MY CHILD WON'T EAT!
by Dr. Carlos González
Softcover, 184 pages
Available from the LLLI Online Store.
Reviewed by Adi Yotam
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 2, March-April 2006, p. 76
MY CHILD WON'T EAT! is good news for many anxious parents around the world who are raising a child with little apparent interest in food. Even if the parents themselves see nothing wrong with the child's development, this book may alleviate concerns of friends, relatives, and even health care professionals who may be worried about the child.
Dr. Carlos González, a pediatrician from Spain, addresses many of the common worries that parents of babies describe: children who eat poorly and don't gain much weight, those who eat poorly and gain steadily, and those who eat "enough" but still gain little. His basic rule is simple: never, ever force your child to eat. While many parents may not think they "make" their children eat, often they are unaware that tactics, such as bribing, cajoling, or encouraging, are all unproductive. González assumes that a healthy child won't starve himself. If the child has been evaluated by a health care professional and deemed healthy, the parents need not worry. Offering a variety of healthy foods and breastfeeding, preferably into toddlerhood, are important strategies for healthy eating habits.
Many mothers, especially breastfeeding mothers, have had the unpleasant experience of others questioning their parenting skills or their baby's nutrition. Dr. González includes many questions and stories from mothers, and responds in an empowering way. He describes the undue pressure about food and the obsession with weight, numbers, and measurements; his explanations and recommendations are simple, and are based on his understanding of the wide range of normal weight and development. González is gifted at putting things in perspective and putting parents' minds at ease. For example, he writes that in the United States there are 200,000 babies below the fifth percentile in weight. Obviously, they don't all have a problem that needs "fixing."
While there is a chapter for parents of bottle-feeding babies (who shouldn't be forced to eat either), human milk is continually referred to as the optimal food. González shows time after time that weaning is not a solution, mostly because there is rarely a problem to solve. He cautions against abrupt weaning, which can backfire and lead to the child refusing other kinds of foods instead of encouraging him or her to eat more. There are detailed explanations about the content and nutritional values of other foods, such as commercial baby food, cereal, and artificial baby milk, so parents can make healthy choices for their children.
La Leche League philosophy is very evident in González's writing. He's a strong advocate for breastfeeding and recommends attentive parenting, responding to children's needs, and respecting their abilities. His tone is wonderfully humorous. For example, he writes, "The majority of children who refuse to eat do it simply because they do not need more food. The only attention they intend to get is to let us know that 'Hey, I'm finished eating!'"
Even though González recommends not making your child finish his or her plate, I would advise you to finish reading this book if you have a "reluctant eater." Some of the most important points, including information about various disorders, appear toward the end. Finishing it shouldn't be a problem -- this isn't a very long or heavy book. It might be very reassuring to read while waiting for your child's weigh-in at the well-baby clinic.