Feeding difficulties are more common than we tend to think, so if you as a parent are struggling at the table, you are not the only one. Statistic show that about 20%–30% of infants and toddlers tend to have feeding-related problems, which increase the risk of nutritional imbalance and failure to grow. For children with developmental delays this percentage can be even higher. Infants and toddlers with feeding problems can be referred to pediatric outpatient clinics for the evaluation of problematic feeding difficulties or growth, however as a family it can also be challenging to find supports and therapy. Problems in feeding, growth, and food acceptance may stem from any or all of the following causes: 1) medical or physical condition of the child; 2) inappropriate food selection; 3) inappropriate dynamics around feeding. Children with feeding disorders are seen by practitioners of every pediatric medical and surgical specialty, and the causes of these disorders are as varied as the clinicians who treat these patients. Yet despite their pervasiveness, pediatric feeding disorders are woefully understudied. A systematic approach to the evaluation and management of feeding difficulties in young children is critical for all involved.
Feeding provides children and caregivers with opportunities for communication and social experience that form the basis for future interactions (Lefton-Greif, 2008). As a parent or caregiver, you play an important role in helping your child build healthy eating habits and skills. Healthy eating is about more than just what we eat. It is also about how we eat. Children and parents have roles and relationships when it comes to feeding and mealtimes. Ellen Satter a respected dietitian and therapist states Your role is to decide what foods to offer, when to offer them and where to offer them. Your child’s role is to decide whether to eat, what to eat from the choices provided and how much to eat. Respecting this feeding relationship allows mealtimes to be more enjoyable and your child can focus on learning to eat well. As she stated in one of her books: “The goal of feeding your baby is to have him join you at the table…not for you to join him at the high chair.”
At Regina Speech Centre our therapists not only understand the many complex reasons behind feeding difficulties, we have specialized training and many years of experience in treating these difficulties. Pediatric feeding difficulties are complex and knowing how to help requires lots of training and experience from the therapists perspective. We know having feeding difficulties impacts many areas of your life and are here to help with: therapy, training and supports that will make mealtimes enjoyable again for you and your family.