Appetite Drop & Feeding Challenges: When to Seek Professional Help Day 2: Appetite Drop & Feeding Challenges: When to Seek Professional Help

Appetite Drop & Feeding Challenges: When to Seek Professional Help

Feeding your toddler can be an adventure filled with phases of picky eating, mealtime resistance, and changing appetites. Today, we'll look at when it’s advisable to seek professional help for atypical feeding behaviors.

Picky Eating: A Normal Phase in Children

At around 1 year, toddlers often go through phases of picky eating, which we discussed in the previous article (Click here for a quick recap). But if these behaviors persist, it may be time to seek professional guidance.

Atypical Behaviors Around Food: When to Seek Help

The issues discussed below are solvable and can be addressed with professional guidance. Remember, seeking help is a proactive and positive step in your journey as a parent.

Let's look at some atypical feeding behaviors that require professional intervention:

1) Limited variety of food: If your baby has a limited diet in terms of variety, it may be a cause for concern. Examples: They avoid entire food groups (pulses or veggies). They prefer to eat only 1-2 food groups (only cereals or only fruits). They may eat 1-2 foods from each food group but only in specific forms or preparations (they prefer soft foods like bananas only).

So when faced with the food type they dislike, they may cry, push it away, or refuse to open their mouth. They may be fussy or uncomfortable during meals. While we can't expect children to accept every food given to them, it’s important for them to have a balanced meal.

2) Explosive emotional reactions to food: If a child has a meltdown or is extremely emotional during mealtimes, especially when presented with a food they dislike, it's an uncommon behavior. Signs of this may include coming to meals upset, crying, or huge emotional outbursts.

TIP: Occasional meltdowns when a child is tired, sleepy, or unwell are understandable and normal.

3) Extreme physical reactions to food: Some have strong physical reactions to new or certain foods, even when those foods are present on the table during mealtimes. These physical reactions can include excessive gagging, vomiting, crying, screaming, or running away at the mere sight of that food. This requires professional intervention.

4) Rigid food preferences: Some toddlers cannot handle any variations in preparation of their food. Examples: They only enjoy chicken nuggets (chicken in the form of finger food) but refuse to eat chicken in curries/rice dishes. They enjoy thicker dal but will reject thinner dal.

 

5) Growth and nutritional concerns: If a child's growth is slowing down, they are not gaining weight, their weight remains stagnant for 6 months, or they are falling off the expected growth curve, it's a significant sign that their eating challenges go beyond mere behavioral concerns.

6) Dependency on screens or distractions: If a child cannot eat without a screen or TV, it's not a good sign. If parents try to take away the screen, it will likely result in tantrums or meal rejection.

7) Requiring separate meals: If you’re preparing a separate meal for the baby every time, different from what’s cooked for everyone else, it’s concerning.

8) Anxiety in social settings: Some children may have anxiety in social situations like parties, where they come across different foods. E.g., if the child refuses to eat at a birthday party because the food is not what they are used to at home.

9) Other behaviors

  • If they struggle to chew or swallow their food or they gulp it down without chewing.
  • If they take unusually long to eat or store food in their mouth without chewing/swallowing.
  • If they only accept one specific food texture and they end up gagging when texture is altered slightly.
  • If they go for several days without eating or eat very little food in a week.
  • If they have frequent constipation, which affects their appetite.

These behaviors are not typical and should be evaluated by a healthcare provider. 

10) Stressful mealtimes: If mealtimes between parent and child are always stressful, it may lead to future eating difficulties for the child.

 

Professionals like pediatricians, feeding therapists, or child nutritionists can offer helpful guidance by investigating the underlying issues bothering your baby.

 

WE SUGGEST: Early intervention is key. It lays the foundation for a child's lifelong relationship with food and influences their physical and mental health.

Learn the right ways to nourish from experts