Having a child with food allergies means you probably have a picky eater. As babies, they have a natural defense/instinct to reject foods that could harm them. Nature is well made. As they grow older, they become a bit fearful of food and trying new things, which makes feeding an allergic child more challenging.
My son is allergic to wheat, eggs and sesame. He does not have a true allergy to milk, but it can trigger his eczema.
He is now 3 years old and it’s been an uphill battle to get him to eat. I always thought by 3, these problems would be far behind me. I kept telling myself, “Oh next year will be better.” Then a year would go by and I would have new challenges.
Like the French saying: “enfants petits, petits soucis; grands enfants, grands soucis.” (little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems).
My son’s introduction to solids was more or less successful. He graduated from my homemade purees to my homemade rice bowls (rice, meat or fish, veggies and bone broth chicken soup). While he needed major entertaining to open his mouth and eat, he did eat his rice bowls religiously – until 1 month before he turned 3. Then, he flat out rejected his beloved rice bowls. It was like a cowboy standoff and there was no way of winning this duel.
Now at 3 years old, he is the dictator of his meals.
Can you imagine my nightmare? Mr. Picky Eater will only eat a few bites of chicken or fish. If I’m lucky, he eats spinach and green beans too. For snack time, he was rejecting his nicely cut up fruit, until one day he decided to take a bite out of a whole apple. I quickly grabbed my smart phone to record this monumental moment as I knew this was the beginning of great things. Now, he excitedly holds a whole apple and chomps through it with his little teeth.
So while I was losing hope (and many of you moms may relate!!), I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to that magical apple moment, I’ve relinquished some power and decided to pick my battles and not fight a war.
What have I learned after 3 stressful and anxiety-ridden years?
- Try to back track and let my son discover and love food for himself – just like we’re told to do when babies start experimenting with solids around 6 months old. So what if he wants to eat the same thing every day?
- Become a short order cook – I let my son watch me cook his meals to build up his appetite and curiosity. This trick has become a savior for me. And, this little effort only takes 5-10 minutes, but helps my skinny string bean put on weight.
- Finally, ensure he gets a good afternoon of running or scooting around the park to get his tummy rumbling with hunger.
Now you’re probably wondering, what about nutrition? I was beyond stressed about my son’s growth since he is very tall for his age, but super skinny.
I was reassured at his 3-year exam by his French pediatrician and allergist that he is fine. Here in France, they like the kids thin. However, an additional opinion by his American pediatrician was not as promising and resulted in a menace to my son: “If you don’t eat your fruits and veggies, you’ll have to get vitamin shots!”
In the end, who is right? I don’t think there are any right answers – just feelings and instinct. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to children, let alone allergic children and feeding issues. As parents, we know our child best so we heed the advice of doctors and ultimately decide what is appropriate for our child.
So for all you parents out there who may be anxious and stressed out like me, I hope to provide you with some comfort. Remember – kids will eventually eat when they’re hungry – even the most picky ones. Sometimes it takes a lot of exercise to build up that appetite, or it may take some theatrics like a personal cooking show.
I just take one day at a time. I’m grateful that he is eating a little more and growing. I do want some more meat on his bones though. Is that asking for too much?
If you have a picky eater with allergies and have discovered ways to get him to eat, please share them with INSPIRELLE.