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15 January 2010 @ 12:26 am
[Rant]: Feeding Issues  
Under the cut is something I do not ever want you to say to me, please. Or to anyone else. I'm angry, so - warning for immoderate language and a total lack of humor.

Recently, I went to Whole Foods, where a woman stopped me to ask how I got the earthling (who was in the cart, being pacified for the Boring Shopping Trip by a tangerine and a pineapple piece) to eat fruit.

"He just eats it," I said, watching the earthling poke at the tangerine rind. "It's his favorite food group."

From there, we got into toddler eating habits. She kept talking about the foods she wanted her daughter, who was about one month younger than the earthling, to eat, versus the ones her daughter wanted to eat, and I finally had to make my position on this clear:

"We let our son eat whatever he wants to, unless it makes him sick.1 He has a food aversion, so our main worries are getting him enough food and getting him positive interactions with food."

She, of course, asked about food aversions. I get this question a fair amount, and there are three main reactions I get to my explanation. These are the first two:
  • "Wow, that must be hard for you." True! It is! Harder for him - he's the one who has to choose between being hungry and doing something he fears - but, yeah, it's hard.

  • "How can you be averse to food?" This is a little more problematic, because I just explained it (for most of his first year of life, he had reflux that we couldn't get under control with medications, and when eating hurts so much, after a while you don't want to do it anymore), but, yeah, I get that it seems counter-intuitive.
Both of those are fine. And here is the third one, which is not fine at all:
  • "You're so lucky. He isn't going to get fat." I hate this response.2 I really don't think I can communicate to you how much I hate it. What you are saying to me when you say this is: "Well, your child may need medication to make him eat, and he may be at risk for all kinds of problems because he does not eat enough, and if the medications stop working, he might need surgery so he can be fed through a tube, but, hey! He'll be skinny!" There is, in fact, such a thing as too skinny - let's ask Karen Carpenter about that one, shall we? - and there are things that are worse than being fat. A lot of them. A real fucking lot of them. The earthling has some fat on him right now, and I tell you what, I cherish it.
So, yes, this woman fell into the third category. She shared with me - and she expected praise for this - that she "watched" what her EIGHTEEN-MONTH OLD-daughter ate. "It's so easy to develop bad habits," the woman said, looking thoughtfully at my body. "I need to keep an eye on her intake until she can."

You know what will help her daughter develop bad habits? Being taught all her life to ignore the signals her body sends for "hungry" and "full." Being taught that there are foods that are sinful and foods that are good. Being raised with the subconscious belief that the ideal amount of calories to eat in a day is none.

To be honest, when you tell me you've put your child under two on a diet so she won't get fat, my basic reaction is to want to call Child Protective Services. Toddlers need calories. They also need fat. That is how their bodies grow and their brains develop. So when you deprive your kid of needed calories and fat, you're restricting her growth and you're potentially causing her lifelong problems, and I kind of wonder if maybe you shouldn't go through a few classes to learn how to feed her.

Which brings us to the next thing this woman said: "It must be so nice not to have to worry about your kid's weight!" She gave a little trilling laugh as she said it. It made me want to punch her right there in the produce section, except then they might not let me back in Whole Foods, which is of course one of the few sources of Produce the Earthling Deems Acceptable. Because of course I worry about the earthling's weight - I take pains not to let him see, not to react, because I have to, but, yes, I worry. I worry that he will not gain weight appropriately, and I worry about it constantly. My child got twice weekly weight checks for months, and then weekly ones for many, many more months. He still gets monthly weight checks, although he is 19 months old, where kids normally get weighed twice a year. If he does not gain appropriately - and right now he is; he is totally on track with his eating and weight gain and we are very happy about that - then he faces a lot of medical interventions, some of which, as I said, include major surgery. Of course I worry. And my worries are real worries, unlike this woman's, whose fear is that her 18-month-old daughter might be, you know, porky.

We, by the way, are indeed lucky, but not because the earthling is food averse; we're lucky because he's an incredible, fabulous kid, first of all, and second of all, because he's mostly overcome his eating problems. His weight is (for the moment) good, his weight gain is (again, for the moment - with these kids, it can all change so quickly) good. He's still food averse, but it's under control. That took a year of feeding therapy, a suite of medications, and a team of health professionals. It took major effort from me and from Best Beloved. It was work. It was and is stressful. It was and is a big deal.

