Let’s Talk Feeding

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Does your child:

  • Eat the same foods every day?
  • Refuses to try or touch new foods?
  • Gag at the sight or smell of food?
  • Refuse to watch you eat?
  • Have difficulty with chewing or swallowing?
  • Avoid certain textures?
  • Have meltdowns at mealtime?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Picky eating is extremely common during the early years of life.

80% of individuals with developmental disabilities and 45% of typically developing children have some type of feeding problem.

What can cause pickiness:

  • Reflux – this can cause pain associated with eating certain foods which kids will instinctively refuse or stay away from those foods
  • Food allergies  – children with food allergies are typically very cautious about what they eat. This in turn, causes them to be picky eaters.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) – eating is a SENSORY experience. If food is too overstimulating (could be the smell, color, texture, sound it makes, appearance, etc.) this will cause them to avoid those foods and textures.
  • Decreased oral motor skills – oral motor skills and sensory issues with food go hand in hand. If we aren’t eating a certain food or food group, our oral motor skills won’t develop properly. This makes eating certain foods too hard or tiring so kids will avoid them. (this is the most common one I treat)
  • Control at meal times – this is common as kids age. They want more control of things in their environment and feeding is one of the most basic body functions they can control.

Things to do to help with pickiness:

  • Let your kid get messy- during meal times it is SUPER important to let them be messy. If they get food on their face, don’t wipe it. If they get food on their shirt, don’t touch it. If they get food on the floor, don’t pick it up (or let the dog eat it). This is important because it shows them that the variety of textures are safe and are okay to get on our body. If you are still feeding them by spoon, try not to wipe their face after each bite. This can cause unwanted tactile input which can be a negative reinforcement.
  • Talking positively about foods! Trying not to say in front of them that a certain food is “gross” or “disgusting”, they will pick this up and repeat it, thinking the food is gross before ever trying it. Instead use words like “I am still learning about this food”, “I’m not ready to try that food yet”.
  • Never force your child to eat anything! This will cause a negative experience with food that can cause them to have aversions to eating or meal time. It can lead to a power struggle between you and your child.
  • “They will be hungry eventually”- this is FALSE! Children’s bodies and sensory systems are still developing. They don’t understand what hunger feels like yet, although they may indicate they are hungry.
  • Introduce new foods without the pressure to eat the food- kids will become naturally curious about what you’re eating. Presenting it to them without the expectation that they have to eat it, can lead them to be more willing to try new foods on their own terms.
  • Be patient- it can take up to 10 seperate times for a child to try a new food and like it. There are going to be foods that your child just doesn’t like, just as there are foods I’m sure you don’t like. Forcing eating will never win.

Feeding is the hardest thing we do as humans. It requires all of our bodily systems, our nervous system, and our environment to be optimal in order to sit down and have a meal. It’s so important for children to foster healthy relationships with foods. Although, it can be very frustrating when your child won’t eat the foods you want them too. There are several resources that are available to help, starting with me!

If you found this information helpful and you have more questions, please reach out on my contact page!

What is OT?

What is OT? Why did my pediatrician recommend it?

OT stands for Occupational Therapy. “Occupation” meaning that everything we do throughout the day is an occupation. People will commonly mistake OT for helping people get jobs. Which, isn’t entirely wrong, we certainly can help people get jobs. Examples of occupations are brushing our hair, washing our face, cooking breakfast, driving to work, etc. These are all examples of activities of daily living (ADL’s), these are things we do everyday without even thinking about doing them or how we do them. Most of us, don’t even think twice about it. Being able to do these things give us a sense of independence. What do we do when this sense of independence is taken away or interrupted by illness, disability, accident, etc.? This is where OT comes in. We strive to bring independence and functionality into all of our patients lives no matter the age. When it comes to children we know that there are developmental milestones that children are supposed to meet. There can be disruptions to this development due to injury, accident, illness, genetic disorder, or they simply were just born with developmental challenges. THAT IS OKAY! OT’s are here to help assist you and your child to performing developmentally appropriate tasks to help bring them and you a sense of independence. For pediatrics, OT’s specifically look at fine and gross motor development, bilateral coordination (using both sides of our body together), motor planning, muscle tone, upper body and hand strengthening, core strengthening, sensory processing, self-regulation, attention, academics (handwriting), and executive functioning. OT’s can also focus on another super important ADL of eating/feeding. Feeding therapy can be just as important as occupational therapy. For some, it is life threatening. Check back to my blog post explaining more details about feeding therapy!