November 12, 2008

National Adoption Awareness Month Part 5 (food issues)

Josie has always had an interesting relationship with food. When she first came home from China, she used to store food in her cheeks and it wasn’t uncommon to see her chewing this same food hours later. We’d constantly remind her during meal time to swallow her food (her cheeks would get so full she’d look like a chipmunk) and that she would get more food. While in China, her diet mostly consisted of a bottle and congee but she was quick to start eating our food selections. We were told that she was a slow eater at the orphanage. I'm not exactly sure what they meant by that statement. My mind tends to wander and I have visions of her food being taken away from her because she didn't finish it fast enough.

(Josie is in the blue coat)

When she started speaking English, she would thank us every time she was given any kind of food or drink. Nearly nine months later, she still thanks anyone who gives her food or liquids. It's bittersweet to hear her thank us at every meal for her basic nourishment.

Lately, her appetite is through the roof. It’s almost to the point of binge eating. She’s always asking for “nummies”. If someone else has food, she’s starving, if there is a bowl of something, she'll see the need to eat it all...etc. She definitely out eats her big sister and on some occasions, her mother and father. While I’m cooking dinner, if she’s not distracted, she’s throwing an all out tantrum on the floor demanding food. Her food temper tantrums have gotten worse over the last few weeks and Chris and I are fairly certain we know why.

A few weeks ago, we completely stopped the bedtime bottle routine. While she's at daycare she drinks from a regular cup. When she's eating with us, we use a sippy cup. At bed, we did allow her bottle. It was the last of her familiar routines from China. Recently, she had gotten stomach flu and as you can imagine, a bottle and the stomach flu doesn't mix. It was an easy excuse to stop the bottle all together. She remembers throwing up and equates it with her bottle. She doesn't scream for her bottle anymore, but she does talk about it at bedtime and we'll occasionally see her sucking her baby doll's bottles when she's playing.

We’ve had to start being more aggressive in approach to dealing with her food obsession. We'll never deny her food, but we’re making sure we have plenty of healthy snacks available. With older children, it is easy to find out if they are truly hungry or are feeling some other emotion and calling it hunger. It feels a little more complex with a 2 year old. For those parents who are just getting started in their adoption journey, be prepared and realistic about your institutionalized child’s relationship with food. It's aggravating and it can be heart-breaking. In all my wonderful adoption books, most children outgrow their food issues, we just need to be patient and understanding. I'd love to know from my blogging friends, what are your experiences with your adopted child's relationship with food?


Terri said...

Teagan has always been an amazing eater. Only in the last 4-5 months has she started to show some 'dislikes' to particular foods during meal times. She loves to eat..all day long. She used to beg for food seemingly all day...going to the pantry and bringing me snacks constantly. If she has already eaten, but someone else is eating later..she stands at their side opening her mouth for bites. For a while, after bringing her home, there never seemed to be an end to her hunger..she would just keep eating at a meal time. We had to stop her. Just now we are at the point that she will tell me she's done..and there still might be food on her plate. Honestly, I didn't give in to her every time she begged me for food or brought me snacks out of the pantry. I know what all the 'books' say..but I just trusted my instincts. There is some manipulation that can happen with the 'giving in' on our part when we hand them food whenever they ask for it. It's a fine that I'm sorry Josie..and you...are having to deal with. I really believe that this is part of the sensory issues with Teagan. She's a 'mouther' also..puts everything in her mouth. Email me anytime you want.

The Young's said...

You know...Sadie really hasn't had any issues with food...other than eating really slow. We are ALWAYS waiting on her when we go out to eat....or to clean the table at home. She is a very good eater and eats really healthy things. I'm grateful for this. I'm very sure it is because she was in foster care. They fed her very good. When they first got her it was because she needed to gain weight to have her heart surgery. So...they fed her very good!!! I wish Silas would eat like her. I have more food issues with him than I do Sadie!! :)

Blessed Mom of Four, Now Five said...

We never really had those issues with our adopted daughters. Ellie, on the other hand, will want one thing today and refuse it tomorrow. She will refuse dinner and then BEG for a cookie later. We've had many battles over her not eating. Thankfully, I had seen her do the same thing in her foster home, so I knew it was behavior her ayis had dealt with. It is better, but we still sometimes struggle.

Shanna said...

When we brought Kai home, when given food he would shove as much into his mouth as he could, then grab as much as he hold and hide it under his arms, grab two handsful and run off to eat it. He clearly was accustomed to older children taking his food. He ate non stop for about 6 months (and we let him).

Chloe's food issues are much like Josie's. She will stuff food in her mouth and keep it there for hours. What is up with that? That is one issue that I have yet to read about. Also, when food is brought out, she will eat hers as fast as she can and beg for eveyone elses. Makes meal time a bit stressful. As her security grows we are hoping she will soon over come these issues like big brother did.
Another great post Kim! Thanks!!

Tammy said...

What a great "series" you're doing! Madi didn't have food issues (although she eats like a horse), but as you know, we definitely went through the bottle battle. :) Since her surgery, she drinks milk in a Nubby cup. It's helped a lot.

redmaryjanes said...

I have heard people say these types of things before. It just breaks my heart to think that our babies have gone hungry.

Nikki said...

Our girl LOVES to eat!
She thanks us for every morsel too. She's a big 'thanker' though. Please and thank you for everything.
She used to store gummy snacks in her cheeks, just stuff them all in and savor them for hours. Haven't seen that much lately.
I think our biggest thing with her being such a good/big eater was our experience with Brett. He's never been a big eater and is a lot pickier than Lili, so we're actually thrilled that she loves to eat.
Everytime we have something, she is always drawn to it and makes a big deal out of it "MMMMMMM, I like that" until we give her a taste. Just amazes us.
Considering her diet was 'bone soup' at the orphanage, she's come a LONG way!!
We've never seen any hoarding or sensory issues with her. I have heard that a lot though.
Have a wonderful (WINTER!)weekend!!

Mike and Barb said...

Nina has always been a pretty good eater - yes it took her a while to accept all the new foods, but now does quite well.
She is just SO SLOW - it drives me crazy!! If she really likes something, she can inhale it like you would not believe, so I know it's not a sensory type of thing.
She knows by now that sometimes "time is up" with eating, and we have to go to school, for example. I don't want her to think that there is not enough food, but she also needs to learn to speed things up just a bit, otherwise next year in Kindergarten she WILL go hungry. Although, she is not a big eater, and is usually not hungry quickly. One thing that works quite well is knowing that there will be NO candy if she doesn't eat a good meal. And that girl LOVES candy!!
Love, Barb