Monday, September 17, 2012

Profoundly Picky Eaters: Professional Help

When the internet was abuzz over cookbooks that encourage parents to hide pureed veggies in traditional kid foods, Jim added this comment to the discussion:
I heard about this book on the Jumping Monkeys podcast and had to think that Jessica can't be dealing with seriously picky kids (like the one that I am blessed with).
The example they gave was hiding broccoli in macaroni and cheese to which I wondered out loud "but what do I hide the macaroni and cheese in?"
With our profoundly picky eater rejecting almost all things meat and vegetable and most of the dairy family, we tried every trick in the standard play book. People offered the same judgmental advice that they, in our shoes, would just keep feeding the kid the same meal until he eats it.

The implication was that we were too accommodating or spineless to stand up to our kid when it came to food. Other people suggested that more creativity might entice our child to eat more and different foods.

These usually well-intentioned people couldn't understand the fear and grief that I felt seeing my child's too-slim form. They didn't understand that I would try and do anything that might help. They also didn't understand the terror that shone from his eyes when presented with new food. They hadn't sat at our hours-long tabletop stalemates nor watched their child throw up all of the night's dinner after finally conceding to just one bite.

With no clear direction for addressing this food situation, I gave up. We fed whatever we could in as large a quantity as would be tolerated. With a fruit and grain based diet, there was no way to supply adequate calories (much less nutrients). We gave daily vitamins and bought orange juice with supplemental calcium. But with a long look, any one could tell that we were barely maintaining present weight with growth.

It didn't feel like we could keep waiting for this "stage" to be outgrown- if it ever would be, but what was the next step?

Then one day, the phone rang. My friend met someone whose child had successfully completed treatment at a feeding clinic and had overcome his staunch food aversions. While I was afraid our situation wouldn't be big enough to draw medical concern, I had to act. Even a slight chance that we might find help was worth pursuing.

A long and detailed paperwork process preceded our assessment visit yesterday. Even during the assessment, I was frightened that we were about to be turned away and told (yet again) that our child's disordered eating was the product of weak and unimaginative parenting.

Instead the assessment team of a psychologist, dietician, speech therapist, and occupational therapist noticed things about our child's eating that I had not ever seen. Unlike us, they readily identified causes (physiological and psychological) and know techniques to address his physical, emotional, and nutritional needs.

It isn't a quick fix. Like most childhood therapies, it depends on the efforts of all stakeholders over many months. But it is so wonderful to find that our long-term quagmire is familiar and manageable territory to others. It is good to think that families meals may soon be shared (rather than short-order) and without conflict or a sense of parenting failure.

I suspect most readers will not relate to this specific situation, but I write in hopes that the few who understand all too well might also find some new answers. A Google search for pediatric feeding clinic can show offerings in your area, but many of the clinics offer more intensive programs for people who live out of the region. Families travel to our clinic from out-of-state and even out-of-country.

 If this sounds like your family, please realize that you do not have to battle this problem alone.

***Baby Toolkit is the rambling story of two geek parents. We have no fiscal interest in pediatric feeding clinics and receive no compensation for this post (our clinic is unaware of this post). We are however, Amazon affiliates, so purchasing through our Amazon links defrays our modest operating costs. Thanks!


Anna said...

We leave next week for a similar (identical?) intensive clinic in Indiana.

We exhausted our local resources (speech therapists, early intervention state program, pediatrician, gastroenterologist, etc. Finally our speech therapist did some research and found the program. We were evaluated in June and G. will have six weeks of therapy to address her issues.

Just to show the variety of what these clinics can address, G. isn't a picky eater; she simply is never hungry. She's been this way since birth. She'll eat a few bites and claim to be full. Thankfully we've been able to maintain her weight gain, but it takes six hours a day, which is becoming unsustainable after two years.

I pray that both our kids get the help they need.

Chief Family Officer said...

I have a vague idea of what you have been through - my picky eater isn't quite as extreme, but desperation is a feeling I am all too familiar with in this instance. I am SO sorry you have had this stress, but am very glad you have found help. I'd love to see a post with general tips that might help with other picky eaters beyond the usual ones you mentioned (that never really work). And keep us updated!

Jeanie said...

Glad I found this. I also have an intensely picky eater. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You are not alone, and you are not crazy… took us 3 YEARS of weekly therapy, plus an intensive home program before we "graduated" - I hope and pray your journey is no where near as long, but yes, there is intense guilt, and pthers pass judgement when they have no idea what this is like. I will tell you after 3 years, she is STILL intensely pickey, but it is possible to get enough caloriesin, and enough variety - but DD still intensely hates mashed potatoes, loves fruit, pasta, and chicken nuggets, and is indiffrent about many other foods…your team will guide you, for us, it included regular supplmentation with "SuperMilk" or Carnation Instant Breakfast, - at one point, 4x a day….but it does get better….HUGS!

kim/TheMakerMom said...

Wow, this sounds really tough.

I have never heard of such a severe case. This certainly goes beyond picky. What a scary journey for you as parents. I know you'll be helping others by sharing your story. I hope therapy is helping and that you'll continue to share helpful resources as our child progresses.

Sarah @ Family. Food. Fiesta. said...

I'm a Registered Dietitian and work with many children who are "picky eaters." It's great that you have a team of professionals to assist you. They will help your child over time. And time it does take. This story is (unfortunately) not an unusual story and many families have these trials, too. But they are able to overcome them. Thank you for sharing!

Kristina said...

Adrienne, this is so well written and I honestly want to cry and hug you because you are one of the few people who UNDERSTANDS what it is like. I thank you so much. I will GOOGLE clinics. I feel like we've gone thru lots of professional and Ryan isn't underweight at all so he often gets dismissed because he's "thriving." But just reading this post and the comment you left on my BabyCenter post is like a big hug that I've needed for the past 3 years of this ordeal.