Ruby has always had a really hard time gaining weight. Though she was the biggest of my three babies when she was born, she quickly fell to under 5% on the growth curve, at one point she had fallen off the chart completely. She was diagnosed failure to thrive around a year, and though her doctor wasn’t too worried we did run a whole bunch of tests just to make sure there wasn’t something serious going on. We added oil and butter to all her food to try to get her to gain weight, and while she’s caught up a little bit, she’s still super skinny. No biggie, look at her Daddy!
But at the same time, she eats like a bird. Sometimes we’ll sit down for dinner and she’ll take two bites – literally – and declare she’s full. If we spoon feed her, she might eat, but on her own, she’s done. For about a week we tried just letting her be done, figuring she’d get hungry enough to eat, but she never really made up for the missed dinners. She’s not picky really, she eats from all the food groups and there are only a few things she doesn’t like, the problem is the amount.
A few years ago at a La Leche League meeting, I remember the leader talking about having a grazing tray for her toddler. Basically she filled an ice cube tray with healthy snacks, set it on a table at toddler level and let her little one eat whatever and whenever he wanted. The idea is, if we nurse on demand, why do we suddenly expect a toddler to eat on a schedule?
So I thought I’d give it a try. I filled a plate with all sorts of healthy options… veggies, fruits, sandwich, eggs, raisins, nuts… basically a little of everything I had on hand. I set it out on a serving table, pulled up a stool and told Ruby she could eat anything from the plate whenever she felt hungry. She was confused at first, and asked every few minutes if she could eat some cheese or a raisin or whatever. I kept explaining that she didn’t have to ask, that she could eat anything, anytime.
To my surprise, by mid-morning, Ruby had polished off the entire plate! I refilled it, sticking with a wide variety of healthy options. And by lunch, she’d nearly finished another plate full! That’s more than she would normally eat in an entire day.
I’m not exactly sure why this works with Ruby… maybe that she is in control? Or maybe I’ve just been trying to feed her at the wrong time of day? Who knows, but if it works, we’ll run with it!