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17 month old with eating problems...

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  • 17 month old with eating problems...

    Hi All,

    I'm a new poster here and in desperate need of advice...

    Here's a bit of background information - My daughter is 17 months old and my only child. Since she was born I've done AP - she spent the first 3 months in a ********** crib attached to our bed and then moved in with us. She was carried pretty much all the time during the day and was never left to cry for more than a minute at most - and that only because I couldn't pick her up at that particular moment!

    She's always been a happy child and well ahead on all her milestones. She was crawling and cruising at 5 months and walking confidently at 10 months. Her verbal skills are also good. She's extremely active and energetic, but also extremely determined and stubborn (much like her parents). She won't generally nap during the day and then doesn't go to bed till late evening despite all attempts to get her to sleep - it's been like this since she was 12 weeks old. However she doesn't appear overtired or get whingy.

    She had extreme separation anxiety from 7-15 months and we've just about turned the corner now. I am somewhat isolated in that I don't have friends or parents or family living near by so a lot of the time it was just the two of us (we do go to playgroups though). Although she has the SA, she is also a very confident child and not shy in the least - just doesn't like me being anywhere other than next to her or being picked up by other people!

    The big issue is with food. I exclusively breastfed till 6 months and then did Baby-Led-Weaning but continue to breastfeed. Initially she was very keen to try food and would eat a fair bit. Now it's almost impossible - if I get 5 teaspoons of yoghurt in I have done well. Unfortunately she does like junk food - hand her a packet of crisps or some fries and the disappear very fast - but it's something that is very rare in our house. Otherwise she'll eat baked potatoes, rice and curry and pasta - but only a couple of spoonfuls or pieces. If I put her in a high chair she clamps her mouth shut, the only way to get anything in at all is to let her wander about and just give her bits and pieces off my plate or for us both to sit on the floor.

    I would estimate that around 80% of her calories are from breast-milk - she's still nursing around every 3 hours day and night, which I don't have a problem with. My husband has severe allergies and is immunocompromised as he has no spleen and gets every illness and cold going. I have a great immune system and Daisy seems to have the same. So far she's had a couple of 2 day colds despite being exposed to my husband's illnesses.

    My husband also has hereditary spherocytosis which is a dominant condition where your bloodcells are the wrong shape. They don't carry iron or oxygen in an efficient manner and it can make you very tired and anaemic as well as damaging your spleen. We had Daisy tested recently and fortunately she hasn't inherited the condition. However she did come back as anaemic, so we repeated the tests 6 weeks ago. Her haemoglobin levels were even lower, her ferretin level was 8 which is well below normal and her vitamin B12 was low (although folate levels were normal as were blood cell size so she doesn't have pernicious anaemia).

    The specialists were stunned by the results as she is so incredibly active that no-one thought she would possibly be anaemic.

    Anyway, she's now on vitamin supplements - except she doesn't like them, I can't mix them with food as she won't eat food and we're now having to hold a screaming child down and force them into her 3 times a day which is horrific and I hate having to do.

    I'm under a lot of pressure to give up breast-feeding as people say that of course she won't eat - she's tanked up on breastmilk all day and night. The nutritionist is one of the few who says not to give up.

    I don't know anyone in real life who does AP - and my friends with babies think that I am nuts and that it is the reason for the eating and the separation anxiety and once she's into her own bed and fully weaned she'll suddenly start to eat solids properly.

    We're gradually moving her into her own bed for the evening and till she wakes up at night when she comes back in with us. It's been pretty hard-work - she got up again 133 times the first evening. Now, she protests a bit but does fall asleep if I feed her and sing to her. When she was going to bed in our room it was really easy and I didn't often have to feed her to sleep.

    She's on the small side - 9th centile for weight and height (she was 75th at birth) but not skinny, although she's still in size 6-12 month clothes. My husband and I are both tall so people remark on it quite a lot more than they otherwise would. She doesn't look malnourished, but is a bit pale. If it wasn't for the vitamin situation I would be okay with her still being mainly breastfed, but I really can't ignore the low iron and vit B12.

    The healthworkers are all planning a big case-conference and have indicated to me that they feel a large part of the issues are due to my still breastfeeding. I really don't want to traumatise her in any way and think weaning her before she wants to isn't a good or right thing to do - especially as she has only just started getting better regarding the separation anxiety. She's not attached to teddies or blankies and has never had a pacifier so boob is literally her only real 'comfort blanket' and I loathe the thought of saying no. As it is, if I'm in a situation where I have to say 'no for the moment' she gets frantic and I can't bear the thought of the 'Pees, Mama, Pees' that I'll be facing...

