I have a 6 year old daughter with a complex medical background and eating issues primarily related to anxiety and control. History: DD was born premature at 30 weeks, early history of oral motor issues, texture and sensory issues, enlarged tonsils and adenoids (removed at age 3), food allergies to milk protein, eggs and peanuts, and reflux. Early relationship with food was not a happy one. Add to this nervous first time parents who always told DD to eat and stop playing with food (from age of 1). This has now created a very anxious child around food, especially when asked to eat at the table. She is now very nervous at the table, rarely initiates more than a few bites per meal, even when hungry and presented with favorite foods. We moved mealtime to tv room for about a year, which created more problems. She ate better, was more relaxed, but meals became hour long grazing periods and never taught her how to eat at table. Now DD rarely eats lunch at school, is more interested in social time and comes home lethargic. We've just moved all meals back to table, are trying to stop discussing food, but DD barely eats because she says she is nervous. We've made every mistake a first time parent could make - making an issue of food, talking about food and allowing her to control meal time with food issues. Our fear of her not eating and losing weight makes it very difficult to relax and enjoy meal time. How do we get out of this cycle and find what is causing her to not eat at the table? I know this can take a long time to undo, but where do we start without fear of her losing weight? Pediatrician says she is in 50% percentile. She gained 7 pounds in last year (mostly due to my insisting that she eat some of each meal). Everyone says she will eat when hurry but we don't see it happening -- or only when away from table. She often wakes me up early in the morning because she is hungry, but the second we come to the table, she is no longer hungry.
From your measurements, her weight is between the 75-50th percentile for her age which is normal. She must be eating enough to have a good weight like that. It can be frustrating when your child does not eat well. You did not mention OT for swallowing/ chewing problems? Some children just do not know how to do it and need to be taught. They need to learn how to chew and swallow food properly; it is not really an instinct behavior like sucking. If she is having difficulty, suggest having her evaluated. If she is drinking milk, recommend giving her milkshakes (milk and ice cream blended) and/or yogurt smoothies (yogurt, ice cream, and fruit blended) in place of milk at meals and snacks for calories and protein so she will not lose weight. Engage her in helping you in the kitchen. At almost 6 years old they can put the napkins and spoons on the table when you are setting it. Have her put the ice cream in the blender when you make the milkshakes. Sometimes engaging children with food will help increase their intake of food. Suggest using the table as a family for fun games and social activities so she gets used to the table, too. The most important thing is to relax at meals. It is frustrating and it becomes the battle of the wits between your child and you. Forcing a child to eat will not work. Let her eat what she wants even if it is not nutritional sound. It is ok if she does not want certain foods just let it go. Eventually she will eat. Recommend further suggestions from the Child Behavior Forum. Hoped this helped you.
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