Soon after we started the GAPS diet, I made the difficult decision to start helping my son eat.
This goes against pretty much everything I believe about children and their bodies, which Janet Lansbury sums up very nicely in this post about toddlers and food.
I completely agree with her, but with the caveat that it’s for healthy children.
And this is where things get really difficult for me, because I wrestle constantly with how unhealthy I think my older son is. From the time he started falling off the weight charts I defended his health, and his behavior. I’ve become active in the gentle parenting community because I believed that if I found the right way to mother, he would behave in a more typical way.
Then I hate even writing that, because I don’t want to make him seem like an un-typical toddler . . . I think he’s reasonably normal . . . but I haven’t spent a lot of time with toddlers.
There is one incident that stands out in my mind. We were at the mall, and there was a large toddler play area in the middle of the food court, with lots of room to run around, and small structures to climb on. We had a long drive to get there, and wanted to let our son get the wiggles out with the other children. When we entered, he completely froze, unwilling to leave my side.
We waited, and talked about the different play things, and then he finally decided to go and play. But almost immediately, he pushed other children, and ran into them. I had to stay close to him the whole time, and we left after a few minutes (not nearly the amount of time we hoped he would run around). That was the worst time he’d ever had with his behavior in a crowd, but it wasn’t atypical for him.
I felt then that something was different with him, but I didn’t know what. Everything about him seemed to fit with GAPS, especially the explanations about picky eaters and how they only want to eat processed carbs. I thought all toddlers were like that. . .
After a few days of tiny bites of meat and a sip or two of broth, I decided I needed to make sure my son got the nutrition he needed. He size concerned us since he started eating solids — dropping from around the 50th percentile to around the 5th. And while I’m small, his dad isn’t, and it just didn’t seem right to us.
So now our meals consist of me preparing a small-ish plate for him with a bit of everything. I let him eat what he will eat on his own, and then I sit with him and help him eat the rest. He normally asks for more of something (and can eat endless cookies or other sweets if allowed to), so I make sure he gets a few bites of the foods he needs. Sometimes it’s meat, sometimes it’s broth, sometimes it’s veggies.
Thankfully, it has yet to be a fight. It’s almost like he’s too distracted to sit and finish eating, because when I point out the additional food, he eats it. Sometimes he wants me to put it on a fork and feed him.
It’s frustrating for me, and a little baffling. It’s not the relationship to food I want him to have — I want to be able to let him trust his body and eat the way he sees fit. But I can tell it’s just not working for him. He would eat chips all day, and he has no problem skipping meals if I let him.
He seems to be bulking up, and he doesn’t often ask for sweets or chips anymore. He asks now for healthy snacks, which is good (and all we have available anymore — homemade yogurt, bananas, raw almond-butter cookies made with only a touch of honey), but I still have to be careful to make sure he has enough room to eat other nutritious foods.
I’m thankful that I don’t have to go to the extremes the GAPS author had to — offering a chip or a cookie after every bite of nutritious food until his tastes changed, but I suppose if I were dealing with extreme health problems, I would be willing to do it.
It’s been a very, very tough decision for me. I struggle with whether or not I feel my son’s health concerns are weighty enough for me to do this, because I don’t want to cause more harm down the road. On one hand, I see him gaining weight (slowly but surely), and I see his behavior mellowing out. On the other hand, I wonder if I’m just trying to push it further because I’m excited by the progress.
I suppose only more time will tell.
Photo credit: emrank on Flickr