noun

1. facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

2. awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation

Using knowledge to help your fussy eaters

I'm just going to assume that you have already seen your family doctor or your local child health clinic about your child's fussy eating or if you haven't that you will shortly, because I am not a doctor or a health professional. I'm a mum. And feeding issues can be really complicated and you want to make sure that you are pursuing the best care you have access to for your child. But let's just say that you've done all that and the doctors and health professionals that you've seen have no specific answers for your child's fussy eating. And now you're here because you're frustrated and confused and you would just like it if your child would stop screaming at you every time you offer them the 'wrong' food.

Here's what I can tell you, not all fussy eaters are made alike and the level of help they require can be vastly different. After much observation and contemplation I suggest that a significant proportion of fussy eaters can be separated into one of four main categories. It makes sense that if you’re going to get the right kind of help for you and your fussy eater then you probably need to know which category your fussy eater belongs to. Here are my suggestions, based mostly on observation and contemplation. Here goes…

 

Category 1

  • Eats practically everything.
  • Needs little to no encouragement to eat a broad range of foods from across the entire range of food groups.
  • Most likely transitioned from eating mostly liquid food to mostly solid food with little additional input from parents.
  • Maybe fussy over a few foods and parents may still have concerns.

Help required: a broad range of family friendly recipes, and fun food activities. Patience and a spoon full of laissez-faire. In other words, chill out. No one has to like every food or food combination ever created. Your kid is going to be fine. The internet is full of help for the likes of you, so get googling.

 

Category 2

  • Eats reasonably well but possibly has quite a lot of foods that they strongly dislike.
  • Needs a bit more effort to broaden the range of foods they eat but still manages to cover all of the major food groups.
  • Most likely had a pretty smooth transition from mostly liquid to mostly solid foods, but may have had issues with more complex food combinations.
  • Parent is most likely concerned but uncertain of the best way to help their child.

Help required: a broad range of family friendly recipes and fun food activities. Patience and persistence. Consider checking out Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility, see if her approach seems like a good fit for your family. Also, if you want to, it’s really okay to just relax. Breath out the tension and get playful. Your child will be fine, hassling them and stressing them and yourself out isn’t going to improve things. It’s really not. Eating is a skill that needs to be learned, it’s nobody’s fault that your child requires a little more time and assistance.

 

Category 3

  • Eats. As in consumes food. But is extremely fussy. Rejects quite a lot of foods on sight. Refuses to try new foods or tries them and then spits them out or vomits them up.
  • Most likely had a difficult transition from mostly liquid to mostly solid food. Especially when mixed textures were added to the menu.
  • Possibly rejects whole food groups, especially vegetables, fruit and/or meat.
  • Parent is very concerned and is more concerned that the health professionals they have consulted so far aren't more concerned.
  • Parent has absolutely no idea how to help as every effort thus far has been rejected.

Help required: Empathy, self-compassion and some serious professional help. Once you’ve established that there is no physical/medical reason for their refusal to eat, I strongly suggest seeking the services of a therapist (Occupational Therapist, Speech Language Pathologist or Dietician) trained in the SOS Approach to Feeding. Also, you might like to check out these websites; Mealtime Hostage, Feeding Matters, Extreme Picky Eating. (This is the category that my son belongs to and the category that most of the resources on this site are directed at).

 

Category 4

  • Eats nothing. Literally nothing.
  • Requires medical intervention to keep alive.
  • I know very little about this last category and so I won’t do parents the disservice of pretending that I do. But please if you do know, if you have lived that experience, I would love to hear from you and work with you to improve this website and to help raise awareness.

 

Working out which category of fussy eater you are dealing with is only the first step because not only is each fussy eater unique, but so too is every family. Your personalities, your parenting styles, where you live, what services you have access to, how much money you have (or don't have), how much family support you receive, all these things and more will impact on how you deal with your extremely fussy eater. And that's okay. This is your life and you get to make the decisions that you think will best suit your particular circumstances. But if you're a single parent, or you're short on funds, or you live a million miles from anywhere, or your life is so hectic you barely have enough time to scratch yourself let alone make it to tons of appointments it probably won't feel like you have much in the way of choices. Which is really a significant part of why I created this site. I wanted to make it easier for parents to access some helpful resources while they figure out if and when and how they can access professional help.

A heads up if you are new to this journey, it will most likely take longer than you think. A lot longer. So pause, take a deep breath. This isn't a sprint or really even a marathon, it's more like a pilgrimage. Like any pilgrimage the way is paved with those who have gone before you, and there have been many. So take a look around, get your bearings. When you cross paths with your fellow pilgrims (and you will), don't be afraid to share your story or to ask for help.  

Also, don't forget to take care of yourself as the parent. And check out my book for more help.