‘My Child Won’t Eat‘ by Carlos Gonzalez is one of those books that comes highly recommended by anyone that has read it. I would put it on the required reading list for any parent. It’s full of the kind of sensible information that you need to be able to relax about your child’s attitude to food. The author is a paediatrician and father himself, so is well qualified to talk about what are normal eating habits. Unlike some health professionals, he’s also knowledgeable about some crucially important things when it comes to assessing the health of a child. Firstly, how growth charts should and shouldn’t be used when it comes to assessing children. Secondly, the differences between breast and bottle-fed babies. These are well covered in the book and are important for parents to be aware of.
I was aware that sooner or later we would hit a patch where the Rascal could refuse to eat much food. I wanted to be prepared and understand what was ok, and what I should worry about. Ironically, the Rascal actually ate very little up until one, when a lot of babies usually cut back on their food intake. We were doing baby-led weaning, so I was happy that his needs were being met with milk anyhow. He was also an obviously well-nourished looking chap despite being slow to take solids. I started reading the book when he turned one, just as he started eating rings around himself. He also went through a big growth spurt, started walking, and a lot of developmental changes around that same time. Despite all the extra food intake, he was getting leaner. He cut back on his milk feeds, and has obviously been putting the calories to good use. I’m still waiting for him to ‘stop’ eating, but feel well-prepared if he does.
The style of the book is a little repetitive at times, but Carlos is determined to hammer home the idea that all babies are different. They should be judged by their overall health and happiness, not outdated medical charts or practices. Babies will not starve themselves, and should never, ever be forced to eat when they don’t want to. This is reassuring, especially for parents that don’t want to be obliged to reenact the mealtime battles of their own childhoods. He makes some very important points about how few calories are in a lot of the usual first ‘finger foods’ offered to children. If these fill up their stomach, then they have no room for more calorie-dense food/milk that they might need. Looking at it from that perspective, it’s really not a problem if your child is avoiding vegetables in favour of more protein or carb-rich options! It’s also worth noting that a 19 month old requires a lot less calories than a 9 month old as they’ve stopped growing at such a fast pace by then. A lot of ‘problems’ with eating are purely due to unrealistic expectations about appropriate portions at a particular age.
Ultimately the book is a well-researched and thought-provoking read with a lot of interesting points. The biggest selling point for me though, is that it gives parents the confidence to trust their instincts (and their babies) when it comes to eating a healthy diet. In the face of any misguided advice, they will be enabled to question the reasoning behind what they’re being told, and make an educated decision as to whether their child really has any issues with eating. Taking this relaxed approach to food in conjunction with baby-led weaning is giving our family healthier and less stressful meals together so far.