Monthly Archives: May 2014

Tips for Feeding a Fussy Eater who is Having None of it


Some babies are great eaters. I thought Baby 1 would be one of them. After all, following a rocky first few days, she took to breastfeeding like a hobnob to a cup of tea. Maybe that’s the problem – if it were up to her, she would have nothing but milk, milk and more milk night and day. She’s not a total spoon-phobe, she will eat food – the sweeter the better – she’s just a bit fussy. As in, she rarely likes anything I’ve made her unless it is made up of at least 70% fruit and is pureed beyond the capabilities of my poor old blender, and even then I invariably end up having to rely on shop bought fruit purees or yoghurts to get a balanced meal into her. Sometimes, even that doesn’t work. Therefore, my sleeves have had to loosen beyond recognition to accommodate all the tricks I keep shoving up them. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Alternate bites with yoghurt/fruit puree/something you know she likes. Typical meal goes: spoonful of veggie puree, spoonful of meaty puree, [Baby 1 pulls face and buttons up her mouth] spoonful of yoghurt, spoonful of veg, yoghurt, meat, yoghurt, yoghurt, veg, yoghurt, etc. Vary the order so she doesn’t work out what’s coming next. Sometimes it’s also helpful, while she’s got her beady eye on you, to pretend to dip the veg or meat-loaded spoon into the yoghurt pot. Sneaky, no?
  2. Get a small dab of yoghurt on the end of a spoonful of whatever you’re trying to feed her so she thinks that’s what she’s getting. But really she’s only getting a tiny taste of that and a whole lot more of the good stuff, mwah ha ha ha. [There are slight Machiavellian side effects to the more sneaky of these techniques, so feel free to insert an evil laugh if the need takes you. If only to add a welcome touch of the ridiculous. And make the baby smile.]
  3. Use finger food. Even if your baby just likes to gum these and then throw them on the floor, they can provide welcome distractions while you go about the business of inserting whichever nutritious item is offending your young madam/sir tonight.
  4. If she opens her mouth for any reason other than to cry, insert spoon. DO NOT, however, do so if she is mid-howl as she will inevitably inhale food along with wail-mustering breath and you will end up sprayed with regurgitated baby porridge. That’s why I can no longer wear several of my shirts.
  5. Give up the spoon. If all else is failing, the time may have come to give up trying to keep any part of her, you, the
    high chair, the floor, the entire kitchen, etc, clean and let the baby take control. For example, one evening last week Baby 1 refused point blank to eat ANYTHING I offered her, from her favourite Ella’s Kitchen pouch to the corn puff snacks she likes and even a fromage frais. She also made it quite clear that the highchair just wouldn’t do. So I took her out, stripped her to her vest and sat her on the table with a bowl of Weetabix. No, not as much of it made it into her mouth as I would have liked, but squishing her fingers into it certainly cheered her up.

Ok, so maybe these methods don’t exactly abide by the weaning guidelines of introducing her to different tastes and textures. And maybe resorting to the happy chaos of number 4 does not exactly ensure your baby is getting a healthy, balanced meal inside them. At the end of the day, when you have a fussy eater who is otherwise refusing to comply with the basic principle of meal time, you have a choice – do you let them go empty-tummyed or do you grit your teeth, loosen your sleeves and make it your mission to get that food into that tummy by any means necessary?

The sublime, the ridiculous, the meowing of the National Anthem…

There are moments in life where you have to take a mental step back and ask yourself: “How it come to this?” Maybe it’s as you step off stage on a West End show to rapturous applause. Maybe it’s as you massage a new bunion after a 12 hour shift at Butlins. Or maybe – and here we steer decidedly away from the Grey’s Anatomy style intro – maybe it’s mid-verse through a rendition of God Save Our Queen done entirely as a cat, complete with paw gestures.

Parenthood is filled with these moments and – because there’s nothing like a numbered list to organise the most inane of one’s thoughts – here are a few I have come across so far:


