Some common childhood eating behaviours happen when children begin to experiment and explore their own independence. This is part of a child’s normal psychological development and parents should not be unduly worried. Rarely is it due to serious underlying diseases. Food refusal occurs when a child refuses to eat new food or whatever food that has been offered.
Infants show difficulty by :
- Not weaning at appropriate time
- Refusing to start taking solid food
Older children may :
- Be picky eaters – eat only certain types of food.
- Refuse to try new food
- Refuse to eat any type of vegetables
- Eat only one particular food item all the time
types of foods are usually refused
- Children age 1 to 5 years may be afraid to try new food, some become picky eaters and will only eat certain food. The commonest problem are children who refuse to eat any vegetables.
- Food refusal in infants as in refusing to take solid food is a more serious problem.
causes food refusal
Food refusal in children is part of their normal psychological development. These children are generally healthy despite refusing certain food and they do not have any disease.
However, if your child has other symptoms such as loss of weight, vomiting and choking, your child would need a proper evaluation by your doctor. He may have other diseases (which is beyond just food refusal) such as :
- Food aversion disorders
- Oral motor dysfunction
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease
- Neuromuscular disorders – e.g. Cerebral palsy
- Intestinal obstruction
If your child is growing and developing normally, then the food refusal may be normal.
Danger signs :
If your child has other symptoms or signs such as the following, consult your doctor
- Poor weight gain
- Slow development
- Coughing, choking or gagging during feeding
- Recurrent vomiting
- There are usually no complications if your child is growing and developing normally.
- Despite not eating certain types of food, your child usually would not be at risk of malnourishment or any nutrient deficiency.
Your child needs to be properly evaluated by a doctor before any treatment. Even if your child chooses to reject one food group from his diet, there is usually no cause for concern if your child is growing normally.
If your child is growing normally despite refusing certain foods, try the following :
- Offer rejected food type at another time. Keep trying. Do not give up.
- Keep introducing new types of food to your child.
- Prepare different food (include those that the child likes) at each meal.
- Present food in an interesting manner and in a variety of ways .
- Avoid sugary snacks in between meals.
- You can give your child multivitamins supplements for a period when your child refuses certain food.
Most importantly, do not turn mealtimes into a battle.
- Learn to be less anxious as this will reinforce child’s refusal to eat and create a vicious cycle.
- Do not force child to eat.
- Do not fight with your child during mealtimes.
- Do not pay attention to or punish your child for food not eaten.
- Give positive reinforcements such as a small reward if your child eats the food he/she has rejected before.
You should :
- set example by eating proper meals with your child
- introduce new food from an early age (6 months)
- not give too much milk or juice in between meals
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