    Sorry for the very long post, I'm just at my wit's end - I thought by doing AP and BLW I would avoid so many of these pitfalls and all I seem to have done is to arm the anti-breast feeding/co-sleeping/AP crowd!

  • #2
    Have you tried the "don't offer, don't deny" approach? I know a few moms in your situation that feel they need to encourage food that do that. We were also told to use a vitamin supplement for our exclusively breastfed, 19lb, 9month old and his iron was on the lower end of the normal range. We declined the supplement but are are instead encouraging iron rich foods. We've had good luck with hummus, refried beans, scrambled eggs, bits of dried prunes and creamed spinach.


    • #3
      My son is also around the same age and we share some of the same challenges. My child will only eat finger foods and has refused to be spoon fed by anyone since 9 months old. He is smaller than average and asks for breastmilk rather than food when he is hungry. I, too, have trouble giving him the vitamins three times a day, so I have focused on using the foods he does eat and combining them with other foods to increase iron absorption.
      For example, he loves berries which are vitamin C rich and raisins which contain some iron. So for breakfast I give him a bowl of berries with a little oatmeal, blackstrap molasses and yogurt mixed together. He eats the berries and what little of the other stuff is stuck to them. The molasses and raisins have iron and vitamin C in the berries helps the body absorb the iron better. He also loves pasta, so I finely chop kale or collard greens (iron-rich) and mix it in with the tomato sauce (vitamin C) and serve that over the pasta. This strategy has raised his iron level to the lower end of the normal range without a supplement on a regular basis.
      Do a google search to compile a list of iron-rich foods and vitamin C rich foods to determine which foods will work with your child's particular tastes and take it from there.
      Good luck!


      • #4
        Hi. Sorry to hear about your troubles.
        My daughter is 23 months and still her caloric intake is about 50-75% breastmilk. Frequently it is up near 95% because if anything is wrong ( teething, tired, sick, etc) she will not eat at all.
        Like you I don't know anyone that practices AP, especially who BF and cosleeps. Everyone thinks I'm crazy but I know we are doing what's right for our children. I think it is important to continue BF and cosleeping especially if you child is having issues with eating. In my experience with my child 1) she will NOT eat better if I withhold my milk 2) she gets more stressed sleeping away from me and therefor eats less and it upsets both of us 3)at least with my milk I know she is getting many nutrients and beneficial factors.

        As for the anemia, we are in the same situation. Her ferritan and hgh were on low as well. The physician told us to give supplements and wean breastmilk to get her to eat iron rich foods She refuses the supplements and spits them out. Because she only drinks from my breast or water in a straw cup there was no way to mix it in liquid. I stared mixing a small amount in fruit baby food and freezing them into Popsicles. I can't put too much in or she will notice and refuse but at least it's some without pressuring. Also I put in alittle iron in whatever she will eat like yogurt. I know they say calcium lowers iron absorption but again it's better than nothing. One thing I do know for certain from being a nurse is that your breastmilk helps with the constipation associated with iron supplements.

        A few last thoughts.... Have you had your blood levels checked for anemia and do you eat enough iron? Some is still passed through breastmilk. Have you tried fortified pasta and broccoli? Both have iron and most kids enjoy tge taste especially mixed with cheddar cheese.

        I hope I helped or at least made you feel better knowing you are not alone. Please follow your instincts. As long as mom and child are happy and active I see no reason to upset the breastfeeding/ cosleeping environment.

        All the best and stand strong.


        • #5
          Hi there

          I'm so sorry you are having such a difficult time. It all sounded manageable enough until I got to the bit about the healthcare workers! I am so sorry that you are coming under pressure and guilt from them to wean her!

          A few ideas....

          You don't say what country you are in. If the USA, can you find a good paediatrician that is supportive of extended breastfeeding and AP and get him/her on your side (and to give advice)?
          If the UK, I know the situation is different as you don't get to choose your own GP. But could you perhaps go see someone privately to get their backup? Viveka is a really good resource - I would also really really recommend and rate the psychotherapist Kitty Hagenbach there. She has helped me with a lot of issues including that of dealing with criticism from others, following your own heart and parenting instincts and truth.

          Which brings me to another point, what feels right to you in this situation? Can you manage to listen to and hold on to your Mumma's voice, the one that knows, and to distinguish between that one and the voices of pressure coming from others (eg friends around you who you say do not understand extended BF, cosleeping, AP etcetc). Even with healthcare "experts" I think personally a mummy should not get intimidated and still listen to what she thinks is right for her child. Which can take a lot of courage in the face of a lot of in this case what sounds like disapproval.

          I do not know you nor your child but from what I have read, it does not sound like forced or abrupt weaning will be the magical solution, bar to increase anxiety all ways around possibly.

