It’s assumed when you have a baby that they will instinctively know how to, and want, to eat. It’s a primitive desire and need in order to stay alive yet it doesn’t always come easily or naturally to everyone.
Many babies struggle with breast feeding and many mums feel guilty when they struggle too.
From day one feeding our children goes much deeper emotionally than many realise.
Being able to feed your child and nourish them is much more than just basically meeting their needs and more about being able to provide, feeling adequate and protecting them.
Consequently not being able to feed them evokes feelings of inadequacy, frustration and failure.
Unfortunately feeding is not a one off event so the cycle of frustration and stress can be repeated so often if a child isn’t eating that it can impact so much on a parent to child relationship.
I know exactly how hard it is to struggle to feed your child.
Initially my daughter fed well. She was born small (the second of twins) but had a strong latch and sucked well.
However despite how well she appeared to feed and how much breast milk I produced she still failed to grow as expected. I didn’t know then, but that was the start of a very difficult and long struggle with feeding for us both.
Weaning was so stressful. She would spit, pull away, choke, vomit and refuse everything and mealtimes left us both in tears before she was even a year old.
She had no allergies of any significance but she just didn’t like solids and still wasn’t growing much on breast milk.
Doctors suggested formula and this caused even greater stress as colic and hours of screaming left us both exhausted every day.
Progress was so slow and difficult meanwhile her twin brother was eating a large variety of foods with ease and growing at a quicker and healthier rate.
Struggling to feed my daughter made me feel such a failure.
She was catching every virus and infection going which only made feeding her even harder and we ended up in a vicious circle of feeding struggles, weight loss, illness and back to feeding struggles.
It was never ending.
Fast forward ten years and my daughter is still very small and underweight.
Her skin is pale, she lacks energy and she now has a variety of diagnoses including autism, anxiety and AFRID (avoidance and restrictive food intake disorder). She has less than ten foods she will eat and she only drinks one brand of orange squash and a small amount of milk.
The struggle to feed her didn’t go away; it just changed as she got older.
School is a huge challenge. There is not one thing on the lunch menu she will even look at. Packed lunches go untouched and snacks get binned.
She doesn’t even like fast food like french fries or pizza.
One of the hardest things of all is when she does have a food she will eat I live in fear that one day the manufacturers may stop making it or even just change the packaging.
It has happened before and it’s terrifying. A few years ago when the makers of the only juice she will drink changed it to a ‘new and improved’ version she went days without drinking and I drove miles to find some older bottles.
It broke my heart. I have cried on the phone to companies, begged them via social media and put appeals out in my town to help me at times because I get that desperate.
As a society we can be so judgmental to anyone who struggles to feed their child.
I have had my child called fussy, demanding and spoiled. I have been called weak, spineless, a terrible mum and a lot of swear words I can’t repeat all because I have admitted my struggles to feed my child.
It’s assumed my daughter is just a fussy eater because people can’t grasp the severity of eating issues that autism and other conditions can bring.
Struggling to feed your child is so demoralising and exhausting.
There is no help out there really and as a parent you feel so isolated and alone, terrified to tell anyone what mealtimes are like.
My daughter needs help but we are struggling to find it.
Parents are left to struggle on alone then criticised when their child loses weight again.
This week I have cried as yet another company has withdrawn permanently one of the few remaining foods my daughter eats.
Ten years of struggling to feed my child has taken its toll.
Once again I feel a total failure because I struggle to feed my own child.