We all agree mothering is a very serious job. A job you can get without any prior experience, qualification, not even an interview. Its all about on-the-job training. Being on the shop floor and getting your hands dirty (I mean literally!) Out of all the experiences that I have had, I have struggled the most with making my baby eat.
Whenever she got a cold or took vaccines she would just reject food. Food became like a stranger that she would run away from. She would loose weight and her waistlet would slide down her otherwise rounder bum. This depleting fat was directly proportional to my anxiety levels. I took her eating very seriously, even though not very persnickety about it like some of my other friends, I just wanted her to eat. Also because I felt this daunting pressure from family and didn’t know how to respond to their several suggestions. Did you put some sugar? Can YOU eat this? What’s wrong with salt? It should at least look attractive. This deluge of questions tongue tied me.
Every meal time when I presented her the food, I would feel nervous like I would during school tests. With hope, desperation and performance anxiety, I would beg her to eat. Looking out the window I show her cars, bhangarwala (scrap dealer with a hand cart), fruitwala (fruits seller with a hand cart), kaboo (pigeon) while the porridge waited its turn. The emotional cocktail froze my mind of any creativity to distract her and get the spoon in her mouth. Because, once it was in the mouth, she did not fuss, maybe even relishing the porridge before swallowing it. So my goal was to get it into her mouth before she signals a ‘no’.
Sometimes, I would sit on the floor with a bag full of random objects collected from around. While she looked at these curios I would swiftly try to get the spoonful in her mouth. Thinking of myself as smarter than her, I would strategically put the collectibles in front of her and would sit behind, so she did not see it coming. But nah-ha! her proximity sensor would beep with her head shaking in a violent ‘NO’. After some waiting the spoon would make a move again, this time disguising behind the CD case. But she would be quick with her reflex and swiftly swivel around. My ego would lie shattered as the puree would plop on the floor. I would blame my clumsy handwork and give up till the next meal time.
One such night after my daughter slept, I was channel flipping to unwind. On one of them I caught Jackie Chan dodging swords, punching faces, getting under the table, saving his nose all so swiftly. Somehow, I started visualising him feeding a baby, maneuvering his spoon when her head would shake in defiance. Inspired by this next day, I tried some new moves but it all ended up in me cleaning some more!
I figured this is not taking me anywhere. Also, I was the only one who was losing sleep over it. I decide to start again. This time I would just sit in front of her with my plate of food and ate and let her explore the food. She would take the roti (bread) and wipe the floor, dip her hands in dal (lentil soup) and rice would be more on the floor than my plate. But I let her be and didn’t try to feed her. A hungry baby will not starve oneself-was my new mantra.
As the days passed, things slowly improved. She created lesser mess and started putting the roti where it belonged. She would first throw the food on the floor and then eat from there. Again, I didn’t stop her. Sometimes, she would get some dal inside her nose and say “ammi nosy, nosy”. I would quickly clear the hurdle and she would continue. Now, majority of the food during every meal, she would eat by herself. Though I would have to coax her when her mind starts to wander. Some days she did not want to eat at all, so I let her be.
Life for me became less stressful since I started to let her eat by herself. She could make her own decision about when, what and how much she wanted to eat. It was difficult in the beginning, but all it took was me trusting her and myself.