Raising children comes with its fair share of challenges. One challenge that often leaves new parents stumped is feeding. Whether you’re introducing formula milk to your baby for the first time after breastfeeding or transitioning to solid foods, feeding problems top the chart for most new parents.
Here’s a lowdown on everything about feeding, how you can identify it and solutions to help you ease your little one into a feeding routine.
Identifying Feeding Problems In Children
While temporary illness might be the reason for eating disorders, here are some red flags that can help you identify feeding problems in children:
They refuse to eat or drink anything
Your child gets fussy or cries when feeding
They aren’t gaining weight or growing as expected
Your child’s back arches or becomes stiff when feeding
Your child isn’t alert when feeding or even falls asleep
Your child takes more than 30 minutes or longer to eat regularly
Coughing, gagging or drooling are common when feeding
They avoid certain food textures
The voice becomes hoarse or raspy during or after feeding
Has problems chewing and swallowing
Your child faces trouble breathing while eating and drinking
Your child frequently vomits or spits up
In some cases, babies with certain health problems or conditions may also have feeding difficulties. Some possible causes for infant feeding and swallowing problems include:
Traumatic birth injuries like cerebral palsy
Low birth weight or premature birth
Structural abnormalities like cleft lip or cleft palate
Stomach problems or reflux problems
Lung or respiratory problems like asthma
Developmental disabilities or delays like autism
Nervous system problems
Common Feeding Problems In Early Childhood And Solutions
1.When the Child Eats Only Certain Types of Foods
There is a likely chance that you have a fussy eater on your hands. While they may eat some of the nutritious food you prepare, they may reject most others owing to taste, smell, and looks. In such cases, here are a few things you can try:
Finger foods allow children to self-feed, so try serving them.
Don’t force or bribe your child to eat new foods. Exposure to the same food for 2-3 days for up to 20 times will make the child try the new food. However, if the child doesn’t still have the food, try again after a few months and accept that they may dislike that food.
Avoid passing comments about your personal likes and dislikes on food items and set a good example by eating a variety of foods.
Serve your child’s favourite food along with a small portion of foods you want to introduce.
2. When they Refuse to Eat Vegetables
Green leafy veggies and other vegetables might not appeal to your child who may be more interested in different coloured foods. Worry not, there is a solution to this problem as well.
Make sauces and chutneys out of vegetables instead of serving them on their own.
Try serving yellow, orange or other colourful vegetables like mushrooms, carrots and corn. Vegetables always need not be green and leafy.
For older children, serve skewers of fruit chunks like pineapples along with cucumber slices.
3. Your Child Is Picky
It is common for toddlers to have a say in the food that they’re offered. They may reject the taste, smell or look of a particular item of food and that may be alright for a while, as long as they get back into the train of healthy eating. However, if that doesn’t happen, here are a few things you can try:
Rather than asking what your child wants to eat or if they will eat what you serve, give them a choice of two items. It could be a choice between rice or chapati.
Reward your child for replacing junk food like chips and fries with healthy meals. You can give them small rewards like extra time for bedtime stories or playing a game.
Be consistent and firm with what you say so that you can make your child eat what’s nutritional.
4.Your Child Does Not Chew Food Properly
Let’s say your child enjoys his/her food so much that they barely chew it. Ideally, one must chew their food over 30 times in order for it to be completely digested, but you cannot control this in children. Here are a few things you can try:
Oral motor skills involve the movement of the jaw, mouth, tongue and lips which provide muscle strength needed to chew the food. Parents must check if the child has proper oro-motor skills or not. When children are only used to certain food textures like finely chopped or blended, they may refuse the new food ways. In such cases, increase the food texture gradually by giving less blended or less chopped foods.
5. Your Child Takes Longer to Eat
It’s a good habit to eat slowly and chew longer. But what if your child sits on their meals for hours on end? This is not a good sign as they also need time to digest all this food as well as make time for naps and play. This is where helping them understand the importance of meal time comes into play.
During meal time keep distractions such as TV, mobile phones and running around minimal
Avoid offering snacks or milk one hour before the meals so that your child is hungry
Give them smaller portions to eat and then offer more after they finish it
Your child might not have the oro-motor skills for the food that you are offering, so do consider that.
When to See a Doctor
If your baby is losing weight or is not gaining weight as per their age, you will need to see a doctor. While some feeding problems can get better with time, confirm that your child does not have any serious problems. Take immediate medical help if the spit up is bloody or green.
In the case of newborn babies, if less than four diapers get wet each day and if they have infrequent or hard stools and are constantly crying, it indicates feeding problems. Vomiting after feeding could also indicate digestive disturbances. A specialist will evaluate the food that your child eats and their eating habits to guide you in solving the problem.