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My child is a gannet

(13 Posts)
PrincessAndTheParper Tue 14-May-13 10:45:11

Dear Mums,

I am looking for some tips to help deal with a very demanding eater. I realise that fussy eaters are much worse, but nevertheless, I can't sit in cafes or restaurants with the little one without world war III...

She's a happy, healthy 13 month old first child and has had no problems really - sleeps well, plays well and eats rather too well. She eats everything from olives, hot curry, tries to steal my coffee, raw fish and we have to feed the cats in a different room with the door locked, as she'd be after that too...

When at home I can ignore the tantrums and just distract her with washing her hands or take her to the window to see the flowers and that usually works. However when we are out it becomes near impossible to contain her interest in food around her and I simply cannot sit in a cafe with a friend without her going mental because someone on the next table has a piece of cake. I had lunch with a friend from out of town yesterday and I honestly hardly heard a word of all her news and she probably left with the impression that my kid is a tyrant, which other than when food is around, she really isn't at all.

Does anyone have any similar experiences and does anyone have any ideas that don't involve doing what my husband does and just feeds her until she explodes and is sick.... Not good at all. I have come to learn that most things with little kids are just phases but I would really like to have some sort of a social life back!

Thanks very much in advance for any tips.

Quangle Tue 14-May-13 10:52:42

I was going to post that I too have a gannet (haven't heard that description for years!) except that he's nearly 4 so I can reason with him and just put boundaries in for him more than you can with your little one.

It does sound quite extreme but could it perhaps be just one manifestation of the toddler years and their obsessive behaviour and tendency to tantrum rather than a food problem per se? If that's all it is then I would say that yes you are going to have to limit your time spent sitting in cafes just as you would limit time spent in airports with toddlers iyswim. It's just not a good environment for them and they get bored and misbehave and in your DD's case, she starts demanding food and it's hard not to give in because you can't stand the meltdown.

But do you think it's more than that?

tangstar Tue 14-May-13 11:52:02

I tend to agree with quangle. Your dd is at the age when she probably doesn't want to sit for long spells in a highchair any more. I remember that we could basically get dd fed at that age and then it was maybe a short spell of distracting with toys or books, then maybe a walk around and then time to leave. Unfortunately it's normal to hardly be able to have a proper conversation with another adult when there's a toddler around!

There are going to be lots of things she wants but can't have/do in the coming years, not only food. You just find your best strategies for dealing with the tantrums - distraction mainly at this age. I remember the first time I realised I could either eat chocolate once dd was in bed or give her a bit. She ate everything that wasn't nailed down until about 18 months and then became really fussy until she was about 7 so you never know what's around the corner.

shellsocks Tue 14-May-13 12:22:45

My 14m DS is the same, we all have to eat at the same time otherwise there is screaming if we are still eating when he has finished...defo no restaurants anymore! It's the only time he tantrums so I just go with's not fair for me to eat if he can't!

Portion controls my biggest concern as he would literally keep going so I have no idea what he actually needs to not be hungry, I just guess at what looks like a reasonable portion and stick to that? He is a big baby, but not fat 97th centile so he may just need more food than other kids!

PrincessAndTheParper Tue 14-May-13 12:29:36

Thanks both of you for your thoughts. Quangle it's good to know there are others out there!

The odd thing is, she is generally happy to sit on the floor of a cafe at my feet and play for hours, as long as there isn't any food around. She is a very passive baby (in a good way) and loves nothing more than being out and about with people to look at and new places to discover. I wouldn't say she bores easily, nor is she the type to run around tipping tables over and screaming for attention.

I have thought about whether there is something deeper going on, other than greed (!) but I can't really think of anything, as she is such a delightful little thing the rest of the time and neither my husband nor I have any sort of eating issue - far from it, we both enjoy good food and are not under or over weight. The only thing that occurs to me was that she was premature and for the first few months we really had to keep an eye on her weight, as she was so tiny, so maybe she just got used to being overfed..? Or it might simply be that I made too much fuss over weaning, as I am a stay home mum who adores cooking so I may have just created a monster by trying so hard to avoid a fussy eater!

