As you may know, mealtimes when your child has a feeding issue can be extremely trying! And can put a strain on your relationship with your child. As a mom, we understand that all you want is for your child to eat their food, so that you can rest assured they’re getting all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy and grow well.

Research shows that more than 50% of mothers worldwide have at least 1 child with a feeding issue. This equates to approximately 25% of all children.1,2 So, don’t be hard on yourself - you are not alone!

Sensory Feeding Issues

These are issues where something about the food is overwhelming or uncomfortable to a child, and include the way the food:2

  • tastes
  • feels
  • smells
  • looks

Sensory feeding issues normally occur when you introduce a new type of food. For example, your child may eat crunchy foods, but refuse liquid or soft foods or your child may eat carrots, but not spinach.2

Behavioural Feeding Issues

These are issues that occur around mealtimes, and can include:1-3

  • refusal to sit at the table for mealtimes
  • disruptive behavior during mealtimes such as throwing food, crying, screaming, spitting, head-turning to avoid food, clenching teeth, vomiting, etc.
  • refusal to self-feed (when able to do so)
  • distraction with TV, toys, cell phones, iPads, so as to avoid eating

If you are struggling to find a way to deal with, and overcome your child’s feeding issues, here are some helpful tips to help you through these tricky and trying situations:1,4

  • Maintain appropriate boundaries
  • Avoid distractions during mealtimes (TV, cell phones, games, toys, etc.)
  • Use a child-size chair at the table
  • Do your best to maintain a pleasant neutral attitude throughout the meal – smile and don’t become anxious, angry or excited
  • Feed to encourage appetite
  • Feed your child at intervals of 3 – 4 hours
  • Limit mealtimes to 20 – 30 minutes
  • Serve age-appropriate foods
  • Serve reasonably small helpings
  • Keep on introducing new foods, one at a time and step by step
  • Encourage self-feeding
  • Tolerate age-appropriate mess

Most important is to never force your child to eat. As stressful as it may be, rather work towards a goal of overcoming the issue together. Reward your child with positive words when he/she takes a bite and swallows. Help them feel like they have accomplished something magical by finishing their food – reward them with longer playing time or more bubbles in their bath.

References: 1. Kerzner B, Milano K, MacLean WC, et al. A Practical Approach to Classifying and Managing Feeding Difficulties. Pediatr 2015;135(2):344-353. 2. Yang HR. How to approach feeding difficulties in young children. Korean J Pediatr 2017;60(12):379-384. 3. Babbitt RL, Hoch TA, Coe DA, et al. Behavioral Assessment and Treatment of Pediatric Feeding Disorders. J Dev Behav Pediatr 1994;15:278-291. 4. Kerzner B. Clinical Investigation of Feeding Difficulties in Young Children: A Practical Approach. Clin Pediatr 2009;48(9):960-965.