If your child just eats, spontaneously, without any extra effort from you, please consider yourself lucky, because you are. And if your child just eats, and you are doing your level best to fuck up his or her relationship with food, then please don't tell me about it. I really, really mean that. I am so tired of listening to people who think their two year old or three year old is fat. I am so tired of hearing people brag that they only let their kid eat non-fat yogurt (FULL FAT until at least two) or that they make sure their (non-diabetic) toddler only gets no-calorie sugar substitutes or that they keep their entire family including the kids on a no-carb diet. This is not healthy eating. It is a fucking travesty. And if you can't stop doing it, then shut the fuck up about it.


1 Fruit juice in quantity has a digestive result I'm not going to get into here, so we do limit that and dilute the fruit juice he gets, but not because we're worried he'll get fat; we're worried he'll explode. We also limit foods with caffeine in them, like chocolate, because, um, they keep him awake. Which perhaps should not have been as surprising to us as it was. I will note that we also work hard to encourage foods with protein and fat, because the earthling sometimes thinks a fruit and water diet would be ideal, and that is not how you gain weight, unfortunately for him.

2 People, do not say this. Do not. I have a friend whose daughter could not sit up on her own at 11 months, let alone crawl or walk. People actually said to her, "Oh, you're so lucky. You don't have to chase after her." No. No. No. Some developmental milestones are annoying, yes, but you still want your kid to go through them.

I realize that if you're saying this, it's because you're uncomfortable with the topic of disability or delay and so you're trying to pretend that the disability or delay isn't real (and at some point you should really, really think about why you react this way), but it's not okay to do that. Here's what you can say: "You're so lucky. Your daughter is such a wonderful person." Because that is true - my friend's daughter is a marvel and a wonder, a gentle, creative, loving child, and my friend is lucky to have her, and knows it. But the luck does not arise from the fact that her daughter has physical delays; it arises from who her daughter is.
Lithyhalcyon_shift on January 15th, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
You have remarkable restraint, I'd have beaten her around the head with a melon. An inorganic melon.

And just. You know. *hugs*
tried to eat the safe banana: Foodthefourthvine on January 15th, 2010 10:32 am (UTC)
What, and get the Earthling Eyes of Judgment for using inferior produce? Never! I would always use an organically grown, locally sourced product. Also, after some thought, I believe a winter squash might be more suited for pummeling purposes. (If you ever decide to do a cooking experiment with butternut squash - I - I - I guess I should just take this opportunity to say that I cherish you, and have faith in your husband's ability to get your limbs reattached as necessary.)
Spikes. Definitely Spikes - wordweaverlynn on January 15th, 2010 10:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mecurtin on January 15th, 2010 11:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - feochadn on January 15th, 2010 01:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halcyon_shift on January 16th, 2010 10:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
You're out of adventures :(claire on January 15th, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
Jeebus Fucking Christ, I cannot even... kasdlfjka I hate people.
tried to eat the safe banana: Foodthefourthvine on January 15th, 2010 10:34 am (UTC)
I really have to blame society for this one. They just want their girls to grow up successful, you know? AND WE ALL KNOW THAT FOR WOMEN SUCCESSFUL MEANS WEARING A SIZE ZERO.

*bursts into rage-induced flames*
(no subject) - claire on January 15th, 2010 11:06 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - vito_excalibur on January 15th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sapote3 on January 15th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sapote3 on January 15th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
nicolasechs: misc contentnicolasechs on January 15th, 2010 09:59 am (UTC)
You're so lucky. The Earthling is a wonderful person. :)
tried to eat the safe banana: earthling churchillthefourthvine on January 15th, 2010 10:35 am (UTC)
Thank you! *beam*
the pirate queen of norway: calvin crankyashkitty on January 15th, 2010 10:01 am (UTC)
Good lord. I wouldn't have blamed you if you had punched her in the nose. That's just...gah. I hate the ridiculous body issues this culture has developed anyway, but TWO YEARS OLD? For fuck's sake. Children need nutrition. People need nutrition. If people just ate food when they wree hungry and stopped when they were full, most people would be healthy. (Not necessarily thin, because not everyone needs to be thin, but healthy.)

