When I last talked about E.J.'s attempts at eating solid food (swings and misses, if you will), the journey had only just begun. We had tried purees (clamped his mouth shut whenever the food came near), baby oatmeal (same), some soft finger foods (Achilles ate a lot of stuff that was thrown on the floor) and good old-fashioned trickery (mixed results at best). I was getting ready to venture into banana, thinking that all kids like banana, right? Well, this is how the banana went:
Yeah. It was not a hit.
To be honest, I never really cared all that much if/when he ate solid food. I know he's getting what he needs through nursing and I figured he'll eventually figure it out. But his pediatrician has been concerned about his lack of weight gain. I mentioned that a little in my last post, too. At the time of that last post we were a few days away from another weight check and I desperately hoped the ship had righted itself by then, considering that at the previous appointment E.J.'s weight continued to plummet from where he started at birth (81st percentile) to only the 10th percentile. I had been nursing him more and trying my best with solid foods, so I hoped for growth, or at the very least, that he would not fall, but would have at least maintained over the previous month.
Well, that most recent weight check did not bring any more positive news. As of that visit, he was in the 3rd percentile for weight. He actually lost weight (from 16 lb to 15 lb, 10 oz) in one month. The doctor would really prefer he be above the 10th percentile generally, but it sounded like she wouldn't be too concerned if he was low if he had been consistently low; if he just stayed true to his own growth curve at the low end of the scale, it's no real biggie. But, his "curve" has consistently fallen. He just keeps dropping and dropping and the pediatrician expressed concern that it is now affecting his height growth as well. This was the first month I started to hesitate in what had been my mantra of, "He's just growing at his own pace! He'll catch up!" because in that month, he didn't grow. Maybe he could grow slowly, but I don't think babies are supposed to ungrow. Right?
So anyway, the pediatrician instructed me to continue taking supplements to boost my milk supply, keep nursing E.J. normally, feed him three meals of solids each day plus supplement with two 4-ounce bottles of formula each day.
E.J. after his last weight check visit
Admittedly, I cried. I took such pride in nursing Ellie to 21 months without a drop of formula touching her lips. It made me feel so amazing to maintain such a long nursing relationship with her, with the knowledge that I was giving her everything she needed. I was not opposed to giving E.J. formula if that was what he needed, but I worried that it would negatively affect our nursing relationship. I struggled with that quite a bit.
At the end of the day, my worry was for naught because E.J. won't touch the stuff anyway. We've tried several times and he is just not interested.
So, that put the pressure back on the solid food to do the trick and fatten our little nugget right up. But in order for that to happen, he needed to start actually ingesting some of it. And thus began Operation: There Has To Be A Way To Get This Kid To Eat.
I tried everything. Everything. First, I tried a silicon feeder. I thickened up purees to fill it, or I just stuffed mashable foods like bananas right in there. It worked for a few days. He would do his patented face-making and full-body shudder after each bite, but he kept taking bites!
Classic E.J. eating face
VIDEO: E.J.'s solid food shudder
That trick worked until it didn't. Eventually he just started clamping his mouth shut and refusing to allow the silicon feeder in, just as he was doing with a spoon. So. Back to the drawing board.
I realized that he liked to play with the spoon when we'd try it, so my next strategy was to get one of those spoons that has an empty container as the handle. You can fill the container with food, then squeeze it to push food out onto the spoon. My thinking was, if he'll play with this, then whenever he gets the spoon in his mouth I'll just give it a squeeze and blast him with food. This is parenting at its finest, my friends.
Well, shockingly, that didn't work either. The spoon was not nearly blast-y enough, for one thing, and he quickly figured out what I was up to. The jig was up.
He's definitely judging me.
We did finally figure out a food that he would eat willingly: wheat toast. So, he ate a lot of toast. Nutritious? Eh. Hardly. But calories! Get that boy calories! All the calories! So we went with it. At least he was putting it in his mouth willingly. I kept hoping that if nothing else, maybe he would start to think eating was fun and want to try other things (oh, the optimism!).
E.J. and his toast
But then I got greedy. I thought, hey, maybe I could smear some puree on that toast and he'll just eat it and not notice the difference, and then he'll be feeding himself fruits and veggies and not even know it and I will totally win.