Probably just part of life as a mum, eh. I live in Germany in a place where there really is very little to do other than sit in cafes so compared to other cities where I have lived, like London, it does make it very, very hard to stay busy.

If anyone else has any specific tips on what to do with little greedy gutses I would be grateful for any advice.


PrincessAndTheParper Tue 14-May-13 12:34:24

Shellsocks - sounds very similar to us! I either have to hide food in the kitchen and nip out to eat every 5 minutes - or hide behind the pram with a sandwich (hehe!) so she can't see or try as hard as possible to coordinate meals so we all eat at the same time, even if that means having friends over for lunch at 11.30 :-/ I also only offer her what I think is a reasonable portion, as it is just too much of a struggle to take away food when she seems to have had enough. x

shellsocks Tue 14-May-13 12:58:06

I also forgot to add DS only got teeth a couple of months ago and before then had to have mainly hot meals spoon fed (he just used to gag and mega sick up anything he had to chew) so I've wondered whether it is all the new things he now eats (anything!) that is making him like this?

greenhill Tue 14-May-13 13:09:30

I have two gannets. At your DD's age, my two would begrudge every mouthful I had if they'd finished theirs. Apparently it was the same when my DB and I were small, so my DM would always add more to my DF's plate for us to legitimately scavenge from, after we'd had our own (we thought it tasted better from his plate)

My DD can still pack away an enormous quantity of food, but because she does a lot of exercise / she walks to and from school / extra curricular activities etc, she does not have any excess flesh and is muscular.

My DS has just turned 3, he regularly helps himself from the cupboards, fridge and the fruit bowls and drags a stool to reach. Most of the food items are healthy, he also walks for up to 1.5 hours a day, so I think he burns most of the calories off. At your DD's age, my DS couldn't be trusted near the cat's food either grin

Ensure your DD has a decent breakfast: porridge, toast and fruit. Lunch can be eggs or soup, plenty of bread or a sandwich, yoghurt or more fruit. Dinner can be pasta, rice, cous cous etc with plenty of meat / vegetables, grated cheese and rice pudding or fruit. I don't offer the other items unless the main meal has been finished or a good attempt made on it either.

If you are offering apples, celery batons, carrot sticks, rice cakes and bread sticks etc in between meals, this should reduce some of the cravings for sweet stuff, cake or crisps.

If she is getting plenty of whole grains, protein and fruit she should feel fuller for longer. Try not to give too much fruit juice or refined carbohydrates such as biscuits as they give a sugar high and will make her hungry quicker. I'm sure you are doing all of this anyway. smile

We always have breakfast and dinner together at the dining table, eating together is important for us. Their manners are terrible though and I can't get them to use cutlery properly yet smile.

I agree, It is perfectly normal to eat chocolate etc when DC are in bed / not in the same room etc.

Good luck and don't worry too much. Once your DD can go for walks with you for longer periods of time, any excess will come straight off and you will be able to distinguish appetite more clearly.

PrincessAndTheParper Tue 14-May-13 13:27:21

Thanks everyone and yes now I think about it Greenhill, my father said my brother and I were the same when we were kids! She is big too - 95th percentile for height and weight and she's solid too, which again my bro and I were too (we were both 10 pounders at birth!) I'm 5'10 and my brother is 6'4 so I guess we are just a big lot...

I cook healthy meals every day - today she had poached salmon with broccoli and some left over pasta all as finger food and some apple puree and strawberries for dessert. Tonight she will have the beef casserole that's in the oven at the moment, full of veggies and she'll have it with some new pots. Breakfast is mostly porridge, birchner museli or brown toast with homemade nut and seed butters. I don't really ever give her processed snacks or anything sugary, unless she robs them off some poor child on the swings...

She's not hungry when she does these things - when she's hungry she cries, sits on the kitchen floor and points at the fridge. She eats differently when she's hungry and it is usually pretty obvious when she's had enough as she starts to fiddle, but the problem comes with trying to take it away. She just screams "MAH", which is her word for food or milk.

