Elsie Rose was born at 37 weeks and 5 days weighing just 5lb 5. She’d been growth restricted in the womb and had an undiagnosed posterior tongue tie. For one reason or another we were discharged from hospital just over 24 hours after her early delivery, and before she had had her first breastfeed. In the hospital she had refused to feed, and what little she did take had come back up again amidst coughs and splutters. Having a low birth weight baby who could not feed was highly stressful; she was syringe fed for a week and we were literally hours away from allowing her to be re-admitted for tube feeding. Fast forward two years, and I’d like to say that things have improved drastically since then. And while they have in the respect that she is now gaining weight well, healthy and thriving, there are still feeding issues that we have to contend with on a daily basis.
Lots of IUGR babies have feeding issues, and for Elsie our issues revolve around allergies and reflux. She still suffers badly with both, and is unable to eat dairy and soya. We cannot be sure, but we think there are other foods that react badly with her too. At the moment her eczema is particularly bad, and if she inadvertently eats something containing any kind of milk protein her skin literally erupts. She will also suffer with breathing difficulties, streaming nose and congestion. So, obviously, we are really careful with what she eats. We have to be. And it doesn’t help that she is now two years old! With a ferocious mind and a temper to match, some days she will just refuse to eat what we make for her. And other days we will struggle to fill her up as she constantly demands ‘Eat! Eat!’
A little while back, we took the Tot it Up challenge to assess how much Elsie should be eating, and I have to say that it put my mind to rest in terms of portion sizes and what she is eating in general. We no longer see our dietitian and I thought it might be interesting to have another look at Elsie’s diet and how we can make improvements to make mealtimes a little easier. So how did we get on this time?
Elsie is a mixed bag. She always has been! Some days her meals are perfect, and others she either eats too much of one food group, or not enough in general. Add to the mix the fact that she’s becoming aware of certain foods she can’t have, and the fact that she is strong willed and determined at the best of times… mealtimes are difficult! It’s hard making separate meals for her, so I try to make sure that everyone eats the same but it doesn’t always work out that way. Elsie wants the same as her siblings, but its not always safe for her to do that. For example at breakfast she wants to use their milk and eat the same foods, so I need to make some better decisions about the cereals we buy.
I think that overall Elsie’s diet is ok. It could be better though, and I love that the Tot it Up tracker is a very useful tool for just a quick reminder of what should be going on to her plate. Its also a really good reminder of portion sizes, something I struggle with and always have. I’m firm believer that children do not need to empty their plates, and that if you give the right portion sizes they will do that anyway, without undue pressure or stress. As a child we were always made to finish our meals completely, and I remember clearly the palpable anxiety that filled the room each mealtime. I don’t want that. I want mealtimes to be relaxed and happy, and I want my children to recognise when they are full and need to stop eating. I also want them to have healthy appetites!
So being able to assess portion sizes is something I really love about this tool, and from re-visiting the tracker I can see that I don’t do too badly with it. The three younger children use smaller plates at mealtimes so that there’s less chance of giving them too much, and they can always have more if they want it. I think its every mum’s temptation to pile on the food!
What’s still interesting is the fact that Elsie remains to eat more than the recommended portion sizes of ‘naughty’ foods. Seeing as she can’t eat dairy, she doesn’t have chocolate or many biscuits, but she does have the occasional milk free treat and it looks as though I need to curb that a little!
The Tot it Up tool is a fantastic resource for parents, and you can also track your child’s food and water intake against the level of physical activity they complete each day which is great way to ensure your child is healthy. I find it really useful to log on now and then and input a day’s meals to make sure we’re still on the right track, as its so easy to slip up and go back to old habits. Ultimately, I want Elsie to grow up with healthy attitudes towards food and exercise, and I want her to be fit and well. If we could have peaceful mealtimes too that would be a bonus!
Sign up to the Tot it Up challenge here, and let me know how your family’s meals are looking!
Time to #rethinktoddlerportionsizes