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Special Needs

Picky Eaters: How to Feed the Impossible (part 1)

Feeding Therapy Failure to Thrive

It’s dinner time. You are dreading it. Your kids never want to eat what you make for them, opting for things like popcorn or poptarts or anything that starts with “pop” and ends with sugar as the number 1 ingredient. How can you get them to eat better? Try new foods? Eat anything at all?

It’s hard, let me tell you. As a mom to 3 boys, I’ve spent the last 11 years force feeding, praying, begging and yes, even bribing, my kids to eat their dinner. It’s even harder when you have a self starver in your midst. Chewy was Failure To Thrive from about 9 months until just recently, at a couple months shy of 3 years. It’s been a long battle to get him to eat. He has multiple food allergies/sensitivities to add to this confusion and throw in 2 brothers to feed and I hyperventilate every time the clock strikes 4pm and I have to start thinking about dinner.

First off the medical jargon. Now I am not a Doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I’m just a mom who has spent countless hours at the Dr.’s office, hospitals and outpatient clinics dealing with Chewy. A self starver is basically a kid who just plain refuses to eat, to the point it’s affecting his health and well being. Not your normal “I’m not hungry” or “I don’t like spinach”. Chewy ate so little when we were transitioning him to the bottle that he was losing weight and very sick. We had to feed him in 1 – ounce increments, making sure he actually ate and kept down every sip. Failure To Thrive basically means he was below 3% on the weight charts and/or had a dramatic weight loss. At the time we didn’t know he was dairy and soy intolerant. Once we eliminated those from his diet, we added a special formula called Neocate and he started to finally gain weight. Albeit very slowly, at least he wasn’t losing weight.

We then took him to feeding therapy to teach him how to eat food and not be so afraid of it. Some of the techniques they used others would think of as common sense, find a spoon he likes, add something a little sweet to the food, start with fruits. We started with applesauce. It took 2 months to get him to get to the point of being able to eat 2 oz in one sitting. It was very frustrating to sit there for 30 minutes and have him take one bite. We pushed through it and pretty soon he was up to 4oz at a time.

Perseverance, patience and praying. The three “P’s” of feeding therapy.

Feeding Therapy Failure to Thrive We found one spoon that he would eat with. We bought a dozen of them. We tried putting the applesauce in various bowls, made airplane noises, smiled real big, pretended to eat the applesauce ourself, every trick they taught us and every trick we could think of on our own. What won out? What made him change his mind? I wish I had the quick fix answer, but for him we basically had to teach him how to move food in his mouth and swallow. He was so delayed in every area, including working his muscles in his mouth, tongue and throat. One day it just clicked and he became our applesauce eating King!

If your child is having severe delays and feeding issues, or is a self starver or considered failure to thrive, I highly recommend calling your local Children’s Hospital and getting into their feeding/swallowing clinic. Talk to your pediatrician if Children’s is too far for you or not an option. They may have local speech therapists and/or feeding clinics they can refer for you. Just don’t be like me, Queen of Google, and work yourself up even more with all the scary websites out there. Tweet me if you would like referrals to various websites that are legit and helpful. @ColoradoMom

Part 2 will publish soon where I talk about our long road to eating Chicken Nuggets! In the meantime, check out this post by our own therapist on new things to try for picky eaters. Food for Thought



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