Our first topic is on some common signs that your kiddo may have a feeding concern and could benefit from Feeding Therapy. Before jumping into these common “red flag” signs, we want to take a moment to explain about Feeding Therapy and what this is. Feeding Therapy is a speciality area for health professional (usually having training in Medicine, Speech Language Pathology, Dietetics, or Occupational Therapy) who have chosen to focus on feeding concerns/issues/disorders in an individual.
Feeding Disorders are distinctly different from Eating Disorders, where the focus is on body image. A Feeding Disorder is defined as “the inability to eat a sufficient variety of of foods in order to maintain a healthy nutritional status.” (Arevedson, J.C., 1993).
In Feeding Disorders, the individual may struggle with the physical, sensory, cognitive, and/or emotional component of feeding which affects their willingness or ability to participate.
Many parents go through the early developmental stages of their child’s feeding noticing that things may not be “quite right”, but brush off their instincts and chalk it up to being “normal”.While every child is unique and develops as their own individual, there are some typical patterns of feeding development that each child does follow.
Our goal in this post is to help identify some of the common “red flags” that can lead to the development of feeding concerns/issues/disorders. We hope to help you be pro-active in seeking out advice as soon as possible if any of the following signs are noticed in your child’s feeding.
Did you know Feeding Problems are very common?
"Approximately 20-50% of normally developing children,and 70-89% of children with developmental disabilities, are reported to experience some type of feeding problems." (Benjasuwantep, B., Chaithirayanon, S., & Eiamudomkan, M., 2013).
10 Signs That Your Kiddo May Benefit From Feeding Therapy.
1. Your kiddo is “stuck” on one texture of food, whether that be purees, semi-solids, etc., they just don’t seem to be able to progress. This is a sign that something is going on with either your child’s physical or sensory abilities. Many children struggle to the introduction of “mixed textures” and tend to get stuck on “purees/smooth” textures if parents/caregivers stop exposing to other textures, because they are nervous by the child’s initial reactions.
2. There is a limited variety of foods in your kiddos mealtimes. They are open to eating only certain types of foods that they are comfortable with; these foods are typically processed, bland, and “brownish” coloured foods, with minimal foods in the vegetable/fruit categories.
3. They gag (daily), vomit, cough excessively, or arch their backs during mealtimes and feeding. After the age of 7 months when teeth start to emerge and our oral motor skills are improving, the gag reflex starts to integrate into our system and moves further back on our tongues. Gagging is important and one of our bodies “safety mechanisms”, although if your child is gagging at every feed/meal or daily, this is repetitive negative associations being made with food/eating that can lead to “food aversions”. Please contact a professional if your child is experiencing this.
4. Your child is taking longer than 20 minutes for breakfast/lunch and longer than 30 minutes to finish dinner. If everyone at the table is finishing their meals and your child is taking much longer to finish feeding and if this is disrupting your family’s routine, you may want to consult a Feeding Therapist to investigate the cause.
5. They aren’t meeting their developmental milestones for feeding. For example for “typically” developing children: By 12-18 months, kids typically hold their own spoon, scoop food, and put the spoon in mouth without much spillage. By 18-24 months, kiddos are using a fork and drink from an open cup. By age 2-3 years, kiddos typically are able to suck through a straw & hold a small cup with one hand.
6. They have meltdowns before or during mealtimes. If you notice your child is frequently avoiding mealtimes at all costs, it’s time to investigate what is going on.
7. They need to have their face or hands immediately after getting a bit of food on them. This is a sign of sensory aversion. We want kids to get messy and tolerate the mess on their bodies. This helps their sensory system adjust to this type input and to prevent food aversions/oral aversions (where they can’t tolerate a variety of foods, textures etc.).
8. They are rigid about how food is served to them. Do they always have to have the same brand/packaging for foods or else they won’t eat it? Will they only eat foods in one form? E.g.- They will eat mashed potatoes but not hash browns. Will they only eat from one plate, or use a certain spoon?
9. You have become a “short-ordered” cook for your little one. If you are constantly making different meals for your child than what the rest of your family is eating, you have become a “short-ordered” cook. This a lot of work and extra stress on you! It definitely doesn’t have to be this way and to be frank, if it continues it will get worse not better. Please reach out if your unsure how to get away from this.
10. Your child barely eats dinner, but then wants a snack right after dinner. This is something very common we hear from our families. This one can be reversed fairly easily and comes down to consistency and setting boundaries/expectations around mealtimes with your kiddo.