We've tried all the basic "tricks" and tips for getting a picky kid to eat, and those haven't been very successful for us. We recently met with a nutrition consultant and having seen the limited list of foods he's ever been willing to taste in his life (under 50) and the number of foods he's willing to eat on a regular basis (under 12), she decided the best approach for us to take would be to go back to the basics of a good old fashioned eating plan. We are to try this plan until early November, then we will meet with our pediatrician again to talk about seeing an Occupational Therapist. She said that the Occupational Therapist will want to know if we've tried this already, and if we didn't, they'd insist we try it before anything else anyway, so we've begun this plan and have been sticking to it pretty rigidly for a few days. I thought people may be curious about the plan, so here are the basic rules.
First off, we have to eat on a schedule instead of grazing. This is of the utmost importance for success. Aias was the kind of kid that wanted to graze on breast milk and cracker-type foods all day, so he was never really hungry enough to want to try something else.
Second, we need to either all eat the same thing, OR if there is a restaurant situation, Aias needs to be offered what each of the adults are eating so that he can be in the presence of someone eating the same food.
The schedule is sort of like this for us:
She said the most important is that 2-3 hours passes between meals. For smaller kids 2, for larger kids 3.
Food needs to go in front of the kid for NO LONGER than 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the meal is done. No big deal should be made about how much food wasn't eaten, but it's ok to praise food that has been eaten.
Each meal needs to consist of a full serving of one item the child will almost certainly eat... rice, noodle, etc for us. This means something healthy; not potato chips or something. It should also include at LEAST one other thing that is "new." This doesn't mean that it always has to be something different. It's ok for the same "new" items to appear a few times in a week. In fact, that's good, because then the child will get familiar with it. Often the child won't eat the new thing or even try it, and that's ok. No big deal should be made of what they ate or how much they ate of it. Adults should also be seen consuming the "new" item.
No bribes including food can be used as rewards incentives during this time, especially not for tasting or eating food. It's ok to say "If you taste your peas, we can read a book after dinner" but if it doesn't happen, just let it go. It isn't ok to badger the kid, and it isn't ok to offer a dessert or "yummy food" as a reward for eating a new food because that implies that you think the new food is yucky and that someone should be rewarded with better food for eating it.
If the kid sits down at the meal, eats the thing they like, and ignores the thing they don't like, then asks for more of the food they do like, it's advised to not indulge.
Between meals, there shouldn't be any snacks. There should also be no juice or milk. For some kids, water will fill them up, but for others it won't. (I personally wouldn't withhold water from Aias).
Snacks and meals should be rotated regularly so the kids never anticipate what foods they will be having, either.
Our job: to be in control of the schedule and the foods that are offered.
His job: to decide what he will eat, won't eat, and how much.
Finally, in our case, nursing needs to be limited. Aias has been reducing the number of times he nurses in a day, but for the most part, he's been using grazing on breast milk as an excuse to not eat things he doesn't like. We are nursing when he wakes up, and before bed, and I encourage water when he asks during the day.
We're not certain what to do if he goes a whole day without eating at all, but luckily that hasn't been an issue yet (touch wood). So far, the plan has been working out nicely. I have to admit, it's been the hardest on us. I'll keep everyone updated on his progress.
*Please note: this plan is behavioural, so it operates under the assumption that physical or sensory issues with food, phobias, and other serious psychological issues aren't the cause behind the problem eating. Part of the reason we are trying this is to help narrow the problem down because generally, over time, this type of plan (if used consistently over a period of time) will produce success in many kids.
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