August 23, 2010 at 5:22 am | Posted in Bun | 29 Comments
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This picture is deceiving.

My baby, my marshmallow puff, won’t eat.

It’s been a month. We saw the doctor. I held him down while they poured radium into his throat and took pictures of his stomach. Everything looked normal, better than normal.

We switched bottles, we switched formula, and we switched bottles again. We tried hotter, colder, darker, lighter, sitting, standing, inside, outside, quiet, and loud. Nothing helped.

My baby just won’t eat. So we dance.

When he’s distracted by the movement, by the light from the window, by the reflection of the shiny pots in the kitchen, he’ll take a few ounces before he remembers he doesn’t really want it. And so we dance and we cry and we fight each other. Sometimes, I win. Sometimes, he does.

Most of the time? I can’t get my baby to eat as much as he needs. Most of the time? I feel like I am failing. Like I am failing him.



One evening last week, Bun and I swayed our way across the kitchen as he drank four ounces. Not good, but as good as it gets these days.

I sat down to burp him and rest my aching legs and arms. I held Bun close and closed my eyes. I told my husband how frustrated I was, how I didn’t know how much longer I could do this.

And my husband — a problem-solver, an engineer, an efficiency expert, a dad — said just the thing I didn’t know I needed to hear. “When you try to feed him, you think you’re a failure,” he said. “When I see you feed him, I think you’re amazing. No one else can do that. No one else can get him to eat. Somehow, you do. And somehow, you will. That’s amazing.”

I don’t feel amazing. I feel worn out and frustrated. But his perspective reminded me that Bun and I are hardwired to thrive. That we’re stronger together. That we won’t fail.

We’ll figure this out. And in the meantime, we’ll dance.

Have you ever felt like a failure at an essential mothering responsibility? Ever needed a fresh perspective to strengthen your resolve? Ever had a baby on a hunger strike??



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  1. This must be so difficult for you. Heartbreaking. My son never went through long periods of not eating. He did, however, go through many short periods of not eating.

    Have I ever felt like a failure as a mother? Every day. I think you are so brave to write about this. I hope you get lots of helpful feedback. I’m not sure mine is any.

    The only wisdom I have is that if he eats a little often he might not be so hungry. If you can spread it out to 3 hour feedings, then he might eat more. Doesn’t sound like he’s eating anything at all though, so that doesn’t really apply. I also believe that kids know what they need to eat and he will eat when he’s ready. Yet again, if your doctor says it’s a problem and you feel it’s a problem, then it’s a problem.

    I think the most amazing thing is how you and your husband handle this together. The darkest tunnel is made lighter when traveling with someone you love and respect and it sounds like you both do that for each other. I hope that he eats soon!

    • I’m with Kate on this. My daughter would go on food strikes constantly until I realized I was trying to feed her too much too often. She still goes on food strikes but it’s so much easier to handle now that she’s a toddler.

      (If you’ve already tried this–which I’m sure you have–disregard this comment.)

      My heart is aching for you. Really. To have your little baby not eat is so difficult. You feel like you are failing, really failing. Isn’t a mother supposed to keep her children well fed and happy? No, a mother is supposed to love and do her best. Something you are THRIVING at doing. You are an AMAZING mom.

  2. hang in there!!

  3. I know anything like this must be so frustrating and also worrying but looking at the photo as you say is deceiving as your little boy looks to be a healthy weight. If so then maybe he does need less food than other babies typically do and if so maybe try feeding him less frequently. If you feed him five times now cut back to three and see if he is hungrier and more willing as a result. No baby will allow themselves to starve if food is available and there is no medical reason for the lack of interest you are seeing. Is he old enough yet for some solids – a little cereal even. It would be interesting to see if he is more interested in “real” food.

  4. First, I am so sorry that this has become such a struggle for you. I hope that you and Bun resolve the issue soon, and maybe as he moves toward solids, he’ll rediscover a love of food.

    As to the first question: HAHAHAHA! Every single day I worry about my “failure” as a mother. Friday night brought on an explosion of temper at my two girls that I have not experienced yet. (I blogged about it.) I forget field trip money and suits for sprinkler day; I forget all about picture day. Maybe these don’t seem “essential”. But when part of my identity is “mom”, as in work-outside-the-home mom, these mothering duties feel vital to me. I want to have a successful career, sure, but more importantly, I want to have thriving children who can rely on me. And sometimes that latter role feels very precarious.

