Monday, 2 November 2009

Trying not to make a meal out of it

rejecting foodI haven't written about a baby-specific topic for a while but something came up yesterday which I've decided to share.

My husband and I went out early evening and had good friends of ours over to look after our son while we were gone. They have looked after him a couple of times before so he knows who they are. It turned out to be a challenging evening of babysitting, as he refused to eat any of his dinner and wouldn't touch his bedtime bottle of milk. Every time they tried to give him either his dinner or later his milk, he would become distressed, cry lots, squirming and pushing away whatever they were offering him.

He was fast asleep in bed when we came home and we weren't out long. Our friends (who don't yet have children) were asking us what we thought it was; separation anxiety? was he ill?? It's always a bit of a guess with a baby and certainly for us, teething has often been used as an explanation for particular symptoms or behaviour in our son (it's a running joke now between my husband and I, especially as our son still has no teeth to show!). I went with the guess of separation anxiety. He is at the age where it can strike and demonstrated typical separation anxiety behaviour for the first couple of days we were away with my family in Cornwall the other week.

My husband on the other hand didn't think it was separation anxiety because our son did not cry when we left the room, was not acting clingy before we left, nor displaying any of the other common signs. He thought the difficulties occured because our son is so used to the two of us doing everything for him that if someone else does these everyday tasks with him, it makes him unsettled. Maybe they hold his bottle at a funny angle, maybe the way they speak to him at the dinner table is very different. My husband's point was that we don't really ever have anyone else do these things with our son. This is mostly because we don't have family nearby (both sets of parents live out of the country). Neither do we have close friends right around the corner who are likely to stop by regularly and help out with the baby.

The more I thought about it, the more I started thinking maybe my husband was right. It was naturally a bit upsetting that our baby had refused food and milk while we were gone but it also gave me a bit of a reality check. Should we have encouraged family to feed our son whilst we were all recently on holiday? Should we sometimes coincide visits with mealtimes so friends can feed him whilst we're around to reassure him? It must be one of the benefits of having family down the road who are always coming over and helping out but as we don't have family close by, it's harder to incorporate these simple things into our son's life.

Lots of people live far away from family and are in similar circumstances to us so maybe some of you more experienced Mums have some suggestions to share.....


  1. It could just be because he felt like not eating. I know that may sound wierd, but my daughter is going through this at the moment, but almost on the opposite from what you experienced. She wont eat for me but if someone else asks her she'll do it. I think she's testing me, or maybe he was cross with you for going out and made you aware of this by not eating his tea? I think all babies and toddlers will try most things once.

  2. Maybe try again and see how he responds. If he still won't take it, it may be his way of showing independence and dislike that mom and dad aren't there. If he takes it, it could be he had a tummy ache and didn't want food. If he only got fussy when the food was offered I would think that might be it. Did he go to sleep without problem/ let them rock or hold him?

  3. Thanks to both of you for your input. He did only get fussy when they offered him food/milk and was fine otherwise - enjoyed having stories read to him and went to sleep ok. I forgot to mention that he'd taken food from these same peoople previously but that was maybe 3 months ago and he has obviously developed some independence since then. We'll have to see what happens next time....


Thank you for reading. I'd love to have your comments and thoughts!