If you have a fussy eater, there is no doubt you’ve heard “They’ll grow out of it”, “Just send them to bed hungry” or “Put them in front of the iPad so they will eat”. The feeding myths run rampant!
Here are 4 feeding myths that we are tired of hearing when it comes to feeding fussy children.
- They’ll grow out of it
For some of the population, without more serious underlying factors for fussy eating, growing out of fussy eating can happen. In these instances, children may have gone through a phase of neophobia linked to the cognitive development of children (typically first seen at about 18mths to 2 years of age.) Yet, it is far from the whole truth. There are many reasons underlying fussy eating and if the underlying cause is not addressed, feeding will be too hard for some children and they will maintain a restricted diet.
- They will eat when they are hungry
Eating is actually the body’s third priority. Not it’s first. When eating causes pain, there is postural insecurity, when our body engages it’s flight or fight response, when there are medical issues in the way; eating is put on the back burner. Children can learn to turn off their body’s cues for hunger and satiety making this statement false.
- Just send them to bed hungry
Addressing your child’s WHY for not eating and being on their team supports a positive relationship with food. Punishing them (or in this case giving them a way to opt out of dinner which in turn reinforces that dinner is “bad”) does not create a healthy relationship with food. It starts to make food emotional rather than a process our bodies need to function.
- Put them in front of the iPad so they will eat
A busy modern world is full of ways to get a result. In this case, the result is having food at that meal go into the child. The result does not include fostering a positive relationship with food. The result does not include learning about the foods. The result does not help children to tune into how full or empty their stomachs are. The result may involve less skill building for motor planning, sensory processing and fine motor functions that they need to eat a more varied diet going forward. Although this “solution” achieves one objective it is a very short term one in spite of the longer term objectives for eating as a life skill.
If you can imagine that children’s development is like an iceberg. What you see above the water, in this case, the list of foods that they eat is only part of the story. Underneath the surface is the rest of the iceberg. There are many factors underlying a child’s fussy eating. Parents don’t cause fussy eating but they do have the tools and opportunities to help their child learn to have a great relationship with food. Ignoring feeding myths is definitely a way to start making that happen.
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