  1. The crashing realisation you have turned into your own mother. You find yourself putting ‘y’ at the end of every noun (ie ‘duckies’, ‘milky’, ‘trouseys’, ‘bibby’), as well as spouting total mental-sounding phrases such as “Good morning sleepy weepy beepy! Time to get uppy wuppy woo woos!” You spend hours before company comes round vacuuming rooms they will never step foot into, organising your pant drawer, removing other half’s reading material from the toilet, arranging the bath towels so they hang in neat squares and hiding all laundry hampers. Then there are the times you are supposed to be leaving the house. Your other half is tapping his watch, your baby is strapped into the car seat, you’re already running 10 minutes late and yet, and yet, you find yourself inexplicably compelled to do the hoovering. This whole moment may be the most pivotal and devastating of them all.
  2. Talking to yourself in public. You’re in the supermarket with the bubba, having a nice time being out of the house, among other grown humans who don’t pull your hair or throw yoghurt at you. The baby gurgles happily from the trolley babyseat as you chat absently to her, telling her what’s left on the list to buy, asking her to remind you which brand of ale Daddy likes again, debating whether we should just give in like we both know we will and buy those chocolate chip cookies… Then you look up and realise everyone is staring at you like you’ve Lost Your Shit.
  3. Scrolling through questions you have Googled today. These, inevitably, range from the fairly justifiable… (‘Can a 7 month old eat eggs?’, ‘How much should I breastfeed the baby after introducing solids?’, etc) …to the embarrassing… (‘How to help my constipated 7 month old poop’, ‘When will my hair stop falling out?’)… to the asinine… (‘Why is my baby farting so much?’ ‘Can you tell at 7 months whether baby will be a genius/psychopath?) Sometimes I wonder how our mothers coped at all without Google.
  4. You’re eight weeks postpartum. You’re struggling through your first exercise class after having the baby. You do a star-jump. You also do a little bit of a wee.
  5. During the eternal quest for that golden baby giggle. (And by this I mean the proper, squeaky belly giggle as opposed to just hanging open their mouth in a big grin and squealing.) Impersonating a chicken, pretending to eat your baby like a sandwich, the aforementioned meowing of the National Anthem, mimicking Simon Cowell’s voice in a squeaky falsetto, woofing with a stuffed dog on your head, blowing raspberries on their belly and – crowning moment – jumping from foot to foot singing Row Row Row Your Boat in an Irish accent with jazz hands. All perfectly acceptable endurances to bear in the quest for the golden giggle, particularly if you, like me, have an extremely serious baby whose expression of choice is the unblinking stare. And, just in case you didn’t believe me…

I know, I know, you were hoping for the jazz hands, right?

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

Certain members of modern British society are inescapably apologetic. None more so, I’ve recently discovered, than parents of babies. I say parents, because the babies themselves are, of course, gloriously unapologetic. I say babies, because it seems to be that once parents have graduated to ‘of toddlers/small children’ status, they gain a cool, embattled toughness of a sort of Beyonce-esque ‘ain’t-apologisin-to-no-one’ ilk. It’s a survivors’ camp of careworn soldiers which I aspire to join one day. For now, however, I’m firmly in the apologetic mill (we’re not organised enough yet to be called a camp) of small-eyed new parents, still wet behind the ears (that’ll be pureed carrot). Apologies spill from our lips like rain from British clouds as we desperately jiggle our enraged offspring, replete with pain-pinkened cheeks as sharp bones struggle to break through sensitive little gums, while everyone else in the public space/ supermarket/ queue of any description watches po-faced. Why? Are our children somehow lesser members of society who warrant apologies on their behalf because they have had the gall to protest when feeling pain or hunger? After all, it’s not like they have a whole lot of choice when it comes to communication methods.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve come across an alarming amount of these unnecessary apologies/ apologetic urges. There was the mum in swimming class apologising for her baby’s unbridled curiosity as I got Lara undressed. A friend apologised when her little boy reached out to grab Lara’s head, and I found myself apologising in reply as Lara retaliated by snatching his teether out of his mouth and stuffing it in her own. I recently took Lara on her first international flight, and felt full to burst with apologies as I took my seat, vividly awake baby on my hip. Why, I wondered on the flight to Italy, as Lara played, babbled, fed and slept like an angel while the tweeny monster sitting behind me resolutely let her tray table fall open and slammed it shut every three seconds for the next two and a half hours. Why, I wondered, as Lara returned the horrified stare of the 20-something lad sitting beside us on the flight home before settling down to sleep without a peep for the entire journey.

Perhaps the most poignant incident occurred earlier this week. Lara and I were shopping in Reading when one of us found ourselves in rather urgent need of some facilities. Striding resolutely towards the good old John Lewis Parents’ Room, the sound of screaming reached us halfway across womenswear. We entered the baby changing area to find a poor mum struggling as her baby boy roared in protest, wriggling and rolling as she attempted to wrestle a clean nappy onto him. Knowing that one of the worst feelings in that situation is the stare of a stranger, I gave her what I hoped was a sympathetic smile and got busy changing my own little monster. As Lara gave a few squawks of her own (either as a mark of solidarity with the other baby or just to reassure us all that she, too, was there and that she, too, had surely not been fed for several long hours) the other mum looked up and apologised to me. I couldn’t quite believe it – this poor woman in parenting hell was saying sorry to me. Why??? ‘It’s absolutely fine,’ I stuttered in bewilderment, ‘no need to apologise, we’ve all been there.’

I’m not saying there aren’t any incidents when apologies are necessary. Lara has peed and yakked on her fair share of friends and family and, though it is entirely forgivable at her age of perpetual incontinence and… yakking… I do feel bad about ruined outfits which don’t belong to me, her or her father. Apologies are at least the polite thing to do. But there is one circumstance during the last two weeks where I think my parental apology was entirely called for – and that was when I found myself saying to the Italian hotel maid, “Excuse me, can you let me into my room? I’ve locked myself out… oh, and the baby’s in there…”


Sorry, Lara.

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