So it could be the beginnings of playing with that control, or it could be a refusal flat out because he's feeling pushed in other areas. (If you're reading this and having battles with a toddler about eating, try giving your kid a lot more choices and control in other areas and see if that helps alleviate the food battles.)

So the good news is that what your son's eating now is not a predictor of future performance. He could grow up to be an Anthony Bourdainian omnivore who eats things that freak even you out (mmmm…raw sea urchin…). But he could turn out to be more like my first son, who thinks there are only two food groups: white things and butter. You kind of never know. And there's only so much you can do about it. Your job is still to put a variety of nutritious foods in front of your kid, and his job is to eat what he needs. (By now I'm just hoping that some day my older son marries a nice lady or man who will introduce him to the pleasures of eating foods with pigment.)

So you keep on eating what you eat, and offering it to your son, and he'll probably get back to it. But maybe he won't. And it's OK. There are plenty of awesome, amazing, deeply-worthwhile people who only eat a limited range of foods.

Readers, whaddayagot? Is a once picky eater an always picky eater? Anyone else have tomato escapades? (I know I've posted about the mysterious waking my older one had every night when he was two about an hour after he'd gone to sleep, and I finally figured out that he'd been having tomato sauce or ketchup at dinner every night. Once I limited the tomato products to before 3 pm he slept fine again. Duh.) Can you truly love a person who only eats 10 foods? Does anyone else like sea urchin, or am I the only one?

Q& no A: One child has to go to the bathroom and the other doesn’t

A situation that confounded me for a certain period of time, and is now plaguing an anonymous reader. I'll paraphrase (because the letter was very detailed):

"What do you do when you're out and your older child has to go to the bathroom but you're with a younger child, too?

I pack up the younger child with all his stuff and haul him along with us to the bathroom (and sometimes I can't even fit the stroller in the bathroom, depending on where we are). That's the best-case scenario. The other scenario is that the bathroom need comes on us so suddenly that I have no time to give a warning so the younger child freaks out and starts screaming and flailing not to stop playing and won't calm down when I say we're coming right back, so I can barely haul a kicking child with all of our crap to the bathroom and help my older one go."

I remember this, and it was my nightmare every single time it happened. My only real help is that eventually the younger one may be able to be convinced that when the older one goes, he should try to go, too. (One of my guiding principles of life is that when given the chance to use the toilet, one should. I'm passing that along to my kids, so they remind each other of it, and if one needs to go, the other one will try, too.)

What do/did you guys do? Is there some magic trick I completely missed? It's all the factors combined–the suddenness of the need in the older one, the resistance to change in the younger one, plus all the crap you have to haul around with two kids–that makes it so difficult.

Or do we all just grin and bear it until the kids are older?

Q&A: early walker scares mother

I'd like to thank all the teachers out there who did projects with their classes for Mothers' Day. Single moms with kids too young to come up with and make or buy their own projects don't get anything else for Mothers' Day. So thank you.

Lydia writes:

"Gah! My 8-month-old is starting to walk. She's a total daredevil, and has no control or judgement. I'm terrified that she's going to fall and get a serious head injury, and am seriously considering buying her a helmet. But then I think that's insane. I need some perspective. Help!"

Let me begin with one of my mom's favorite aphorisms:

"God couldn't make them so fast and us so slow if he didn't also make their heads so hard."

Assuming that you've babyproofed all the truly dangerous things, and that you don't let her walk around in dangerous terrain outside, she's going to find her own level. Which isn't to say that she won't fall. But if she's being monitored appropriately (which doesn't mean you have to hover–just pay attention) she won't get hurt more than her size can take. So she'll get bumps and bruises and scrapes and cuts, but nothing that would require protection from a helmet.

If you think about it, letting her find her own balance and what she can and can't do now, instead of when she's really big and can get into lots of trouble, is going to mean fewer injuries later. Plus, it'll give her confidence in what her body can do, and let her know that you trust her to be able to do what she sets out to do. So letting her learn and walk the way she needs to (helmet-free) is a gift you can give her that'll set her up for confidence and physical accomplishment for the rest of her life.

Did anyone else have an early walker? How did you deal with the lack of judgment at that age? How long until your child was smooth and graceful?

Chocolate

I can't get the help situation out of my head, so you're going to have to bear with another post about it.

My grandfather had cancer when he was in his early 50s, and went through a really super-aggressive chemo/radiation protocol. As a result of that, he had a bad taste in his mouth all the time for the rest of his life.

