The Importance of Feeding Therapy: Ensuring Good Nutrition for a Problem Eater

Caring for a child is a humbling experience. As a parent, you are probably often struck by your child’s vulnerability, innocence and high level of dependence on you as their parent and caregiver. For instance, you can easily make or grab a sandwich when hunger pains strike during your workday; but your young infant is incapable of chewing a sandwich, much less preparing it and feeding himself! The most your child is able to do to satisfy his hunger for food is his innate ability to cry out to get your attention, so you can feed him as soon as possible.

Transitioning From Breastfeeding to Baby Food

Making the transition from solely breastfeeding to introducing baby food is an essential one, and most parents would agree that a short course in the process or some help from a feeding expert would be extremely helpful.

For children who are dealing with feeding difficulties, there could be a number of underlying issues causing the problem, such as food aversions, intolerance to certain foods due to an allergic reaction, metabolic disorders, autism, diabetes or other conditions. While some of these causes can be ruled out by the parent by observing carefully for other symptoms that match up with the disorder, most of these issues cannot be identified by an inexperienced parent who, although well-meaning, is not sufficiently trained on what symptoms to look for.

When Your Child Doesn’t Like Food

Whatever the reasons that are making your child resistant to certain foods, the end result is similar – your child is probably going to be deficient in certain essential nutrients. For example, your child may be allergic to bananas or simply does not like the way they look or smell. As a concerned parent, you may not have all the resources to be able to pinpoint the cause to her aversion, much less figure out the best way to deal with this issue.

A trained pediatric feeding specialist can talk you through the process of making bananas more appealing to your child, if the aversion is solely due to personal preference. Otherwise, if your child has an unavoidable physical response to bananas (such as a food allergy), a feeding expert can suggest other potassium-rich foods that can substitute for bananas and can ensure that your child is getting all the essential nutrients that s/he needs for her or his development.

In other cases, a picky child who favors only a handful of food types and flavors could indicate that there is a larger, more encompassing developmental problem. A recent Time-Magazine article found a strong link between autistic children and picky eating. While aversion to certain foods is a normal reaction that many toddlers have, it could also be indicative of a more complex underlying issue: “Food aversion may be part of a symptom complex that may be part of a bigger picture of behaviors … beyond just feeding, for example, they may also be interested in fewer toys.” While this need not be a cause for parents to worry in most cases, it still doesn’t hurt to take some preventative measures by contacting a feeding therapist to rule out some of these causes and find a solution that is helpful for your child.

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