The nurse was a formidable opponent, but Sophia, naked and crying, was swiftly winning the battle to seat her on the scale. She flipped and wriggled like a fish, kicking the instrument with feet of rage, until the nurse, unperturbed, turned to me and said, “Mom, follow me.” Kevin scooped her up and held her at arms length as I sang, “don’t pee on me…don’t pee on me… you can pee on daddy…but don’t pee on me.” Down the hallway, I stood on the scale first. The nurse zeroed it out, and Kevin handed me Sophia.
19.8 The nurse clucked her tongue. After our last visit, I didn’t write her weight down in the little book where I initially, diligently kept track of such things. But I knew 19.8 pounds at 15 months was not good.
Back in the examining room, the pediatrician joined us with a smile and glanced at Sophia’s chart. She cheerfully reviewed the data, “75th percentile for height…she’s gained there, 50th percentile for head circumference…that’s the same it’s been, but…hmmm… it looks like her weight has dropped off. She’s in the 5th percentile.” She tapped the chart and turned to me, “How’s she eating?”
What I heard was, “Are you feeding her?”
When Sophia was first born, my nightmares had one recurrent theme. Someone would walk in: the doctor, my mother, Kevin…and announce that while I was sleeping, my baby starved to death. I, selfishly, had been taking care of my own needs while my baby wasted away from hunger. A common fear among breastfeeding moms, I’m sure, but I’ve never been able to shake it. Even once I started feeding her solids, the recommended daily servings seemed impossibly large. Sophie ate a fraction of what she was “supposed” to be eating, and I worried about it.
Then, there was the omnipresent conflicting advice. Don’t force your baby to eat. Don’t turn mealtimes into a battle. Let her explore her food…because if you don’t, you are well on your way to fostering an eating disorder and life-long struggle with food. What mother wants that on her conscience?
And then I did the thing I thought I would never do…I became a short order cook. She wouldn’t eat the turkey, then I’d give her the mac n’ cheese. No to that too? How about pizza? Not feeling the pizza today? Let’s try edammame…until the floor was strewn with rejected foods and the refrigerator littered with tiny Tupperware containers.
I was on my third offering at lunch one day when Lauren, our babysitter, suggested, “maybe she’s not eating it because she knows she’ll get something different.” I blushed. Of course, she was right. This is the very thing I told parents NOT to do, and here I was (desperate for her to eat), breaking all the rules.
So I’ve tried:
- Giving her a bite of something she loves (and then slipping in something she doesn’t
- Waiting her out (the girl’s got staying power)
- Ending mealtime and offering her something later (only to have her reject it again)
- Feeding her what she will eat. Often. (Crackers. Lots of crackers.)
And yet, her weight hasn’t budged.
I explained to the pediatrician that Sophia eats healthy foods, just not much of them and I don’t want to force it. I gave her a sample daily menu: …oatmeal with bananas and milk at breakfast…a protein, a vegetable, a milk product and a starch at lunch…crackers and cheese or an apple in the afternoon…whole milk yogurt, wheat germ, and fruit… She cut me off. “Perhaps Sophia is eating too healthy.”
“Too healthy?” I was fairly certain, in all of my internet research, that I had never heard of such a thing.
“She needs more calorie-dense food in her diet. More fats. Give her cream in her cereal; top her vegetables with butter; try some fried food.”
She said ‘fried food’ so casually, I was pretty sure I hadn’t heard her right. I made her repeat what she said, and listened, incredulous. I’d sooner give Sophia a Big Gulp of coke and sit her in front of MTV for five hours.
NEVER GONNA HAPPEN.
But as I lay in bed that night, plagued with images of Sophia gaunt and hungry, I reconsidered.
The next day I served Sophia peas drenched in butter, which she gleefully squished in her hands and smeared across her face. The morning after that she had half n’ half in her cereal, which she ate begrudgingly as she always does. And at lunch, I offered her a sweet potato fry. She took a bite, but when I placed another on her tray, she threw it on the ground.
That’s my girl. Looks like the feather-weight food fight champion of Hawthorne Ave and I are going to be going at it at least a few more rounds.