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Mealtime Dramas with your toddler!

Picky eater - problem feeder? Who dreads – absolutely dreads mealtimes? I’m not talking ‘run out of ideas’ type quandary – or ‘not again – I feel like I live in the kitchen’ type feeling – I am talking soul destroying ‘oh my goodness – here we go again – I would rather swim to Rottnest than go through another mealtime battle with my stubborn, picky, fussy, contrary, obstinate …..little angel…’ Of course we don’t believe all those attributes are real about our child – it’s just at mealtimes and, in fact, any contact with food related occasions; birthdays, family events, picnics, holidays – our normally gorgeous child reverts to a tortured soul that will seemingly try anything to get out of sitting at the table, picking up their fork and just getting food in their mouth. Our primary instinct as a parent is to provide for and nourish our children - it can be devastating for a mother to ‘fail’ at feeding her child – or worse be told by a health care professional your little angel is “failing to thrive”. Of course, picky eating is a normal and usually transient stage of toddler-hood. Up to 50% of children go through a patch in their development that includes cutting back on volume of food – not sitting still at the table for even short periods and only eating their food if it is served out of the mystical ‘red bowl’. However, there is a proportion of children who have a real difficulty with feeding times, shown in many studies to be consistently between 15%-20%. (ALSPAC study 2010 Emond et al) So what ramifications can this 24/7, multiple times a day event have on families? - parents can become frustrated and distressed - their child can be negatively conditioned and trained, inadvertently, to become fearful of mealtimes. It can also be frustrating for parents to hear from friends and health professionals “just keep putting it in front of them – they won’t starve themselves” - and the small voice in your head tells you – it looks like they are! So, what might be going on for your child and feeding? Many times, the feeding experience from the very beginning has been fraught; difficulty in latching on, breast refusal, experimenting with several formulas, late introduction to solids, difficulty with textures, dependence on liquid calories and by the time family foods come on the scene the toddler is very suspicious of new foods, dislikes a change in brands, poor appetite and a strong aversion to certain textures and smells. Families often overlook the sensory experience that eating may be having on their child. How do they show up at the table? is it with reluctance; slump in their seat; practically go to sleep across the table!? Is the very proximity to the food completely unacceptable to the child and you suspect that when you put a new food next to a preferred food you end up losing them both? - it seems like the very way you cut the food is enough to send your child into orbit. Given that this very real mealtime issue can impact the well-being of not only the child, but the whole family, I facilitate informative workshops exploring the nature of eating and how children must acquire the necessary skills and modelling to complement their unique sensory characteristics – which we all have but tend to accept as ‘normal’ for us as we go through life. Look out for workshops on this and a host of other milestone topics like; Toilet Training, Guiding Toddler Behaviour, and Introducing Solids.

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