Secrets of a Mom Dietitian

Steph Wagner

June 10, 2013

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I often receive questions about child nutrition, all the time! If you have those questions, you are not alone. While I do have the education, I do not have my own babies just yet. So I’ve recruited my good friend Terri, Dietitian AND mom to Sadie (& one on the way!) to share her experience with feeding her precious little one!

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Dear Moms and Dads of Young Children Who Eat (or Don’t Eat),

I am a dietitian, just like Steph. I know what you’re thinking. I almost cringe when I tell others I am a dietitian for the preconceived notions that come with it. Everyone automatically thinks that I judge what they eat or what size they are (I don’t). They also think that eat super healthy 24/7. That’s a definite negative. When it comes to family and kid nutrition most think, “Oh, she must have her kids eating the healthiest things ever.” Rest assured I do not. Far from it.

I had grand plans starting out when little Sadie arrived in this world just the same as every other parent. Sadie would breastfeed until she was one year. She would never have formula (God forbid!). I would make all of her baby food, cooked and pureed by hand. Sadie would love fruits and vegetables because I would offer her the biggest variety ever. She would never have juice. We would never let her order something unhealthy off a menu or step foot in a fast food joint. She would gladly stuff her face full of every.single.healthy.thing I was to place in front her. Junk food would only be offered occasionally, but of course my child would prefer her beloved plantage to the disgusting deep-friedness of anything else. She would be allowed sweets, but only after she ate everything on her plate, that is, if she still wanted the sweets (because my amazing cooking of said healthy items would always satisfy her every craving).

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Okay. I know I exaggerate. I was and never have been strict on my food ideals. But you get the picture. This is the pressure we can feel about feeding our kids. Because after all, the way your children eat as adults solely depends on you, mom. There is no such thing as outside sources having impact in the area of nutrition. But I digress. Let me tell you a little about my story of feeding Sadie.

To say the least, she was difficult. To say more, read the full story below if you are interested and have time.**

Sadie is 15 months old and has just recently (over the last couple of months) began to eat like a normal toddler, or eat anything at all really. So much of me had felt like a failure during this past year of motherhood when it came to nutrition and feeding my baby. After all, I am the mom and a baby’s gotta eat. I never knew it could be a struggle to get your child to eat healthy, let alone eat anything at all. I always thought parents of kids who didn’t eat healthy were either lazy or didn’t try hard enough. Well that judgment blew up in my face with the realities I had to face with Sadie’s feeding difficulties.

So now that she is eating normally I know you are wondering: Does she eat the healthiest? Absolutely not. Do I still give her Macaroni and Cheese on a weekly basis? Absolutely I do. Do I care if she eats a little junk food once in a while? Nope. Do I encourage her to eat her fruits and vegetables by offering her a variety each week? Yes. Does she always like it? No. Sometimes she loves it and other times she refuses to eat anything at all just like every other toddler. She is exposed to a lot of different foods, healthy and unhealthy alike. After this long of a battle and with the emotional toll it’s taken on us both I am a lot more relaxed about her nutrition. Of course I want her to love healthy foods and grow up to be someone who makes smart decisions regarding food choices. But through this journey I have realized that being vigilant about your kid constantly eating healthy foods isn’t as easy as I once thought. And I am far less judgmental of what other moms are feeding their kids.

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So moms and dads out there, I, Mom Dietitian, release you of the unnecessary pressure to always ensure your child is eating the healthiest foods possible. Continue to offer a variety of healthy foods and encourage them to try new foods too. Need to send them to bed hungry every once in a while due to whatever toddler/childhood brings? It’ll be okay. They’ll survive. If they prefer french fries over mangoes in life, it’s okay (I mean, come on, who doesn’t?). It’s not your fault their taste buds prefer the sweet goodness of chocolate covered peanut butter to that vegan grasshopper smoothie, gluten-free of course. Moderation with the right amount of discipline is key. I am still new at this so I do not have all the answers and I’m sure I will face many more food battles in the future. But if you are feeling stressed about your kid’s nutrition, ask yourself a couple of things:

Is my child growing and developing normally per their pediatrician? If so, then great! If not, please talk with your child’s pediatrician about their specific nutritional needs.

Is he/she exposed to a variety of healthy foods on a weekly basis? If so, awesome! Encourage them to try as many as possible. If not, what are some ways you can start towards this goal? What are some barriers that need to be removed to achieve this goal?  Start simple by choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables such as kiwis, asparagus, avocados (or guacamole), etc. If you’re on a budget, try Aldi’s for cheap produce. Make it fun if you have the time, such as go strawberry picking if it’s available in your area. Get your kids involved in grocery shopping by having them pick out the fruits and vegetables they will try. Then move on to more adventurous healthy eating with recipe ideas from Steph’s blog and other trusted sources.

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They may not like your newest quinoa kale concoction (seriously, don’t read too many Facebook posts of kids loving that, it will only depress you). Heck, you might not even like it. But you tried it and your kids were exposed to variety. I say job well done mom and dad. After a failed trial does this mean it’s time to fry up some chicken nuggets and french fries? Not necessarily. But again, allow yourself some slack every once in a while in the area of nutrition if you are feeling stressed. Be an example to your kids on how to eat healthy and do your best to press on through failures just like with every other area in life.

And remind yourself one thing:  It will be okay.

Sincerely,

Terri, Mom Dietitian

Feel free to check out my blog and more of our story: Forward Motion.