He was on to me, and he did not appreciate my trickery. And then he no longer ate wheat toast.
Mum Mum crackers met a similar fate.
Okay, I thought. Back to square one. I decided to try another recommended method: feed him directly out of a pouch, while distracting him with YouTube video or kids' iPhone apps. And what do you know? It worked!...
...until it didn't. I think we got maybe two meals down that way? And then the mouth-clamping was back: NO POUCH SHALL PASS!
I was about ready to give up and just call the doctor and say, look. His weight is not going to improve by next visit because I cannot get him to eat. Just tell me what the next steps are and let's get on with it.
But then came the Puffs.
For any non-current parents who may not know, Puffs are little puffed pieces of cereal that basically dissolve in a baby's mouth. To Ellie, they were like baby crack and I owe the success/smoothness of our move to Florida to Puffs. When we had to pack up our apartment, we'd just throw her in her high chair with a heap of Puffs on the tray and we'd all go to town on our respective tasks. When we flew from NYC to Tampa, we fed her about a billion Puffs, one Puff at a time, keeping a wiggly, teething, overtired eight-month-old quiet for the three-hour flight. Puffs, man. Puffs are where it's at.
I don't know why I didn't look to the Puff sooner, because once again, they went to bat for me. Lo and behold, E.J. loves Puffs. No. Not "loves." E.J. lives for Puffs. If you pour Puffs on his tray, he cannot shovel them into his mouth fast enough. He will grab them by the fistful while you're still trying to dump them out.
VIDEO: E.J. and his Puffs—the very picture of elegance.
And so, we had a trick that worked: naked baby, pile of Puffs on the tray, douse them in puree of choice, and let baby feed himself. He was actually ingesting some food, so yay, but this was the end result at each meal:
Mark my words, if this kid grows up to be a punk teenager and tries to pull the, "You don't love me! You never loved me!" card, I will pull out these pictures and say, "I DID THIS WILLINGLY MULTIPLE TIMES EVERY SINGLE DAY JUST TO GET YOU TO INGEST A CALORIE." I win.
Needless to say, this was not the ideal method of feeding. In addition to basically needing to buy stock in Puffs, we took to bathing E.J. in the sink after every meal.
Yes. Seriously. After every meal.
E.J. wrapped in a "basket" after his post-Puff hose-down
But, it was working. He was eating. He started actually finishing whole pouches at each meal, and we moved on to yogurt as well.
Yogurt achieves similar levels of mess, FYI.
On a whim, I tried feeding E.J. with a spoon one morning and he opened his mouth for a couple of bites. Lo and behold! But, after a few bites he would become distracted by trying to grab the spoon himself, and it would be all over.
But there had to be a way to capitalize on this. Once again, Eric was the mastermind behind the most recent technique. When Ellie was first starting out with solid foods, we put her in her Fisher Price Space Saver high chair. We'd snap the tray on so that her arms were trapped beneath it, thus preventing her from grabbing at the spoon. So, we switched E.J. from his Ikea high chair to Ellie's old chair, pinned his arms down and tried the spoon. AND HE ATE. Like, actually opened his mouth, allowed me to put a spoon containing food in there, closed his mouth and swallowed the food. REPEATEDLY.
And so, that's where we are currently. With arms trapped beneath the high chair tray, E.J. will let me spoon-fed him three meals a day. He doesn't love it, necessarily, but it happens:
VIDEO: E.J. opens his mouth for a spoon, as if he's a real baby!
After each spoon-feeding, I do free his little arms and give him a chance at some finger foods: often his beloved Puffs, sometimes some toast or other things I want him to try, like banana pieces or avocado slices. On Easter we discovered that he actually loves peas! He gobbles them up with the same voracity as he does Puffs, and they are mom-approved, so that's great.
He loves them! Isn't it obvious?
And that's the current state of things. I don't know if this method will last, if we'll return to the puree-Puff plan, or if he'll send us scrambling for yet another solution. His next weight check will come at his nine-month well visit on Monday, so we'll see if our endless problem-solving has done anything to help the actual issue. If not, well, we'll see what the doctor recommends as next steps and go from there.
In the meantime, please think "Fat E.J." thoughts and send us all your good-eating vibes!