At first, he tried chewing tobacco to get rid of the taste, but that didn't seem to make a lot of sense in light of the whole cancer thing. So when I was maybe 7 or 8 he switched to Wrigley's Doublemint gum (the smell still reminds me of him). Then he got tired of the gum, and went through a series of hard candies. He stuck with Werther's Originals for probably the last ten years of his life.

He always had a pocket full of Werthers Originals, and he'd hand them out to anyone he thought needed one. my college friends will still talk about him and the Werther's Originals he gave them whenever he saw them, but he'd also just hand them out to random people he thought could  use some candy.

I think about that almost every day, about how I should really have a pocket full of candy to hand out to people who need it. I'd probably go with chocolate, though, since chocolate is the candy that really says "I'm sorry this sucks, but have a few seconds of comfort."

What would people do if they had a screaming toddler in the grocery store and I just handed them a piece of chocolate with a whispered "for you, not the kid!"? What would you do? Would you think I was insane? I have a feeling that at certain times if someone had given me a piece of chocolate (or even a kind word) I'd have broken down in tears just because no one had shown any compassion to me in so long.

Carrying chocolate all the time would be dangerous, but I wonder if I could make a conscious effort to make kind remarks to people, and if that would help them, and me. I know it's not going to solve the bigger problems I have, and the bigger help I need, and the bigger help that other people need. But maybe it might make those strained moments a little more bearable.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. But it seems like all this energy in the need should be able to be flipped around somehow to create fulfillment, instead, for all of us. Or is that just a misunderstanding of physics and wishful thinking?

Q&A: three week growth spurt

Wow. No wonder I was so blocked. You all have a lot of need. I wish I had a magic wand.

I am working on a side project involving some of that, and will announce when the website's up, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, let's take a question from new mom Kat:

"Help! My baby is almost 3 weeks old, and he's gone nuts in the last day! All he wants to do is eat, and he'll nurse for an hour, and then I burp him, and then he just screams like he wants to eat again! What's wrong with my milk? He's gaining weight, but why is he so hungry? What am I doing wrong???"

It's the infamous Three-Week Growth Spurt! Many babies go through a big growth spurt at 3 weeks old. They basically need to eat around the clock for a few days while they grow, but this also brings up your milk supply if you're nursing to match their increased consumption level. (If you're feeding formula you'll notice an increase in consumption for a few days). It's totally normal, and you're doing nothing wrong.

The best thing to do is just nurse through it. Get yourself set up with water, some magazines, the remote control, and a lot of Food TV or DVDs (I recommend the series "Mad Men" for drama or "Arrested Development" for comedy). Then just nurse when the baby wants to. It should last anywhere from a day to a few days, and then go back to normal or stretch out between feedings. many babies also start sleeping for slightly longer stretches after coming through a growth spurt.

Yeah, you'll be tied down for a day or two, but it's just one of those things. And at least you get to sit down and just vegetate during it. (And catch up on Don Draper.)

Babies go through growth spurts at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months. Some babies hit all those spurts hard, while others hit one hard but the others are barely noticeable. So don't be alarmed if your baby becomes a ravenous locust at the growth spurts. But also don't be alarmed if you don't notice any difference. Babies are all individuals.

What do you need?

I just couldn't get through the post I was going to put up this morning. You know I sometimes have a freaky level of empathy, and it seems to be blocking me right now. I'm feeling too much need out there.

So I thought I'd ask what you need. On any scale, big or small. A job, a breakthrough in a relationship with your partner, a full night's sleep, a cup of coffee. A friend you can count on, a diaper that doesn't leak, clarity.

Think right now, short-term, and long-term.

I'm not sure what's going to happen by putting it out here. Maybe nothing. Maybe somehow a way will open up. Or maybe it'll just get it off your shoulders. (And I hope it stops blocking me so we can go back to sleep and playground problems tomorrow.)

Q&A: child crying for one parent but not the other

My almost-4-year-old has changed his name from Master Yoda to Darth Vader. I just thought you should know.

Anita writes:

"My grandson is 2 yrs and 8 months.  He was a2 lb. 4 oz. preemie at birth but has done amazing with no health problems. He eats well, goes to bed easily and sleeps well
and is a fairly happy little boy. 
My daughter and her husband have been separated for a year. 
My grandson stays one week with his
dad, then one week with his mom.  He goes to a
church daycare everyday while his parents work and has since he
was about 4 months old. 

Our only problem with him is the following. 
When it is my daughter's week to have
him – he goes to daycare fine, but when
she arrives to pick him up, he starts crying and doesn't want to go with her. 
This has been going on for about 6
months now.  She had to just pick him up and carry him
out, which is embarrassing for her.  Once they are
in the car, he is fine.  He does not cry like this when his dad picks him up.  What could be the problem?  My daughter
spends quality time with him in the
evenings and on the weekends they go to the park and other fun things, which he enjoys.  We just can't figure out why he cries
when she picks him up.  Any
suggestions?"