BTW, many years ago when I was an au pair in Germany, one of the kids I took care of was a fetal alcohol baby who had been fed through a nose tube till she was four. She DID NOT WANT TO EAT. And you can understand that really--after having not been used to it, she didn't want to learn it. She didn't want to do it. It took hours to get her through breakfast, which meant me waking up before 6am; we worked out a system after a while where she would take a bite, then I would read a line of a story, then another bite and another line, and so on, and it was tedious but she at least got fed. So from a certain POV (aka mine), you are lucky that you can deal with the earthling's issues while he's still young enough to not be malnourished the way she was, and he's lucky that he has parents who are capable of and interested in taking care of him so he grows up healthy.
tried to eat the safe banana: earthling hey babythefourthvine on January 15th, 2010 10:40 am (UTC)
I am grateful that I have no, so far, had to know the anguish of introducing food at a late age to a child who has been exclusively tube fed, because I know that's hell on earth. (We were terribly lucky, largely because I am a Complainy Mama and kept asking for more appointments until we got shoved off to feeding therapy fully a year before most kids get there - that year, of course, makes fixing the problems hugely harder. Hugely.)

I'm impressed with you for having the patience to do that with the girl you cared for, because, wow, there's nothing like an epic feeding battle to get taking forced deep breaths. It's HARD. It's not even like you can get frustrated, because it's only too easy to understand why they do it, but it's SCARY, because they NEED TO EAT.
(no subject) - counteragent on January 15th, 2010 10:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - nimnod on January 15th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
kudra2324 on January 15th, 2010 10:02 am (UTC)
god. a) how stressful to deal with this in general, i'm sorry, and b) i remember seeing an article a couple of years ago about parents - mostly mothers - who were underfeeding their children because they didn't want their two year old to be chubby. i, too, wanted to call child services.
tried to eat the safe banana: Foodthefourthvine on January 15th, 2010 10:44 am (UTC)
For a while, daycares in Britain (and, presumably, elsewhere, but Britain is where the study took place) were found to be inappropriately feeding their toddler charges by providing the kind of diet that the parents wished THEY ate - lots of whole grains and leafy greans, no sugar, no fats, that kind of thing.

It's a problem. A very large problem. *grits teeth*
(no subject) - anatsuno on January 15th, 2010 11:10 am (UTC) (Expand)
The Spikespike21 on January 15th, 2010 10:07 am (UTC)

How utterly infuriating.
tried to eat the safe banana: Elektra is angrythefourthvine on January 16th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
It was. I seethed for two days and finally posted this rant just to get it off my chest, which is - normally I'm better at letting things go! But I am SO TIRED of the Fat Baby Myth.

*hugs back*

*scritches Dexter*
melpemone: LOM: Sam/Gene - Fightmelpemone on January 15th, 2010 10:09 am (UTC)
Oh my god. Give me ten minutes with that woman. Just ten, so I can unload all my food relationship issues onto her, nearly all of which were instilled by my (very well-meaning, totally wrongheaded) mother. Just - argh.

Your restraint is very admirable. And while I don't have kids myself, I do know that having to make your baby do something he's frightened of (even if it's for his own good!) must be incredibly distressing, and I think you're both amazing for it. :)
tried to eat the safe banana: Foodthefourthvine on January 16th, 2010 07:48 am (UTC)
I would LOVE for you to have ten minutes with that woman, although, sadly, I think people like her have a massive insulating layer of - I don't even known what to call it, self-righteous idiocy? - that protects them from ever hearing the truth. Still. I would like to see her be TOLD.

Drooling Fan Girldroolfangrrl on January 15th, 2010 10:12 am (UTC)
Wow and you didn't punch her in the nose? I admire your self control.
tried to eat the safe banana: Foodthefourthvine on January 16th, 2010 08:16 am (UTC)
I am pretty sure she heard the "fuck off and DIE" in my tone, but I kept it superficially polite. Being allowed back in Whole Foods is IMPORTANT.
jcalanthe on January 15th, 2010 10:13 am (UTC)
I join you in hating that response. All I've got beyond that is stabbity stabbity stabbity stab.

I am glad that the Earthing is meeting his goals, and go all three of you for all the work it's been & continues to be to manage that. I feel lucky that you're all in my life via lj, for indeed he is wonderful for endless numbers of nonoffensive nonstupid reasons.
tried to eat the safe banana: Foodthefourthvine on January 16th, 2010 08:19 am (UTC)
Every time I have one of these conversations, I get so sad and angry. Stabbity stabbity stab, indeed, but also WOE, what is wrong with us, when we've decided being fat is worse than ANYTHING?
the grey-eyed: Glee!frownyfacekouredios on January 15th, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)
This woman gets my deep frowny face, as I nurse my 6-week old at 5am and rejoice that I managed to get my picky 5-year old to try corned beef tonight. I'm much more concerned that my daughter will turn out to be an unadventurous eater than anything else.

