Picky Eater or Problem Feeder?
Does your child have problems eating? Is mealtime stressful? Do you know if they are a picky eater or a problem feeder? Pediatric therapists get this question often and, as a result, have tried to come up with an answer. The consensus after lots of classes, trainings, research, and conversations with families and other health care professionals, is that a picky eater is just that, an eater. A picky eater eats food with family and follows typical social routines without physical or behavioral difficulties. A problem feeder is a problem because they show negative patterns surrounding meals and the process of eating.
Reasons Why a Picker Eater and a Problem Feeder are Different
First of all, a child can be labeled a problem feeder and not a picky eater for a number of reasons. These reasons lead to stress and problems around mealtime and can include:
- Discomfort and pain can lead to a child’s resistance to eat. Medical causes, such as reflux, allergies, food intolerances, and constipation need to be ruled out because they can prevent progression with eating.
- Poor movement of the mouth and tongue can cause problems feeding. Oral movement can include tongue control and chewing and follows a pattern. When the pattern is not met then the skill is considered immature. Immature oral skills can lead to problems with feeding.
- Similarly, motor skill development also follows a pattern. Head control, core strength, and sitting posture support oral motor skills. Lack of motor skills can cause impaired oral motor skills and lead to problem feeding.
- The sensory system is part of the nervous system. It includes vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and balance. Because of this, the sensory system needs to be checked to determine its ability to perceive and interpret information. This ability follows a sequence of intensity. Atypical eating patterns and routines can occur when a child perceives tastes or textures at an intensity that interferes with eating.
- While kids learn many positive things from their environment, environmental and social influences can lead to learned behaviors that interfere with a child’s feeding habits and routines. These behaviors can create problems with family’s mealtime routine and have big consequences.
MOSAIC Can Help!
Successful eating/feeding is an involved process, therefore, often requires a team to fix the problem. MOSAIC can help you determine whether your child is picky eater or a problem feeder because our skilled therapists specialize in feeding. They will answer any questions you have and discuss your concerns. Most importantly, MOSAIC’s therapists have completed additional education and training on feeding and can fully support a child and their family.