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

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

Emily

Fueled by coffee and wine. Wife to a doc, mom to three boys (one with Autism), a puppy and a tortoise. I knit, I get crafty, I tweet.

Comments

  1. says

    We’re working on feeding therapy with my six-year-old right now. He’s a self-starver and has had periods of FTT all his life. Of all the issues he has, his weird food issues drive me the most crazy. Fingers crossed that the therapy starts working. Thanks for the info and tips!

  2. says

    Luckily I don’t have a child who is that much of an extreme picky eater, but my daughter is a weird eater, she’s picky meaning she won’t eat most “kid” foods, like pizza, burgers, spaghetti, mac and cheese, but she will eat raw broccoli, raw spinach leaves and try just about anything we ask her to, but only once.

    Hope your little man gets more on track with eating!

  3. says

    FYI, being below the 3rd percentile doesn’t mean one qualifies as failure to thrive. My oldest has always been below that for weight and height. She’s quite healthy, but small–just like her mother. My youngest is tiny too.

    Our oldest did get the FTT label once, but at that point she fell away from the curve. We solved the issue causing it (dairy allergy; she ate a ton of food, including lots of dairy, but couldn’t effectively metabolize the calories) and she’s grown normally ever since. Her growth curve looks just like everyone else’s but is located much lower than the normal curve, as does that of my youngest.

    FTT is definitely something that should be taken seriously, but I don’t want people to think that anyone who happens to be small has a problem.

    [signed] Mom in charge of Team Small But Mighty ;)

    • ColoradoMoms says

      That’s a GREAT point. Something I left out in the article was my boy was both below 3rd for height and weight and also had a dramatic curve off the charts. His food allergies were to blame at first, but then he became very sickly and had a loss of developmental skills and was missing major milestones. FTT isn’t just “my kid is tiny”. Thank you for bringing that up!!

  4. says

    OMG, my son went through the exact same thing and he was diagnosed FTT as well. Even now, at almost 3 years old he will only eat baby food in the jar and will refuse to eat anything else. My son will be so stubborn that he will be so hungry and still refuse food if it’s not baby food. It is very frustrating… thanks for posting this. I’ll be sure to stay tuned for part 2…

  5. says

    I also had a child (my 4th) who was labeled “failure to thrive.” When she was born she was in the 50th percentile. A totally average baby. By 5 months, and all the way til she was 3 or 4, she was off-the-charts small. Strangely, though, she DID eat. In fact, she is one of my least picky eaters. She just didn’t eat a lot. She went through tons of testing and everything came back completely normal. It was frustrating to say the least. I love that you are writing this series. I would have loved some help and support and answers back when I was dealing with her failure to gain weight!

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply