In Praise of Lint
Recently, my not-all-that-interested-in-eating things-off-the floor toddler started regularly sampling lint and other inedible goodies off my embarrassingly unvacuumed floor. The child who gagged on and threw up at the merest taste of mashed potatoes, who bawled at the taste of sweet potatoes, who literally ran away from the sight of a spoon thought carpet lint might be worth a taste.
I’ve talked before about Baby E’s lack of interest in solid food. For my part I’ve been mostly patient. However, I admit that I began to worry once he turned 14 months and nothing changed. After all, when every other older baby/toddler we know is happily munching on apple slices while my toddler thinks that eating anything other than breastmilk is grounds for revolt, my mama confidence was shaken.
It certainly doesn’t help when other breastfeeding, baby-led solid types are giving me sympathetic yet perplexed looks when I mention that my kid is more interested in smushing up egg yolks with his hands not his teeth. Then there are those people who know nothing about baby-led solids and think that it’s not my toddler refusing solids, it’s me refusing to give them to him. On a recent outing to restaurant with some of C’s friends, I put the “nod and smile” to good use when someone implored, “Let the boy have some chicken!” even after we explained that Baby E wasn’t into eating solids yet.
And as helpful as family is, sometimes, they are the biggest downers. More than once I’ve been questioned about Baby E being still on the boob. At Baby E’s first birthday party, my father insisted that I if I didn’t make Baby E eat he’d develop “problems.” When my mother came to visit, she made it her personal mission to get him to eat solids. Then when he actually bit off a chunk of a banana, she promptly scooped it out of his mouth because “he might choke.” Never mind that she didn’t actually give him a chance to try to chew it.
Through all of this, I kept offering solids occasionally. I sometimes tried to lead the way with a spoon, other times I tried to let him lead the way with self-feeding. Rarely would he be interested in tasting, he wanted to play with the food instead. I tried lots of different foods. I tried different textures. I encouraged, I coaxed, I pleaded, I manipulated and none of it worked. So I just kept nursing on demand, knowing that breastmilk would meet his nutritional needs.
Then came the lint eating. Every time I turned around, I had to pluck a piece of string, or paper, or goodness knows what out of his mouth. I wondered if it meant he was ready to expand his palate. One day, I was eating some capellini pasta and I figured Baby E might be willing to eat the pasta if I made it short enough to look like lint. So I offered a small strand to him. He took with his small toddler hands, examined it for a moment, then ever so cautiously opened his mouth and placed it in there. I waited for the usual attempts to spit it out, and the usual gagging, but it never came. So I gave him another piece, then another, and another. He ate them up.
So I did what any proud, modern mother would do — I posted a virtual fist pump on Facebook:
Capellini noodles FTW!!
Since then I have offered him cream cheese, mashed potatoes, shredded turkey, and refried beans. He has accepted all of it with no gagging in sight. He’s not scarfing down great quantities but I think it’s safe to say that I now have a solids eater. It only took 16 and a half months for him to get it.