“I managed to handle every stage and the unique set of challenges that come with it pretty well, until it came to food,” says Loh. “I was stumped when my son woke up one day and refused to eat anything I gave him.”
Loh’s son Nick, 3, started off eating well when he was weaning, but became extremely picky when he turned 12 months. Everything he had eaten previously was a no-go and he would only open his mouth for bread, pancakes and boiled pasta with no sauce.
“Everyone else’s kids were eating normally, except for mine. It was hard to explain to them what was going on,” Loh admits. “I also had sleepless nights worrying if the lack of nutrition was going to stunt his growth or leave him malnourished. It was very stressful.”
Lucky for little Nick, his mother wasn’t ready to give up without a fight. Loh read up on how to convert a picky eater, followed what experts said about offering the same food up to 15 times and found various ways to cook the few ingredients her son would eat.
While doing her research, Loh also realised that she wasn’t alone. There were other fussy feeders out there whose parents were struggling, just like she was. “It’s a unique kind of struggle that you will only understand when you’re in it,” she notes.
“Whenever we’re at restaurants, I’m always looking at what the other kids are eating and wish my child would be like that.”
So, exactly what is Loh talking about? We list eight things only parents who have picky-eating peewees will truly understand.
#1 Introducing a new food is like starting a war
Junior may have been in the best of moods all day, laughing, making jokes and goofing around ― until dinner-time comes around. You plonk a plate of baked salmon, beans and rice in front of him ― three things he hasn’t seen together before. Then your little one starts to freak out, no way is that going into his mouth. It’s foreign and therefore must be “yucky”. No, no, no! The protesting turns into a full-blown meltdown and you spend the rest of dinner time trying to calm your cutie down. Better luck next time, you think to yourself.
#2 Getting junior to try something new will involve a lot of negotiation, plus some bribery
You may have been lucky enough to escape the above-mentioned scenario, but you know you’re still not out of the woods yet. He didn’t make a scene, but your finicky little fella is going to expect you to meet him halfway if you want him to taste whatever it is you put in front of him. You’ve been brushing up on your negotiation skills, because you know junior is going to try to get that “take five bites” demand you just made down to three. As much as you want to listen to experts who say you shouldn’t be bribing your child with treats, you know the reality is much more different. Somedays, it’s so hard to get anything into him that you cave in and offer a piece of chocolate in exchange for half an eaten meal.
#3 You will feel envious of parents who have kids who eat everything
“Whenever we’re at restaurants, I’m always looking at what the other kids are eating and wish my child would be like that,” says mum Clara Chan. You never thought that day would come, but it has. You’re secretly resentful of parents who have children who eat whatever they’re given with zero drama. It never fails to surprise you, and you sometimes wish these kids would also kick a fuss once in a while, so their parents will feel your pain. See what your picky eater has reduced you to!
#4 You always have packed meals ready when on the go
“Until my son turned 3, I packed all of his meals every day, including snacks,” says mum Janice Tan. “I didn’t want to be stranded somewhere with food he wouldn’t eat.” Although her son goes to a kindergarten that serves freshly-cooked meals, Tan still packs his lunch every day. “He’s more open to trying new things now, but still sceptical about food and would rather eat things he knows.” Since she doesn’t want him to go hungry, especially in school, Loh wakes up extra early to pack her son’s lunch.
#5 Filling lunch boxes will be a chore
Your tyke only eats five things, so it’s virtually mission impossible to rotate this in his lunch box! “I read a book about picky eating once and it said to not give the same food to your child two days in a row to get them accustomed to variety,” says Chan. “It made filling his lunch box that much harder. I couldn’t always make it happen.”
“Your tyke only eats five things, so it’s virtually mission impossible to rotate this in his lunch box.”
#6 You end up feeding junior the same thing repeatedly
While we’re still on the subject of variety, or the lack thereof, you know that as much as you want to expand junior’s palate, there will be weeks when you’ll be stuck in a rut. “Giving my son the same thing and knowing he will eat it, is much easier than fighting with him to eat something new,” admits mum Sujatha Maniam. “So, yes, I’ve gone weeks just giving him his favourites. I will try something new only on the days when I’m mentally and emotionally ready to ‘fight with him’”.
#7 You have very limited options when eating out
Speaking of dining out, that’s a headache on it its own, isn’t it, mums? Since junior’s list of approved foods is so short, there’s always a high chance he might not eat anything at the restaurant you’re heading to. “I always have to check out the menu first before we head down, so I know there’s at least one thing my daughter will eat there,” says mum Farizah Mohammad. “Otherwise, I’ll buy something else for her from another eatery or bring a meal from home.”
#8 They will surprise you ― and you’ll celebrate!
“Once my son started on rice, which took three years, I kid you not, I introduced other meats and more veggies. One day, we even had Asian chicken noodle soup,” recalls Loh. “It took some cajoling but he ate it. I was so relieved and almost shed happy tears.” We’ve all been there, haven’t we? That moment when we realise our picky eaters won’t stay that way and grow up malnourished, as we’d feared. After enough effort on our part, plus, some growing up on theirs, our peewees will be more adventurous with their food and get the nutrition they need. They’ll be just fine. So, go ahead and pat yourself on the back, mum, and do a victory lap. Post it on Facebook or Instagram, if you wish. You’ve been through a lot, so it’s time to celebrate!
In case you missed these stories…