          As far as I have read and understood, it is NORMAL for toddlers to eat pickily and be mainly attracted to high carb foods for their high energy levels. See this book, currently on sale for an outrageous price on amazon, but perhaps vailable for less at a local LLL outlet near you?

          TBH, from what you have put here, these people sound quite ignorant. Would it help to get some resources, eg the American Paediatrician stuff on breastfeeding past 2, or some other resources from this site or from Kellymom to counter their arguments (if you would like to do that of course)? For example, why differentiate between cow and breast milk?! There was a good article on I think this site recently about it is not the case that breast milk loses its nutrients after a few months (as a lot of people like to argue) and how it is not the case that cow milk has got some magical stuff in it that breastmilk does not have.

          The other SURE fire thing about eating... the more anxious YOU get, the more your child will pick it up. I do hear you that you are concerned regarding anaemia and I am not suggesting you ignore it but I do feel this puts you under a LOT of pressure to try and "force" your child to eat - realistically - this is NOT something you can do! Your job is to offer the food, her job is to decide whether to eat it. I read that, and love it (think it is Sears). I also read that childrenonly need a palm full of food per meal (theirs not ours). It must be very hard to believe that your child will eat what she needs in the face of all this. So maybe it helps to look at your own worry and anxiety. I think eating is something that gets a lot of us so worried - linked at is it to feelings re our child's very survival. No wonder we get anxious.

          I do wonder if other toddlers are not perhaps also anaemic but do not get checked by their paediatricians. I don't know. I have been worried about my son but every time I think, how the hell can he survive on what he eats, he starts again. I actually t hink toddlers do not eat 3 meals a day plus snacks nice and tidily like the doctors would perhaps like them to. They eat what they feel they want to and need to at the time. Anyway...

          On a practical level, perhaps you can find some acceptable recipes for her featuring iron/rich foods? Does she like meat? Can you make spinach muffins?! Bread has iron I believe, will she eat that? Secondly, could you talk to her re the drops and about the situation? It will become easier and easier to feel the 2-way communication that already exists between you two as she gets more and more verbal which is likely to happen pretty soon and that could make things easier. Re the vitamin drops, are there any other ways of doing this? Putting it in another drink? Expressing milk and putting it in there?!

          Good luck. Wish you much luck confidence and calm!


          • #6
            My older daughter had trouble eating for a while. She didn't really eat much until she was about 12 months old, which I know isn't as old as your daughter, but thought I would suggest things that she loved. Does she drink anything from a cup? My daughter LOVED smoothies. You can throw all kinds of stuff in them. We would make them first thing in the morning and then go for a walk around the neighborhood in the stroller. She would chug the entire thing. We typically made them with yogurt, a variety of frozen fruit, and milk or juice. We would also add ground flaxseed. Many people add spinach (which would help with the iron). You can also make smoothies into popsicles, which are often a big hit with kids. My daughter (2.5 years old) thinks they are dessert or special treats!

            Do you let her feed herself? I think you probably due since you do baby led weaning. If not, let her, even for yogurt. Yes it is messy, but she might be more inclined to eat more.

            I would also do the don't offer, don't refuse and maybe try and get up in the morning right when she wakes up, instead of nursing in bed. Then she might be more inclined to eat food.

            Good luck!


            • #7
              I didn't have time to read all the posts, but I will tell you that here in San Antonio we had an API leader who's son was exclusively breastfed and even at 2 years old would have maybe 1 Cheerio a week. He was skinny and tall, but that was also the build of his parents. He was still exclusively nursing. I think it was about the time his sibling arrived that he started to eat more food around 2 1/2-3 years. Today he is an active 6 (or 7) year old who eats a well-rounded amount of food. He is still a bit picky, but he is a healthy, growing child.

              The leader that I'm talking about is currently retired, but I will see if she is up for coming over here and answering your question.


              • #8
                My son was the same way. He had an illness when he was small and afterword, he was no longer interested in food other then mommy. It took awhile, but over time we worked through it.

                There is a book called Just Take A Bite that I have found helps quite a bit in getting children to try new foods and adjusting to solid foods.

                I will put together a sample of suggestions from that book and some others this weekend and post them for you.




                • #9
                  I just wanted to say that my son didn't eat a whole lot of food due to bfing until he was about 2 and then he started nursing less and eating more. He did it when he was ready just like he should have. Sometimes I would worry, but I reminded myself that he wouldn't have all the energy that he has if he wasn't getting enough. I don't know if he was anemic because he was never tested. I agree with the other posters that weaning is not the answer. Maybe you can tell her she can nurse after she eats a little bit of food?

                  Black beans have iron. Maybe you can mash them up and mix them with rice. What about iron fortified cereal?

                  Goood luck and keep us posted.