 

**Sadie breastfed quite well for about 11 weeks. Yup. I got an entire 11 weeks of breastfeeding with Sadie before she randomly decided to go on a never-ending nursing strike. A nursing strike, you say? What is that? According to BabyCenter.com, a nursing strike is when your baby refuses to breastfeed. There are many different causes, says BabyCenter, but rest assured, you can get through it for it only lasts two to five days (or forever). Don’t even get me started on some of the suggestions I received from a “Breastfeeding Support Group” on Facebook. Seriously? You want me to lay in bed naked with my baby…all day, until she willingly breastfeeds again? Not offer her a bottle after she refuses nursing for how many hours? Talk about a guilt trip. Never join one that unforgiving unless you are prepared to die for the cause of breastfeeding.

I tried to get her to breastfeed for almost a month. But it was a horribly sad thing to try to force my baby to nurse 6-8 times per day when she screamed bloody murder and pushed away every time like I was offering her poison. It was heartbreaking. How would she bond with me? What will everyone think? So I finally threw in the towel. It wasn’t worth the tears on either end. So I pumped until she was about 5-6 months old and had enough milk stored up until she was about 7-8 months old. I pumped six times a day for a total of two hours every day. It was super inconvenient. I even pumped at a zoo once near the giraffes. And people talk about breastfeeding in public as uncomfortable. There is no comparison to having a machine suck on your boobs under a hooter-hider in the middle of an airport making “wee-woo” noises for 20 minutes straight; all the while your husband is holding your baby. I praise the women who are able to exclusively pump for an entire year.

Sadie did okay with the bottles at first. Then, at times, it would take her an hour of me fighting with her for her to drink just a few ounces. I was able to eventually get her to drink enough each day. But never without a fight. This lasted for months. I eventually fed her in front of the TV so she wouldn’t be focused on eating, just the movement on the screen (gasps all around!). This didn’t always work. Also, I was usually the only one who could get her to drink a bottle. She wouldn’t take it from anyone else, at least not more than an ounce or two. We took her to the doctor many times, but she was gaining weight and was happy and sleeping through the night.

Around 7 months is when I begrudgingly started formula, at first mixing it with breastmilk. Okay, I was kind of excited about it because I was so done with the pump. About a week or so into when Sadie was solely on formula is when more feeding issues started to arise. She would projectile vomit mass amounts of milk and also started to have a rash around her face. After a doctor’s visit we decided that even soy formula wasn’t an option, we would have to start her on Nutramigen. Talk about expensive. I am pretty sure we spent more on her formula than our groceries each month. It was too late to go back to pumping. Sadie wasn’t eating any solids either. I first tried solids around 5 months as I was desperate to have some normalcy with her eating. Fail. It’s too early, I thought. In another month she’ll love eating. Fail again. You can read more about these issues here. I even took her to an OT thinking that maybe it was a functional issue with her tongue.

We eventually saw a gastroenterologist and bit the bullet and started paying $215/month for Prevacid. We were spending over $500/month on Nutramigen and Prevacid combined. Ouch. (We have health insurance, but they did not cover either Nutramigen or Prevacid, of course. There was a more affordable one that we could have tried but we had to split open the pills and give it to her in, say applesauce, but that would require her to actually eat something first. The expensive version we ended up with was a dissolve-able tablet).

That was a well-spent decision. Finally, within weeks of starting Prevacid, at around 8 months old, bottle feeding was rarely a struggle. That is, until a GI bug hit her later that month and we once again took two steps back.  Here’s a quote from my blog about 2 weeks after starting Prevacid, “Sadie is still making quite the progress I think. Yesterday she actually opened her mouth for a bottle! It was amazing. I can’t remember when she last did this.” But she eventually got better and was enjoying her bottles again. Solids were still hit and miss but she was at least trying most things we offered her. She still had a very strong gag reflex. Her pediatrician had already given us the go ahead to try any and every food we wanted, save from peanut butter and other common allergies. So I praised God when she ate a cookie for the first time. More steps back as she continued to contract random GI viruses and other illnesses for the next few months. This effected her eating very much, but we pressed on.

By 11 months she was fully transitioned to normal formula after the GI doctor gave us the go-ahead. She was only on Nutramigen for about 4 months. We continued the Prevacid, however. Finally, around Sadie’s first birthday she was eating solids almost like a normal kid. Around 13 months she was solely on whole milk. We transitioned her off of Prevacid by around 13.5 months, and by 14 months she weaned herself from the bottle and was drinking whole milk via sippy cup. Currently, at 15 months she now eats pretty much anything. FINALLY!

 

 

One thought on “Secrets of a Mom Dietitian”

  1. Thanks for the interesting and guilt-purging story by your friend Terri. My own child had no eating problems (*duck*). However, I do want to add a point.

    It is very important that a child learn to make the pincer grasp. I know a child whose mother was afraid of finger foods; feared her child would choke. That child is brilliant but went to kindergarten still writing with a fist. For developmental reasons, and possibly nutritional and emotional reasons, I highly recommend playing with food. When my child wasn’t hungry and I thought it was dinner time for him, I would ask him if he wanted to play math. He invariably said yes. He climbed into the high chair and added, counted, subtracted pieces of cheese, cereal, cut-up fruit, peas, beans, and ice-pods of applesauce. A few would get his hand sticky so he would lick it off (eating–sneaky mom!). Now his own daughter eats very well, and she started because she wants to be a movie director. She would assign character roles to the carrot sticks, broccoli giants, lettuce queens; avocados could be kissed and turned into frogs. Eventually she would get hungry, and eat the entire cast of vegans. This is not to suggest some children don’t have legitimate digestive problems. Just an alternative to try before spending a lot of money. Play with the food.

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