If dinner time is a nightly battle at your house, this article is for you! When your child is a picky eater, it is easy to feel frustrated but there might be underlying causes. It is important to know how to navigate these issues and how to know when you should seek further help.
What To Do When You’re Struggling with Picky Eating
We asked Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist, Heidi Miller, for some steps parents can take when their little one is struggling with picky eating. Read on for what she has to say!
What are the first steps parents with a picky eater should take?
One of the first steps that parents with a picky eater should take is to allow their child to interact with new foods at whatever level they feel most comfortable with. You can get your child involved in the process of preparing and cooking food instead of jumping straight into eating. For example, let your little one help cut the new food or mix it in.
What are some methods for taking the pressure off of mealtimes?
Take the pressure OFF the eating. Instead, encourage the child to stay at the table since it is a social experience. You can tell them that meal time is family time and that you are all going to talk about what you did that day. Remind them they will not be forced to eat the new food.
You said you want parents to know it’s not their fault. Can you explain why this is and how they can alleviate themselves of that guilt?
It is DEFINITELY NOT the parents’ fault. When struggling with guilt, I often ask the parents if there is another sibling? If the answer is yes, more than likely, that child is a good eater.
Oftentimes, a child becomes a picky eater due to an underlying physical problem that went undetected and caused them to feel unsafe eating. This is nothing the parent did. We, as therapists, know how to help these children so take the guilt away! Guilt does not help you or your child.
Questions Straight from Mamas Like You
When should I consider getting help for picky eating/being concerned it is something more?
There are a few definitive factors that distinguish a picky eater from someone who requires feeding intervention:
- Child does not eat an entire food group
- Child extinguishes a food and does not replace it with something else
- Child chokes and coughs while eating (this is medical and you need to call your doctor!)
- The child eats less than 20 foods
- Mealtime is always a stressful time for the family because the child is demonstrating negative behaviors such as; refusal to stay at the table, tantrums, throwing food/ utensils, etc.
Is there anything I can do to prevent picky eating issues before they start?
Parents should offer a variety of foods and ROTATE them. Try not to get in the habit of allowing your child to eat the same meal or snack every day.
Also, get your child involved with food in fun ways! Things like preparing food can assist with decreasing anxiety around food.
My baby prefers BLW but I prefer starting with purees! Can you recommend a good food for in between?
This question is very age and development-related. Certainly, we want
to expose babies to purees and meltable solid foods. There is a critical
window for solid food introduction and we do not want to miss that.
If your child is a picky eater, know that you are not alone and this is not your fault. Celebrate the small wins and seek out help if necessary. Remember, you got this!
Heidi is a Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, Feeding Specialist, and a Certified Orofacial Myologist. She has a sub-specialty in feeding specifically treating the “picky eater” and children diagnosed with ARFID.
Heidi Miller MS CCC SLP COM®
Speech Language Pathologist
Certified Orofacial Myologist
Advanced Childhood Apraxia of Speech CAS
Director of HMS & Associates
973-358-5665- office phone
*This post is for information and entertainment purposes only, should you need medical attention please seek your own medical professional.
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