How Your Picky Eater Can Benefit from Feeding Therapy

At some point, every kid goes through a picky eating phase, where they don’t like brussels sprouts or they refuse to try tomatoes. But in most cases, they grow out of it. For a parent, it’s difficult to know when you’re dealing with a normal stage of life and when the problem runs deeper.

Danielle McDaniel and our occupational and speech therapists at Little Wonders Pediatric Therapy are highly trained to detect the underlying conditions causing your little one to refuse food. During feeding therapy, our therapists partner with you and your family to help your child overcome eating challenges and relieve the stress of daily meals. 

What makes eating difficult for children?

It seems like eating ought to be a skill that comes naturally. And for most, it is. Infants’ first instinct is to eat, and most take to it naturally. But when you break it down, eating is more complicated than it appears. 

Nursing requires latching on, sucking, and swallowing, skills that infants mostly master quite quickly. But eating by chewing is actually a very complex process, one that we need time to learn. That’s why you see babies spit up, choke, dribble, and slobber. They are learning by trial and error on how to put all the new skills together. 

From getting the food into the mouth and moving it around with the tongue, to pushing it to the back of the throat, closing off the airway, and engaging the esophagus, the act of eating takes a number of different skills. If anyone of them fails to fully develop, your child may need help. That’s where feeding therapy comes in.

What’s normal and what’s not?

Knowing when to seek help can be tricky. All babies meet with some failure when trying to latch on for the first few times, but they generally get the hang of it fairly quickly. If you’re still struggling after a week or so, we can help you and your infant find what works. If your baby still can’t nurse or take the bottle successfully, feeding therapy may be in order. If your infant or toddler has difficulty with transitioning to solid foods or off the bottle, they may be experiencing difficulties that could be helped with feeding therapy.

Likewise, young children often go through phases of picky eating, but they usually grow out of it around age six. As a parent or caregiver, you’re the first line of defense for a child who may not be able to communicate the problem. If your child is only eating a few foods and will not try anything new, it may be time to seek professional help. Some of the warning signs include arching, stiffening, choking, gagging, and vomiting. Here are more red flags to look for.

What can feeding therapy do for my child?

Feeding therapy is a way to figure out where the gaps are in your child’s eating skills. We start by getting to know your child and all of the symptoms he or she is experiencing. Knowing your child’s unique set of circumstances and medical condition helps us identify the source of the problem. 

For some, undesirable textures, tastes, or temperatures may put them off. Lack of exposure to a variety of foods may add to this situation.

For others, it may be a psychological aversion to certain foods. A traumatic incident in early childhood may have triggered a fear of food, called aversion/restriction food intake disorder (ARFID).

Some children may have medical or physical issues causing them to reject food, such as chronic acid reflux, that makes them associate food with pain.

We can help them overcome those tendencies through feeding therapy. Whether your child needs to improve his or her oral strength, develop and coordinate eating skills, overcome mental or medical blocks, or any combination of these, we address them one by one. The process is slow, but it’s rewarding.

Is it my fault my child has an eating problem?

We understand that feeding your child is a very emotional topic. As a parent or caregiver, it is your responsibility to ensure your child’s needs are met. Feeding can also be a wonderful time of nurturing and bonding, so when it doesn’t go well, it may cause you to feel disconnected from your child and frustrated with the process. That adds to the stress at feeding time.

Many parents feel guilty when their child won’t eat. But more often than not, the root of the problem has nothing to do with the parent. Once we identify the real reasons for the problem, you can put your fears to rest and focus on helping your child move forward.

At Little Wonders, feeding therapy addresses multiple eating and feeding issues in a caring, compassionate environment. Our goal is to help children transition from whatever stage of development they’re in, to becoming a fully functioning eater. If you think your child may have eating issues, call us to make an appointment.

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