We hear from a lot of parents who are dealing with feeding difficulties. Often, feeding difficulties can be a symptom or side effect of food allergy related conditions such as Eosinophilic Esophagitis and other GI conditions. This can occur because eating is a learned developmental skill, and one of the few activites of daily life that a child can completely control. If a child experiences discomfort associated with food they can learn to avoid this discomfort by developing food selectivity, difficult mealtime behaviors, or food aversions. Even after your child’s condition has been treated and they are no longer in pain, they still may have lingering issues at mealtimes due to learned associations with food and discomfort. For others, they may simply not like the taste of their new formula and need some help adjusting to it.
Below are some tips that we hope can help make mealtime a little less stressful for both you and your child. As always, be sure to consult with your doctor and/or feeding therapist before trying anything new.
- Transition to new formula gradually. If your child is refusing Neocate when you first switch, try mixing a small amount of it with a large amount of another beverage that they will drink. Then you can increase the concentration of Neocate gradually, until your child will accept a bottle of 100% Neocate.
- Plan predictable and routine mealtimes. Sometimes when a child is on a diet consisting mainly of formula, they will “graze” throughout the day, drinking a small amount of formula here and there. Maintaining a predictable mealtime schedule, seated in a highchair or at the table can help increase their appetite, leading to an increased intake of formula. Predictability can also help decrease anxiety about eating, and promote optimal learning about the routines, customs and social richness of mealtimes.
- Try “repackaging” their formula. If your child doesn’t like to drink their formula from an open cup, try introducing it in a sippy cup or with a straw cup with a lid (or even better, a flavor straw!) to help decrease the smell and intensity of the flavor.
- Offer choices, when possible. For example, if your child brings his or her formula to school for lunch, let them choose which flavor they want each day. This will allow them to feel more in control of their mealtimes.
Have any of you dealt with a feeding difficulty? What tips have you found helpful?
Angela Haas MA, CCC-SLP
Pediatric Feeding and Swallowing Specialist