Fussy eating is not the “new normal” – keep that glass half full and wait for your silver lining.

Oh how wonderful it was to have 7 days away on a family break. This was my view where I spent many afternoons reading and thinking. One of the things that I dwelled upon was how far my Mr 8 has come in his food journey.

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A lot of my patients will know that my first born had reflux and as a 9 month old, struggled to transition to lumpy textures. He then grew into a fussy eater who definitely challenged me as a feeding therapist. In my sessions with parents, I will often talk about my emotions with Mr 8 (then Mr 1,2,3 etc) and his acceptance or rather refusal of meals. This emotional upheaval for me as a mother and feeding therapist/paediatric feeding speech pathologist played a huge role in our road and really helped me understand the complexity of parental stress (and feelings of failure) around family meals. But guess what? I’m not a failure and neither are you!!

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But that’s not why I’m writing this post (although this is a huge topic that needs to be considered). I’m writing it because a friend told me recently, she thought her child was fussy and then she spoke to her mothers group who helped her feel better – because their kids were “worse” than hers. So she’s not worried about her child anymore, every child today is fussy, it’s the new normal.

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But what I want you to remember is that it doesn’t have to be this way for your child, my now Mr 8 eats a wonderfully varied diet. You see – I discovered his “in” – he dislikes the sensory feel of mushy textures like avocado, cooked carrot and potato. He prefers his vegetables and fruit crunchy and crisp. So we cater meals with consideration – if I have steamed vegetables with a protein for dinner, I also provide a raw version of vegetables (one less step of meal prep for me!). If we have a stir fry, I try to make sure the vegetables are crisp but if I got distracted and they are mushy, again – I provide a raw version on the side. He loves eating protein and carbs, so if I cater with consideration, he will eat his vegetables and fruit too.

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So here is my message behind this blog post – hooray for all the mummy support with helping parents get through mealtime battles (Dr Google will find numerous blog posts around this for you) But a BIG NO to:

  1. Mummy shaming – parenting is hard enough without the bullies as well.
  2. Mummy agreement and “acceptance” of doing nothing

DRUM ROLL – I believe that if you want to make a difference to your child’s diet, then you should have the right to strive for that. And with the right advice, you can work in with your child’s temperament and make that difference.

Above all, stick with your gut – if this feels right for your child, then continue, if it doesn’t, then it’s probably the wrong feeding strategy or the wrong time.

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I can tell you personally and professionally, that if you keep plugging away at that mountain (with the right advice), when your child is ready to eat more, he will make the rocks fall away and start eating different foods. Keep your glass half full and don’t settle…. Your child will meet you half way someday.

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If you’re in Newcastle, you must try Moor – it has the most amazing Middle Eastern food!

I constantly dance on the inside when Mr 8 tries new foods – we went from peanut butter on crackers (only) to sausages on bread and McDonalds to kids meals at restaurants (he just ate the chicken nuggets) and now – ordering adult meals at restaurants (like “Moor” above) and placing it in the middle of the table to share (great for tasting different foods and developing appetite regulation on all our sides)- it’s just wonderful to see how he explores new cuisines. He eats everything under the sun (and huge amounts too) but continues to stick to his sensory food preferences.

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He finally put cheese on his pasta – it’s only taken 8 years!!

So you see – he did meet me half way and I didn’t give up – I stuck to my routine, meal planning and worked out his “in”. We did use a few other strategies (I’m a feeding speech pathologist after all!) but discovering his “in” was the game changer.

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Raw carrot salad anyone?

Mealtimes are now a pleasure (we love spending time together as a family and going out to new restaurants) and I also accept his little quirks (he never eats chips – I mean who doesn’t like hot chips!!) like he accepts mine (seriously peas are the only vegetable I refuse to eat – never liked them as a child and never cook with them as an adult). So we all have our “in” (or sensory preferences in life).

So this blog post is not another “advice” post, it’s a reminder that sometimes in life, it pays to stick to your guns and wait – your silver lining will come. It may be like me – you need to work towards discovering your child’s “in” but I want you to remember that there are no quick fixes to fussy eating, it takes time, consistency and patience.

Just please don’t give up, keep your glass half full and wait for your silver lining because it will eventually come.

Until next time,

Happy mealtimes

Val

Paediatric Feeding Speech Pathologist @ Let’s Eat! Paediatric Speech Pathology

This website and information on this blog post is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant or intended to replace Speech Pathology assessment and management nor medical or nutritional care for a child. It is recommended that you discuss any concerns or questions you might have with your Speech Pathologist and managing Doctor and develop an individualised team plan specifically for your child.

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About the author of this blog post

Valerie Gent is an Australian based Speech Pathologist with 13 years experience in Paediatric Feeding. She has recently opened a private practice called ‘Let’s Eat! Paediatric Speech Pathology’ that caters for Newcastle based babies and children with feeding difficulties. Valerie is passionate about working in the area of paediatric feeding and special needs and has been involved in the teaching and training of Australian Speech Pathology University students and allied health professionals. You can find out more about Valerie Gent and ‘Let’s Eat! Paediatric Speech Pathology’ via her website www.letseatspeech.com.au and Facebook page www.facebook.com/LetsEatPaediatric SpeechPathology or email her on valerie.gent@letseatspeech.com.au Ty Montgomery Authentic Jersey