Unless you have had a child that won’t eat, you will probably find it hard to understand how this problem can become all consuming. Every weigh-in is like your most important school exam. Every meal is an emotional battle. Throwaway comments about it from others hurt you to the core. And you blame yourself. You’re obviously a bad parent, as otherwise your child would eat.
I was recently given “My Child Won’t Eat” by Carlos Gonzalez to review for my Franglaise Mummy parenting blog but it felt like a better fit over here, so here are my views on the subject and on this book.
First of all a little bit of background: Ben and I have two daughters – L is 7 years old and was born in France where we lived before moving to London when she was 3.5; our second daughter, C, is nearly 18 months old and was born in the UK. L, like Ben and I, was very small when she was born: 2.7kg/5lb 15oz, and she has remained tiny pretty much since then, weighing 12kg/26lb aged 3 and now aged 7 she weighs 19kg/3 stone.
This never bothered me as Ben was always quite small as a child and I was tiny too. However, in France babies get weighed every month, and parents (usually mums) get judged on this every month. L used to gain weight as a baby and a child, but very slowly, and she crawled along the lower percentiles. So first of all my breastfeeding was criticised, then when she moved on to solids I was told I should be forcing her to take more as she wasn’t following the paediatrician’s chart. However she was gaining weight and never lost weight. She was also a happy, alert child who played well and slept well. Not really the signs of a child that is hungry.
Luckily I have a lot of faith in mine and Ben’s parenting and my own instinct as a mum, so we ignored the professionals, we ignored friends, neighbours and family who suggested we up her food/milk intake. Ben and I carried on with what we were doing, that is feeding her 4 balanced meals a day (breakfast, lunch, goûter, dinner), homemade from scratch, and she ate the same as us at the same time as us. And we ignored the weight charts.
She now has a healthy attitude to food, she eats pretty much anything you put in front of her, understands the social side of mealtimes and doesn’t bat an eyelid when we get her to try weird and wonderful things (she ate snails, oysters and whelks on a family visit to France, aged just 5).
She has never had a huge appetite, but she eats and she puts on weight very, very slowly.
However not everyone is as lucky as Ben and me. Maybe your partner believes that your child should be eating more, so wants you to force them to eat more. Maybe you don’t feel strong enough to stand up to what your paediatrician or health visitor says to you. Maybe you worry that you are somehow starving your child because your friend’s little one devours anything and everything.
Fortunately there is help. In the form of Carlos Gonzalez’s book, My Child Won’t Eat. Gill Rapley sums it up nicely on the cover with “This splendid and easy-to-read book presents a common-sense approach to one of the biggest worries of parenthood.” And that’s what it is. Common sense. Something we often lose sight of when parenting.
So who is Carlos Gonzalez and why should you believe what he has to say? He is a paediatrician and father to 3 children, so that reassures me that he is looking at it from both sides of the argument: the parent side and the medical side.
What does the book say? It explains that babies and children know how much they need on any given day, which means at times they may eat nothing or next to nothing, but that this isn’t a reason for concern. Whilst Dr Gonzalez is clearly an advocate for breastfeeding on demand and baby led weaning, I don’t think that parents who have not chosen these paths will feel attacked for their choices.
As I read the book I could feel myself nodding: of course you shouldn’t try playing the train/aeroplane spoon game with a baby that’s turning its head away – it’s his/her only way of saying “I’m not hungry”. My Child Won’t Eat makes you put yourself in the child’s place, and imagine what it must be like to have a spoonful of food thrust into your mouth when you are no longer hungry. I believe in adults this would be classed as torture.
Carlos Gonzalez also explains that your child doesn’t know about the weight charts that he/she’s supposed to be following. He/she doesn’t know that your neighbour’s child eats loads more. He/she just eats what he/she needs at that precise moment in time. Remember that when you’re worrying about how much your child is eating.
The majority of the book is common sense, with numerous case studies liberally spread throughout. It is reassuring and will give you the confidence to stand up to those people – medical, family, friends or others – who are trying to tell you how to feed your child.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you have any worries at all with your child’s eating, and I just wish I had read it when L was born, it would have saved me so much heart-ache.
Franglaise Cooking have negotiated a 30% reduction for our readers (along with free postage and packing) when they order My Child Won’t Eat directly from the publishers: www.pinterandmartin.com Simply quote the code mcweblog30.
P.S. For information, C is nearly 18 months old, was bigger at birth, weighs more than L at the same age, eats lots but is as happy, alert and as good a sleeper as L was at the same age. They just happen to have different food needs – in fact they eat pretty much the same amount now: L aged 7 years and C aged 18 months!
Disclosure: We received a complementary copy of “My Child Won’t Eat” in exchange for this honest review. All words and opinions are my own.