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!