Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mommy Tip Monday: Picky Eaters

Picky Eaters Part One
(our story, SPD and eating)

That's right, part one....I have a lot to say on the subject. The little lawyer birdie on my shoulder* has reminded me to inform you that I am not a doctor, or an occupational therapist, or an allergist. Many things can cause picky eating besides just being strong willed and holding out for chocolate. And I am neither qualified to diagnose, or treat your child....I'm not qualified for much of anything except to give you a rockin' Swedish massage in the great gem state, oooh and also I have Jr.whale trainers pin...but I think that's only valid at Sea world.

The point being, an unbalanced diet can cause all sorts of nasty things, vitamin deficiencies, weight loss, failure to thrive etc. So if after reading this you feel there may be a sensory issue causing your child's picky eating, take them to the doctor. Speech and occupational therapy have helped us.....more on that further down the line...

Hi they call me Mama, and my daughter is a picky eater....

"Hi Mama!"

My daughter was born early weighing only 3lbs 8oz. She was what some would refer to as colicky. She screamed in the early evening....and again in the early morning...when she was held too tight...too loosely....or if she didn't like the fabric of the blanket she was being swaddled in. She was referred to as "sensitive". And that she surely seemed to be. She hated the fabric on our couch and would protest loudly if either myself or my husband had the audacity to place her down there.

Words of advice from friends and family were "all babies cry"...uh huh. Let me tell you when I had my son it was night and day! Sleeping through the night within weeks, the only time he cried "without reason" was when I had eaten soy, which we found out really quickly did not set well on his tummy. I wish I had known then what I know now. Which is that my darling daughter senses, the world slightly differently. She has something called sensory processing disorder . Not only that, but at the time she was born a nurse informed me that nothing I ate would affect her colic......well it seems now that doctors are a lot more sensitive to the fact that a baby can truly be allergic to something in Mums milk. Anyhoo...let's bring this back to picky eating.....

Her problems became more apparent as we started her on solid foods, it seemed as though taste had absolutely nothing to do with what she would eat. She loved very crispy things, carrots, crackers, and very smooth foods, plain cubes of silken tofu (yes I said plain), refried beans, cream cheese.....butter...also plain. And she shunned some of the normal toddler staples, like pasta dishes, and grilled cheese. The texture in her mouth was truly displeasing to her, and regardless of how salty or sweet the dish was, she wasn't touching it if it didn't feel right.

Once I figured out it was a texture issue I was able to accommodate so that she had a balanced diet. She has never had an iron deficiency, and she has always been tall (even if she is thin). So though she is on the low end of the b.m.i. she is healthy. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for her to finish a big bowl of baby spinach salad, but I will watch happily as she slurps up a green smoothie and asks for seconds.

Now that she is older and can speak for herself I ask her what it is about a food she doesn't like...and she usually makes up words. "This spinach is too skrunkely" she will say......I look forward to the day when she uses words that can be found in Webster's. But for now it's a step in the right direction. I want eating to continue to be an enjoyable situation for her, so I try to keep a patient tone at the table when I ask her to elaborate on "skrunkely". And then I thank her for trying the skrunkely spinach.

I'm going to go into some bulleted madness now, to keep this from getting way too long. If you would like me to elaborate, or have more questions on sensory issues feel free to comment or drop me an email...I will probably refer you to someone who knows a lot more than these guys. I plan on writing a part some point. Maybe not next Monday, but eventually. I want to include a little bit on food allergies, and how to make offending foods more palatable.

  • Identify the foods your child is refusing to eat, is there a pattern to it? A certain texture that is avoided?
  • Does your child meet any of the criteria for an oral sensitivity one way or the other? I know I just discussed my daughters aversion to food.
  • Have you noticed any other indicators of SPD?

How we deal with it

  • Get help! I felt like I was failing my daughter, how could a child not like food? How could anyone not like food...perhaps I was not a good chef, maybe there was a game or trick or some other mealtime secret that I should know. Once we had her evaluated by an occupational therapist all of the pieces fell into place.
  • Know when to pick your battles. There are foods that I will never force her to eat, it's a small list, but a memorable one....because these are the foods that cause a gag reflex and have been vomited into my hands. Since it is such a small list I know that she will lead a completely normal and healthy life without these foods.
  • Evaluate your goals. Mine are, healthy, growing kids. So as long as she is getting a balanced meal, and trying one or two bites of a "scary food" I'm happy.
  • Use a calm, cheerful voice.....and be patient. My daughter eats more when she is allowed to take her time, and doesn't get ultimatums right off the bat.....she's clue where she gets that from.
  • This is a very REAL disorder. It may not make sense to me why my daughter will refuse to eat a black bean in an enchilada complaining that it is "mushy mashy" and then sing praises of a black bean burger ten minutes later. However that doesn't make it less real to her. And although I feel the eye rolls and the sceptical gazes of others when I try to explain why you should probably not force her to try those mashed potatoes unless you have a steam cleaner, I can't let others opinions of my daughter affect how I treat her.
  • Regardless of whether or not others see the things you see in your child it's still important to talk to a doctor. We had so many people tell us that there was nothing wrong with her, and try to explain away her quirks....and you know what, there isn't anything wrong with her, but there is something different about her. And now that we know what it is, and that sensory processing disorder plays a part in it we can help her.

*Never to be confused with the little elf on my shoulder.....he mostly tells me to light things on fire.


  1. Good article. The father to my children always said he could not eat beans as it made him gag. I always thought that was story. He died (not from eating beans) so was not around when my daughter and son was being raised (so I know they didn't hear his bean stories.) I fed them beans and it provoked a gag re fleck so I started believing that this was just an inheritance thing. Perhaps he passed something else along rather than the disdain for beans.
    I knew I'd learn something if I came and read your blog. I am glad they didn't inherit an elf that told them to light things on fire but he is probably cute as he does a jig around the rising flames.

  2. Glad you got something out of it. After learning about SPD I look at a lot of people I've encountered in my life differently. I am glad that there is a diagnosis for it in this day in age. Even though it is still hard, I think it will do her a lot of good as an adult to know why she may have a different reaction to something than other people.

  3. I really enjoyed this, its like even though I have talked to you guys about it I always learn something new :) and i love learning about my niece <3

  4. Thanks Mandy, glad you liked it.


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