You know what truly sucks about divorce? No one gets the benefit of the doubt. When a couple is happy together, neither parent has to worry about what happens if a child gets a bruise or scrape, or goes to bed an hour later one night. And things like this, in which the child cries for one parent but not the other, can just be taken as phases or temporary preferences, and no one thinks much of them. But because the parents are separated, it becomes almost a competition (even if you don't want it to be), and someone's always worried about something.

There could be any number of reasons he cries when she picks him up. Maybe she isn't giving him as much warning as he needs that they're going to leave the daycare. Some kids at this age really need a lot of transition time and multiple reminders that they're about to stop doing one activity and move on to another one. So she could try giving a longer series of warnings before they leave so he gets eased out of the daycare and into the car with her.

She could also try creating a ritual inside the car so he has something fun to go to immediately after leaving the daycare. Even though they have fun in the evening, it may be too long for him to keep that in his head. So he's upset about leaving his friends and the fun of the daycare, but doesn't have anything immediately fun to do instead. Creating some kind of immediate, in-the-car fun ritual (like singing along to a goofy song, or making funny faces at each other, or eating three gummy bears, or any kind of silly thing like that) will give him something to think about going to, instead of just being sad he has to leave the daycare.

Has your daughter talked to the daycare providers about the crying? Since they're with him all day long they may be able to offer some insight about anything different that happens at pickup time that may be causing him to cry for your daughter but not for his dad.

Have any readers going through consistent crying at daycare or preschool pickup? If so, what did you do to resolve it?

Q&A: supporting a friend through rough times

Pippi writes:

"I was wondering if you and your readers could help me out with someideas. I have a friend, not a super close friend but closer than
acquaintance, who has a son my daughter's age (not quite 1.5 years). We
met up to take the kids to a play group today and she confided in me
that her husband left her last night. I got
the impression that this is a very surprising turn of events and that
she didn't see it coming, but I didn't want to press for too many
details. I told her to feel free to talk about it if she needed to or
we could not talk about it if it was too much. She was really emotional
and really just wanted to keep it together in front of her son so we
didn't talk about it much.

I know this friend has struggled with postpartum depression and
anxiety. I also know that she's sought help for this and she's
comfortable talking about it. She's so worried about the effect this
will have on her son and I'm worried about the effect it will have on
her because I know she's still in a fragile state.

So my question is, how can I help support
her through this? I've already told that my door is open and she should
feel free to come over for dinner or company or whatever and that I
really mean that. She is such a great mom and a great person and I
really want her to know and feel that.

Thanks to you and your readers!"

Boy, is there a lot of divorce going around these days! I think people confide in me more about it since I've been open about my own, but it just seems like there's some grand waking-up-and-walking-out process going on around the world right now.

Anyway, you are a good friend to want to support her at this time. I was told, when I initiated my divorce, that people would come out of the woodwork to support me while others I thought were true blue would fall away, and that's exactly what happened. I'm not sure how someone can go through a divorce with no support, so it's good that you're stepping up.

I think there are a couple of practical things you can do to help her. The first is to invite her over with her son to hang out. Specific invitations, not just an offer for an ear. She will probably be feeling very lonely, perhaps confused, angry, etc. And just being around someone else that she doesn't have to explain and apologize to will be helpful. She may start feeling a little PPD-ish again, and being able to talk to you about it without feeling like you're judging her would be a huge gift.

Another thing that could be extremely helpful would be to do a little babysitting for her. Divorce is a situation that requires a lot of childcare, between the therapy sessions and mediators and lawyers and all that crap. If you could take her son every once in awhile so she doesn't have to find and pay someone else to, it would help her out a ton.

This suggestion may be a little controversial, but I think it could be helpful, depending on her personality, if you could run a little bit of interference for her with the other parents. What I mean is that she is probably going to get tired of explaining and going over the situation again and again, and it might be nice for her just to be able to let someone else fend off some of the questions for a little while. When I was going through my situation, I constantly felt as if I had to defend myself for daring to initiate a divorce. I'd imagine that someone on the other end would feel like she constantly had to apologize, and dealing with expressions of sympathy and/or anger at her husband would be exhausting.

Lastly, be open to what happens for her. It sounds like she and her husband will get divorced, but people do reconcile. And if that happens, she'll need someone who will be able to accept that and not make her feel bad for going back into the relationship, and not badmouth her husband.

Readers, what do you think? What was helpful to you in a similar situation? Have you supported a friend through this process?