You Are How You Eat?

Last week, I parked myself on the floor with a boppy and started cajoling Nicholas to eat while my mom sat nearby, leaning on her wrist and watching. (Mom was a La Leche League leader when we were little, and I think she really misses nursing.) “Come on, baby,” I said, pulling his mouth open yet again as he stared wide-eyed at the bright red and white juncture where the wall meets the crown molding. “I really need you to eat!”

He obliged, but he still thought the wall was much more interesting. Mind you, he hadn’t eaten in over three hours. I looked up at my mom. “He’s a really lazy nurser,” I said. “I have to do most of the work for him. He’ll eat if the milk goes in his mouth, but he’s just as happy to sit there with his mouth open and not eat anything at all!” I glanced down at his tubby body and said, “Not that it’s hurting him any.”

Mom lowered her chin and raised her eyebrows. “You’d better expect that he’ll be the same way when he gets older.”

It’s an interesting thought—that our children display their budding personalities through their eating habits. 🙂 But it makes sense. Alex was a barracuda nurser. I’m not sure he ever turned down an opportunity to eat, and he kept at it till there was nothing left in the breast, and then some—just to make sure he got it all. These days he makes me scrape the melted ice cream remnants from the bottom of his bowl to be sure he doesn’t miss any. Alex approaches all of life with similar zest. He’s definitely not timid. He’s unabashedly assertive and supremely self-confident about asking for whatever he wants, whenever he wants—so much so that our main focus in molding his character consists of teaching him that his wants and needs are not the center of the universe.

Julianna, on the other hand, ate very little, but not for lack of trying. Before her heart surgery, I was the instigator 95% of the time, and it was my grim determination (and I mean grim, BTW) to get her to eat that made it possible for her to be a total breastfed baby. Yet despite her weak suck, the low muscle tone in her facial muscles, and her difficulty breathing because of her heart, from day one, she clung to me with a firm, if fleeting, grip. No matter how hard it got, she kept trying. At the age of two, she’s still a fighter, tenacious and stubborn. As evidenced by her screaming nonstop for an entire morning behind the bi-pap, to be sure the medical staff (and her mother) were clear about her displeasure.

And then there’s Nicholas. I’m really glad I had the experience of nursing Julianna first, because otherwise I’m afraid I’d find it quite discouraging. His demand is all over the place, up and down, which is murder on the milk supply, and he’s so placid that if he eats half a feeding and something (someone) calls me away for five minutes, it’s like pulling teeth to get him to latch again.

So does this mean that two years from now, I’ll find that Nicholas is lazy and easygoing? How about ten years from now? It gives new meaning to the phrase “You are what you eat.” Maybe we should add, “You are how you eat.”

What do you think, moms? Did your kids display their budding personalities in the way they ate as babies, either bottle or breastfed?