The Earthling is a wonderful. gorgeous kid. You;re so lucky. :)
tried to eat the safe banana: Elektra is angrythefourthvine on January 16th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
I, too, fear that the earthling will be an unadventurous eater, but, well - at least if he is, he'll be eating! And I know that picky as a kid doesn't necessarily mean same meal every night as an adult, so there is hope for our picky, picky kids.

And thank you! I feel lucky. *g*
Jay Linden: Frog and Monkeylinden_jay on January 15th, 2010 10:24 am (UTC)
I could just scream. Seriously. Some people, I swear to god. My twins were born 4 weeks prem, at four pounds, fifteen ounces each. My son lost half a pound within 36 hours after birth (no big deal if you're eight pounds, big deal when you're under five), and he had to be put on a feeding tube through his nose. His sister had one put in the next day.

I don't live in a city where you can get donor breast milk, and my milk was coming in too slowly for them to be able to use my milk to feed them, and they were literally too small and too weak to be able to latch on properly, so breastfeeding primarily never happened for us, although I pumped and gave them everything I could provide for nearly five months (until I had gallbladder surgery and spent 5 days in the hospital. WHOLE 'nother thing there, but, digressing).

I remember weight checks every 3 hours, heel pricks for glucose tests until there wasn't any un-pricked skin on their heels. Desperately hoping we could get them to take just five mls of formula by bottle, so it didn't have to go down the tube. Praying that they were gaining weight so that they wouldn't end up in an isolette attached to an IV. And the fact that now, at nearly eight months, both my babies are healthy and happy and y'know what, chubby? Makes me so happy I could cry. And if anyone says anything like what you were told around me, imma take them out at the kneecaps. Bad enough that I get glared at for buying formula.

Hey, look there, I ranted too. Sorry about that. And I'm sorry it happened, and I will keep thinking big eating is good thoughts for the earthling.
Mara: Rebecca pissedmarag on January 15th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
Word. Wordy McWordson. Both of my kids were preemies (one at 5 weeks, who was 4 lbs 10 oz and one at 6 weeks who was 4 lbs 8 oz) who were wholly uninterested in doing any of this eating stuff and had to be fed through that blasted tube for a week or so. Oh gods, the heartbreak of those weight checks.

And once they started eating and grew to be wonderfully chubby LIKE BABIES ARE SUPPOSED TO, I was very proud of that chubbiness. I WORKED DAMN HARD FOR THAT CHUBBINESS.

I have a friend who has triplets (so I don't have to tell you anything else about the issues SHE had). And she fed those kids exclusively breastmilk for 5 months. This woman is my goddamn hero, I tell you.

And one day when they were about 18 months, some woman told her they were too fat. And my friend did not kill this woman, which I consider restraint on a level that I cannot begin to imagine.
(no subject) - linden_jay on January 17th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - marag on January 17th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on January 16th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - linden_jay on January 17th, 2010 03:12 am (UTC) (Expand)
Dafnadafnagreer on January 15th, 2010 10:29 am (UTC)
OMG. One of my best friends is a pediatric feeding specialist (she created mealtimestories.com) and just hearing about her work has made me in awe of how much we take for granted when it comes to things like "oh of course babies learn how to eat, why wouldn't they?"

It sounds like you've gotten some great support and I'm so glad. Hang in there. And maybe get a squirt gun (and running shoes so you can make your get away.)
lilacsigillilacsigil on January 15th, 2010 10:30 am (UTC)
Being taught all her life to ignore the signals her body sends for "hungry" and "full." Being taught that there are foods that are sinful and foods that are good. Being raised with the subconscious belief that the ideal amount of calories to eat in a day is none.

To be honest, when you tell me you've put your child under two on a diet so she won't get fat,

Welcome to the way I was raised! I didn't realise until I was 26 - and my mother had told me "trust you to get the kind of cancer where you gain weight" - that it was *her* who had the problem, not me. It's really distressing that her disturbed behaviour has become normalised. Even more so, I'm glad she only has grandsons, not granddaughters.
it's all beer limbo until someone loses a leg: Crankypants!fan_eunice on January 15th, 2010 10:32 am (UTC)
I am just boggled. People really, really suck sometimes. You deserve a medal for not punching her in the face. 'Cause I am pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to resist.
Daegaerdaegaer on January 15th, 2010 10:34 am (UTC)
:-( What a stupid, hurtful thing for her to have said.