    You have a wise husband. And your baby will be okay. Hang in there.

  5. That’s the thing about motherhood. We never feel like we are doing enough. Or doing the right things. We compare to everyone else and always cone up short. When in reality we are doing great. Just like your husband said. We overlook the success and only see the failures.

  6. Oh Stacia – the newborn stages are absolutely the hardest. It wears us out trying to guess at their needs and unexpected behaviors, and we try EVERYTHING until something sticks. And then we worry about creating a bad habit, a crutch, and subsequently have to undo what we did, so another round of exhaustive fighting, wondering, hoping…

    Hang in there, friend. Feel free to write me anytime if you just want to vent – I know one of the hardest things for me when I had my newborn was not having enough people I could relate to so I felt quite isolated. I know your husband is there, and it seems like he’s the perfect ‘pick-me-up’ but just in case you need another ear…I’m here.

    (I rhymed!)

  7. I feel like a failure all. the. time. Every day.
    He’s probably not putting on weight, but is he losing weight? Is he okay physically? I know my boy went through different stages of eating needs throughout his babyhood… eating more or less or whatever. Now? At four? He still doesn’t eat near as much as he did at 2. I don’t eat as much as he did at 2… neither did my husband! It’s still disconcerting to see him eat now “like a normal child”. I still have the urge to get him to eat more because it’s so much less than before. But he’s okay; he’s growing and he tells me when he’s hungry, so I guess it’s okay. At least you have your doctor working on it with you, so if anything happens you have backup. Good luck.

  8. Oh, sweetie. I’m so sorry you are struggling. Your husband is right though – you are amazing. I think that and I don’t know you nearly as well as he does!
    The times that I feel most like a failure is when I end up yelling and threatening (You will lose X, Y, Z if you don’t do blah, blah, blah.) It’s not an effective way to reach my kids, but I get so short-tempered. Ugh. Working on it.

  9. I’ve never had them full-out hunger strike, but 2 have refused bottles. Try straw cups with super sweet crap in them to make him interested. If he likes the sweet stuff (I’m talking chocolate milk or pop, here. Not healthy, but INTERESTING and has calories at least) maybe you can get him to wean onto something healthy like formula or banana smoothies. When Corinne did her nursing strike (never went back. broke my heart. hurt my boobs) she dehydrated herself and ended up in the hospital. Freaking AWESOME. While there, we grasped at all straws and, coincidentally, my mom brought in an orange crush with a straw and Corinne DRANK IT. Her first fluid in DAYS. I went home and made smoothies for a long time until she finally began to drink regular stuff. She’s now the best eater in my family, btw.

    I feel like a failure more often than not. Try not to let one problem distract you from the big picture and that is that you love your kids and they love you. There are no prizes for “doing it right” and no one is keeping score.

    Also, I love your husband’s response. Keep repeating that to yourself, hon. Hugs and hang in there. Hope he eats today!

  10. Oh, that must feel heartbreaking! I wish I had some advice, but I really don’t. I just wanted you to know that I’m thinking about you.

  11. It’s so easy to feel like a failure. Oh, I am so sorry. But,you are doing it, and wle the dancing must be exhausting, he is getting something. Which is amazing. I remember, in my down moments, someone told me this when my first was new: you cannot force a baby to eat, sleep or do anything developmentally inappropriate. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could?

    A friend of mine gave her grandbaby a mixture of carnation something and caro syrup. And she took it happily. And is a bright and wonderful five year old. If you want the recipe, I will get it for you.

  12. Your husband’s sweet words made me choke up. I wish I had some advice. I’m thinking of you and hoping his appetite will improve.

  13. Hugs, hugs and more hugs to you and your sweet little one. Your husband, too, for being so supportive and saying just the right thing. Wish I had more for you, I truly do.

  14. Oh, Stacia, I’m so sorry. How frustrating. But it is not you. You are a wonderful mother and you’re doing all you can. Your husband’s words were so understanding, and so perfect. And just at the right time. You will get through this. Hugs to you. xo

  15. Hugs to you Stacia. Your husband is right, although as a Mom, I know it is hard to shake those feelings of self-doubt. But know that you are doing the best you can – you will make it through!

  16. What a good perspective to have from your husband (sweet guy!) Hang in there… you guys will get through this.

  17. Big hugs to you and Bun… You’ll get through this!

    As for me, I feel like a failure often, especially when I’m unable to resist the urge to compare myself to other moms.

    I’ve never experienced a hunger strike with my little one. The closest we came was when he couldn’t nurse without biting me when his first teeth came in at 4 months. I finally decided that when he was REALLY hungry, he’d stop biting. And he did.

  18. He’s going to get it, Stacia. And when you look back on this, it will seem like this moment when he fought food was so short. Hard to believe or remember in the midst of sleep deprivation and frustration, so I thought I’d mention it to you (who likely already knows this twice over). In the meantime, I’m glad your husband knows exactly what to say. Hang in there!

  19. I wish I had some advice. Have you maybe tried a zantac rx, just in the off chance that eating is hurting his little esophagus?

    Otherwise, I agree with what most others say, try everything until something works.

    If you were failing him, that would mean that you’re giving up, and you’re not giving up. You’re killing yourself to find a solution. That’s a successful mama.

  20. Unfortunately one of my girls routinely goes on hunger strikes. She will not drink from anyone but me and we are at the stage that solids should be ingested and she will not have it BUT she is growing and she is healthy so I take that as a positive. If Bun is growing maybe he just requires less than you think.
    Both of my girls would happily sip on two ounces only from birth till as late as 6mths. And they are both roly poly.
    My only advice is that they grow up and grow out of it.
    (be warned if you follow Tracey’s advice to try sweet he may just decide that he doesn’t like sweet that is what happens with my huger striking girl she doesn’t do sweet.)
    Keeping you and bun in my prayers and remember he will grow out of it 🙂

  21. I’m sorry this has become such a struggle for you and Bun. Your husband’s words brought tears to my eyes. You are a wonderful mom. Dance away.

  22. I’m sorry for the frustration you’re going through. He looks amzingly healthy! Maybe he just requires less food than the average baby. Oh, I hope it gets better soon. You’re having amazing bonding sessions by dancing. And you’re getting a great workout!

  23. Sometimes an outside perspective is SO helpful. My second little guy was like that too. Wouldn’t even eat ice cream. spit it out like it was salsa. But now he eats, and we can’t figure out where it all goes. I know it can be frustrating!

  24. Hang in there and keep dancing. Your Bun will get what he needs somehow. Have you tried distracting him with television — maybe Baby Einstein or something? My Sweet P was refusing a bottle, but I recently tried the Evenflo Purely Comfi and she is accepting it. My young sister — a wise and more experienced mother than I — always reminds me that every stage is just a stage. I so wish that this stage passes quickly for you guys.

  25. Also, keep the cold Dr. Peppers and peanut butter m&ms stocked. You need them for dancing fuel.

  26. Sometimes I think the very definition of mothering is feeling less than up to par in some essential element of the job. I still feel like this with the son who is almost 23 more often than I like to admit.
    I’m so sorry you and Bun are going thru this. It will pass, but that doesn’t make it any easier. You are a great mom. Take a big breath and tell yourself that.

  27. My little guy never stopped eating. He loves food WAY TOO MUCH. Ive been told that I probably feed him too much. But if he is hungry, then so be it. And if your little guys isnt hungry, then I dont think its an issue.

    Maybe drop 1 or 2 feeds, or just space it out over a longer period to build up his hunger.

    With regards to feeling like a failure, read my blog. I think every second post is about feeling like a bad mother, screaming at my little guy and then the guilt sets in and I feel even worse.

    You are doing a great job. Your husband see’s it, so does everyone else around you. We are always our toughest critics.

  28. There is nothing that stresses out a mother like a child not eating…I’m sorry you are going through this struggle. You sound from your posts like an amazing, patient and devoted mom and I’m confident you are doing great even if the results aren’t always perfect. So much about our children is beyond our control. We can’t make our kids eat any more than we can make them behave or sleep, etc. We just have to set up the right environment and hope that they will come around. I have always struggled with eating with my son. He is full energy but very lean, almost petite. He is also stubborn and will fight me tooth and nail. So durings like this I feel like I have failed. I wonder, did I spoil him? Did I not do a good enough job of disciplining and shaping him? Is it his personality? I have no idea…now he is 6 and the struggles are less physical and more psychological and I am always second guessing myself as to whether I have done things right or if he is merely going through a phase.

    You have a wonderful husband, by the way, and I think he said exactly the right thing.

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