Q&A: toddler eating and drinking

Kat writes:

"My babies are 13 1/2 months now, and both of them act as if I amchoking the heck out of them when I try to feed "solid" solid foods. Things they can/will eat: 1) cheerios, tofu hot dogs cut into small pieces, macaroni and cheese, shredded cheese.  Anything else I offer, small cut up pieces of chicken, green beans, kidney beans, baked beans, black beans, julliened(sp?) cooked carrots, any other foods I think might be "soft" enough, like a bite of lasagna, for example, is promptly spit out of their mouths or choked on.  I am at my wits end, imagining that I will still be spooning baby food jars of green beans and rice at 2 years old.

Also, we are having a heck of a time encouraging the sippy cup.  They seem to rather not drink anything than to drink milk from the sippy (although strangely enough they will guzzle water from the sippy).  Mini I can understand as she's only for the boob, but Jr. only takes a bottle, I thought he'd be easy.  People are making faces at me for continuing to offer the bottle."


I'm going to start at the end of this question.


I hate, no make that despise, the crazy fervor in this country to get kids off the bottle at exactly the 12-month mark. If you can keep a kid on the breast past 12 months (and let's remember that the WHO recommends nursing until at least 2 years, so no one ought to be telling anyone to wean at 12 months if she doesn't want to) then you can keep a kid on the bottle past 12 months. But we seem to have this bizarre preoccupation with taking away anything that resembles comfort for our babies to encourage them to be independent. Because God forbid a toddler might actually need comfort, and all the ills of the world are clearly caused by having used a bottle too long.

<insert eyeroll></rant>

But now to circle back around to the front of the question.

I'm not sure about the choking, honestly. Is it that they're engaging in a power play or just don't like to eat those foods and are pretending to gag (which sounds dead on for that age), or are they actually physically choking on them? If you're going in to the pediatrician at 15 months, just mention it and see what s/he says. If the ped thinks there's anything going on, s/he'll give you a referral to a physical therapist who will evaluate them.

Best case scenario: They get evaluated and it's nothing, and you can stop worrying.

Worst case scenario: They get evaluated, and it's something that can be dealt with easily with regular therapy, and you can stop worrying.

Linda (also a mom of twins--hmmm....) asked me a sippy-cup-related question recently, too, so I'll add hers to yours:

"I hate sippy cups.  I posted on my blog forever ago about it and I still haven't figure them out.  My kids will only drink from the soft tipped ones.  I can't get them to drink from the hard tipped ones at all.  The problem is that they chew on the soft tipped ones and then break the valve and render them useless.  I think you recommended the straw cups.  Do you stand by that?  And when can they start (reliably and relatively neatly) drinking from a topless cup?"

I don't really get the sippy as this new "skill" or "milestone" people act like they're teaching. It's not something that really builds to anything, since most of us don't do any kind of motion like drinking from a sippy as adults. The real point of the sippy is that it doesn't spill when it's tipped over, not that it's something kids need to learn to use.

OTOH, learning to suck things from a straw is a useful skill. Straws are fun, and you have the chance to use one every time you drink anything at a restaurant. You use the same motion when you drink from a sports bottle. If you don't want to mess up your lipstick, you have to use a straw. And--here's the kicker--it's an easier, more natural muscle motion for kids to learn. El Chico was a sippy conscientious objecter when he was a toddler, but when someone suggested a straw cup I tried it and he got it immediately. We've used the Playtex Straw Cup and also the Rubbermaid straw cup and found both to be delightful.

We have a couple of friends who were diagnosed with low muscle tone (hypotonia) in the mouth muscles, and one of the things they're supposed to do is drink out of straws every day. So there's that.

Kat, I don't think it's at all odd that they won't drink milk from anything that they haven't been using all along (the breast for your daughter and the bottle for your son). Milk is the basic, bedrock comfort, and they don't want anything changed about it. El Chico would never take breastmilk from a straw cup (only me or the bottle), but would take ice cold cow's milk from the straw cup. I've heard similar things from lots of other moms--that their child would take breastmilk or formula only from boob or bottle, but would take other liquids from the straw/sippy.

So I'd say just to forget about getting rid of the bottle (unless it's actually bugging you) because undoubtedly you've got some bigger fish to fry at this point, and don't expect them to take milk from the straw/sippy. Use it for other liquids, instead. That's my famous Lower Your Expectations method of parenting, BTW.

I bet people are actually making faces at you because they're jealous that you look so good despite having twin toddlers, not because of the bottle.:)

Linda, I thought I could say that 3 was when they could reliably and neatly drink from a topless cup, until we hit 3 1/2.

Have you read any of the Ames and Ilg series of books on child development?  They were recommended by the amazing Dawn, and they are dead on. They all have funny titles like Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender and Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy, and some of the things are horribly outdated (assumptions that the mother is at home all day with the child, and that kids aren't in school ever until age 5) because they were written in the 70s, but they are scarily accurate. You think your child is some sort of freak and that you're raising a monster, and then you read the book and every odd thing your child is doing is typical behavior for that age and will go away in six months. Highly comforting.

Anyway, Ames and Ilg say that kids alternate between equilibrium (emotionally and physically confident and sure) and disequilibrium (in emotional upheaval and physically clumsy) for years. On the year seems to be equilibrium and on the half year seems to be disequilibrium. So at 3 El Chico and his friends could walk around with open containers and not spill any. But then a few months later they'd spill every freaking time I'd give them a cup. We're starting to go back to mastery, though.

So you probably want to stick with the white grape juice for a few more years. But try the straw cups now, and let them use topless cups outside next summer so they can practice.