We left Part 1 with my struggles handing over the Whether and How Much reigns of meal time to Gabriel. There are times we do a decent job of this, but there is certainly room for improvement. The information in Fearless Feeding helped me see that G doesn’t need as much food as we do (by this age, growth slows dramatically, so it’s natural for appetite to decrease and choosiness to increase). If he passes on the beans one day, it’s not the end of the world.
Most nights, I plate meals in the kitchen. We all get a bit of everything, with G getting slightly scaled-down amounts. But part of letting G take an active role is letting him serve himself.
I am a bit hesitant to do this for a couple of reasons: 1) it would mean he could take tons of, say, noodles, while ignoring the rest of the meal and 2) since we use dinner leftovers for lunch, this could lead to disproportionate amounts of things for those future lunches. For now, I’m taking a scaled approach, plating some meals (or parts of some meals) and doing others as self-serve. It’s fun to see him serving himself, and so far he does seem to take a bit of everything, even when it’s something he’s not crazy about, like lentil sloppy joes.
While it takes a bit of self-discipline, Matthew and I are both trying to refrain from encouraging G to eat “one more bite” of this or that, but rather to tune in to how he’s feeling. If his stomach is telling him it’s full, then it’s fine to stop, even if it means leaving some food on his plate.
If we had already planned to offer a bit of dessert, and communicated those plans to G, we’ll go ahead with it, but make it a very small portion if he did not each much of his dinner (I know, that’s not letting him serve himself, but little changes, right? Not to mention modeling that those foods are part of a normal, health diet in moderation).
Our new way of approaching meals and food may have other timely benefits. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our stomach weirdness. While Matthew and I seemed to get back in balance, Gabriel continued burping A LOT, and started asking why he was having “throw-up burps.” Not good.
I got pretty freaked out about GERD and possible esophageal damage. We started looking into possible causes (food allergies, high stomach acid, low stomach acid), tests (not fun to contemplate most of the tests on a 3-year-old), etc. I wondered if the re-introduction of carrageenan-containing soy milk was to blame (though it had never seemed to be a problem for him before, the time-frame matched). We started tracking symptom-timing and what he was eating.
At some point, we realized it might not be WHAT he was eating, per se, but how much and how fast. He’s always had a big appetite, and, while it seemed a little crazy that he ate almost as much as me at some meals, I didn’t think much of it.
But it seems he somehow got into a habit of eating way TOO FAST, which led to him eating TOO MUCH (when you eat fast, you’re more likely to miss the “full” signals). So, in addition to letting him serve himself and not pushing extra bites, we’re really focusing on eating slooooooooowly: taking small bites, noticing the flavors and textures in our mouths, chewing thoroughly, waiting until our mouths are empty before taking another bite — basically mindful eating.
This takes a good bit of effort, especially when he’s sooooo hunnnngry, but it seems to be paying off in terms of his stomach troubles. The burping still surfaces after some meals, but not all, and usually to a much lesser degree. We’re hoping that this is indeed a relatively simple solution, and we’re all benefiting from bringing more mindfulness to our eating.