I am not really worried, it's more that I need to have social interaction and it seems everywhere we go there's food lying around, whether it's at cafes, friends' houses or even other children in the playground. She is so big and strong now and when she fights for something it is really hard to hold her back!

And yes finding her on the floor next to the cat bowl with whiskers all round her mouth is pretty gross :-)

DeWe Tue 14-May-13 13:37:50

My dd1 was like that. She ate everything and anything. If it was on her plate she'd eat it.

She also used to ask for food (when older) when she was bored.

I was just very careful with what she ate. Made sure that she didn't get into the habit of demanding (and getting) snacks. If she had a snack, she didn't get a second one, and snacks were fruit or similarly healthy. Made sure that portion sizes were sensible-I remember going round to someone's house when she was about 18 months and they offered lunch-gave her 4 fish fingers.

When she was 8yo she had pneumonia and since then (4 years ago) she eats very little and she's very fussy. We have about 3-4 meals she eats without complaining.

Otoh dd2 who refused any solids until she was about 8 months, and two mouthfuls of anything was enough, now eats very well.

Quangle Tue 14-May-13 14:34:27

Princess, from what you've said in replies, it really does sound like a toddler issue rather than a food issue. You've all reminded me of hiding behind the door to eat something so the DCs didn't see and of my DS crying when his food was finished - he used to collapse in uncontrollable sobs when he came to the end of the plateful grin. He was also quite an easy-going child but just found food to be lovely and didn't see why it should stop grin grin

I think tbh this age is difficult anyway. They are not completely mobile and get easily frustrated and bored and life is a constant round of trying to get them settled into something so they don't kick off. I guess you are just going to have to guard against always fixing the problem with food - just as you wouldn't get her out of bed every time she wakes up in the night and wants to watch tv at 3am...but it's really tough. It does get better. My two are both much better now (6 and nearly 4) and I can just tell them "no" or "this is mummy's dinner" but DS is still highly, highly motivated by food and I don't think that will change.

NeverendingStoryteller Wed 15-May-13 10:58:10

My DS (7) eats more than I do. Not an inch of fat on the kid unlike Mummy. I dread what he's going to be like as a teenager if he eats like this now.

I had similar issues when eating out and I found that the only thing that worked was distraction and I would pop him next to me on the floor with cars, little trains, or at the table with colouring in as he got older.

He does much better when eating out now - although we did go through a phase where he almost stared other people down while they were still eating, and would ask for things from their plates. Once we could verbally reason it became better, and he lost pudding while we were out once because he didn't stop staring/asking. It only took the one incident of withholding pudding and gentle reminders after that for him to stop. He's now at the age where he can read menus and decide for himself what he would like. Also, I have found that the kid-size portion in many restaurants junk food establishments are not large enough for his appetite and mean that he finishes his meal too early. I tend to order him an adult portion and this keeps him occupied eating for as long as the adults are eating - anything that is left over or that he can't manage comes home as a doggie bag and is turned into leftovers.

PrincessAndTheParper Wed 15-May-13 19:52:32

Thank you all for your lovely comments. I think it it's true that it is just her age and once I can reason with her better she may learn to contain her desire to put everything edible (or non-edible/furniture/other children) in her mouth...

Quangle I think you might be right that food is just lovely - and whilst I am no masterchef I do put a lot of thought, effort and love into her meals - and yes, why should it stop if it tastes so good!

I think I just spend so much time at our playgroups hearing about all the fussy eaters and then I turn around and find my child rifling through the bin and licking empty sandwich packaging (true story) so I was beginning to wonder if she might have some "issues"!

Funnily enough today we had friends over to play in the garden and there was a picnic out and she was pretty good. There were a few things she can't really chew properly like carrot sticks but she just happily carried them around with her and seemed genuinely distracted by her new blow up baby pool :-)

Thanks again and have a lovely evening XXX

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