Chronic poor growth
Food refusal/picky eating
Decreased variety and volume of oral intake
Choking, gagging, coughing and vomiting while eating
Inability to chew/swallow
Delayed attainment of self-feeding skills
Behavioral or learned feeding problems
We are in the middle of a mealtime overhaul.
Baby Girl A doesn't like to eat very many foods; until recently her entire food repertoire consisted of chicken nuggets, noodles, crackers, hot dogs and raviolis. When I could con her into trying a tiny bite of something new, she resisted swallowing it. She "pocketed" food in her cheeks for hours.
Her mealtime behavior was another issue. She never wanted to stay at the table. To keep her in her seat, I let her play with toys or turned on the television. Then the toys and TV kept her too busy to eat. With all of the distractions, dinnertime was endless and full of frustration. Someone always ended up in tears.
All of that was at home; her restaurant manners can be far worse.
We needed help. Fortunately, we have a longstanding relationship with specialists at Children's Hospital. They determined that based on her extremely picky eating, preference for liquid nutrition and poor table manners, Baby Girl A would benefit greatly from a feeding group.
Run by a speech pathologist and an occupational therapist, feeding groups model appropriate behaviors while making the act of eating a fun activity.
Each group session opens with a group sensory activity; this helps regulate energy levels. Then all the participants sit down to eat. Offerings include standard kid fare as well more challenging options. For example, a recent menu had chicken nuggets with steamed baby carrots.
Children do not have to eat any one thing, but they are encouraged to smell, taste and even touch the food. The goal is to reduce the anxiety surrounding mealtime; children are allowed to choose how much they interact with the food. Only outright refusal is discouraged.
After the meal, parents attend a mini workshop on foods strategies with the therapists.
Baby Girl A really enjoys the group and doesn't even realize that she's learning how to eat properly.
But even with all of this support, getting my youngest to eat is still a slow process. At home I'm trying to make food as fun as they do in her group. I've experimented with new recipes. We've cleared off the table and turned off the TV. I offer "safe" foods -- the ones she will always eat -- with the new ones.
Halfway through our feeding group session, she still protests when I offer vegetables. And she still drinks quite a few of her calories. On the positive side, she recently tried an egg sandwich for the first time. The best progress has been behaviorally; we've had fewer mealtime meltdowns. A more peaceful dinner hour is a beautiful thing.
For more information on the Children's Hospital feeding program, call 720-777-6168 and ask for the Feeding and Swallowing Program.
Parent PSA: Prepare yourself for the stomach flu. Chances are at some point in the next few months, someone in your house will get sick. I hope you don't get what Baby Girl A and I wrestled with last month. We were both very, very sick. Even after I started feeling better, I was too weak to run to the store. Stock up on Pedialyte, ginger ale, Gatorade, chicken noodle soup and applesauce now. You'll thank me later.
Contact Katy Sinclair at KatySinclair09@gmail.com.