We have all heard of or know at least one toddler or young child who won’t eat their vegies or who suddenly decides they won’t eat a food they loved only the day before!
As parents it can be really stressful trying to get healthy foods or a range of different foods into young children. Sometimes it’s a mission getting any food into them at all! But at what point does a normal fussy toddler cross the line into a child with feeding problems?
Around the age of two, it is extremely common for children to become “neophobic”. That is they don’t like anything new or different and this can particularly apply to new foods. The key is to stay calm and keep offering new foods and new experiences with food. At this stage food refusal can also be about control and independence. As a two-year-old, there is very little in a child’s world that they can control, although food (and the reaction they get from you around food) is a biggie. Also, children this age have erratic appetites – some days they will eat what seems like their own body weight in food and the next day hardly a scrap. Children tend not to need as much to eat as we think they do.
However, some children have or can develop a real aversion to a wide range of foods. This can impact hugely both on the child’s health, happiness and on the family as a whole. There can be many reasons for this but when a child’s accepted food list becomes so small that it begins to affect their growth and health it may be time to call in some help….
Here are a few key differences between a fussy eater who, with the right strategies, will come out the other end largely unscathed (apart from perhaps the residual hatred of sprouts!) and a problem feeder who will require more support and guidance to get them back on track:
If however, foods lost from your child’s diet are not eaten again, even after a break, you may want to seek help. Particularly if it happens to many foods in an already limited diet.
If your child struggles in more than one of the areas listed above, you may want to contact your local dietician, GP or Plunket nurse for further advice and help.
Mel Street is a mother of three young children and a qualified speech language therapist with expertise in child feeding disorder. Find Mel at smalltalktherapy.co.nz
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