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?