resistant eater support thread - come and join me.....

(276 Posts)
tricot39 Thu 08-Nov-12 19:32:20

I hate mealtimes and have done for 4 years now. DS is 4 and has issues with food (likely due to illness in his first year) since week 4. We finally sought help last year and have seen paediatricians, SALTs and dieticians. It hasn't stopped the number of acceptable foods declining. We are mow down to plain/dry carbs and soft desserts/smoothies and chocolate. We hide supplements in the smoothies!

Over the past year we have got so much better at keeping things calm at mealtimes and trying to avoid pressuring him to eat (i give myself 3 "eat ups" per meal). But all that means is that the stress gets bottled up.

Anyway having ruled out physical and social/communication issues it seems to come down to phobias. He is a cautious chap and doesn't like mess or lumps/bits. The last SALT i saw actually knew what she was talking about and said that if we did nothing else we should do desensitisation exercises. We plan to use the ones in Just Take A Bite [[ http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1932565124 here]]. This thread is partly to record that process and keep us on track.

We dont know anyone else with a resistant eater and so have noone to let off steam with. I hope there are some of you out there in a similar situation who want to share? Particularly if you are further down this road - i want to hope that these execrises will work but hope faded a couple of years back if i am honest sad

If you have read this and and are thinking about posting about your dc who isnt that keen on veg or that "kids will not starve themselves" then please don't bother. You are way out of your depth and i get enough of this in rl! Sorry to sound rude but i am hoping to find some people who understand how utterly helpless i feel <sob>

Anyone out there?

cantmakecarrotcake Sun 11-Nov-12 09:06:58

Stuntnun, I'm really interested in the desensitisation / star chart method of introducing new foods. At what age can you start that, do you think? I think, at 21 months, DD is too young, but hopefully it's something we can use when she's a bit older.

Someone said how they'd be ecstatic if their DC would eat pasta. Me too! Why pasta I don't know as it would usually be served with a sauce (which she wouldn't eat) but it seems like such a normal and nutritious food (and one they serve at nursery fairly frequently).

DD's main meals are currently sweet corn (sometimes peas) and either sausage or fish finger (often neither) and has completely gone off her previous favourite of Yorkshire pudding (served to often, I suspect). I've taken to making my own skinless sausages with lamb (for the iron) or turkey but she'll reject them at the meal and just possibly eat them in the buggy when she's a bit bored/distracted. Doesn't always work though.

Thanks Pop, it's nice to hear from another step parent smile

I think the biggest problem for us is the health issues that his eating is causing - he's overweight, has terrible toileting trouble (to the point his bum bleeds) and yet there really is nothing we can do to help him just 2 nights a week sad

We had a minor breakthrough last night in that he ate two spoonfuls of rice before exclaiming that it tasted funny.

I honestly think that a lot of his eating issues are texture related and not taste related but I'm not sure how to overcome this. He's adamant it's the taste he exclaims that he doesn't like things before he's properly tasted it, i.e. it has literally just touched his lips when he spits it out or gags.

As I said before, his Mum won't work with us to try and overcome this. I try not to get involved but its difficult when its me who cooks our meals so naturally, DP and I have discussed it. Also when he's at ours and in pain because he can't poo, it's distressing.

StuntNun Sun 11-Nov-12 10:12:38

We have pre-made Velcro star charts which we use for rewarding all good behaviour, e.g. one star for tidying up their Lego or setting the table. You use them for whichever behaviour you want to encourage but you shouldn't have more than about five things on the go to prevent confusion and they change over time. For example my DS2 use to get one star for getting dressed with help and two stars for getting dressed by himself as a means of encouraging him to dress himself when he started nursery school. Now he doesn't need stars any more, he just gets dressed and he gets the stars for other good behaviour instead. For food we used to have one star for trying a bit of everything, two for eating everything on their plate, three if they eat seconds as well. We have now dropped the one star reward. DS2 gets two stars for having his supplement drink because he wasn't keen on them at first. They don't get rewards for breakfast as we only give them foods they like for breakfast. Rewards are five stars for a go in the lucky dip bag which contains items of approx. 50p value such as kinder eggs, temporary tattoos, sweets, trading cards, stickers. Fifteen stars gets them a big reward such as money, a trip to the ice cream shop, a day at the zoo, a small toy. You don't have to spend money, rewards could be choosing the dinner or the next film you watch, playing a game, staying up ten minutes late, whatever motivates your child.

With a younger child the rewards may need to be more immediate. When my boys were smaller I got a big pack of star stickers and they got a star put on their clothes right away (may need Sellotape on top to keep them on). You can let other people know to praise the child, i.e. 'I see you got a star, what did you do to get that?' to reinforce it. You could remove stickers from their clothes at the end of each day and stick them on a piece of paper to save up for a reward. It is a very effective method of encouraging good behaviour in your children. You just need to work out the behaviours you want to encourage and the reward system. It must be flexible so the behaviours change over time. Also a two-year-old must be rewarded right away, at three they should be getting something almost every day, older children should be able to 'save up' stars for something bigger. Also you don't want to bankrupt yourself, I got a stack of temporary tattoos from eBay so some rewards cost pennies.

I do recommended the desensitisation approach for introducing new foods. It works on the specific foods that you use it on but it also lets them learn to enjoy food and trying different things. I was gobsmacked the other day when DS2 asked for an apple (he likes apples) and DS1 went and got one for him AND ONE FOR HIMSELF! He hasn't eaten an apple in five years but he decided to try one again. That was something we hadn't pushed as he would eat oranges and soft fruits but he is becoming more open to foods again rather than pulling the 'I don't like...' routine all the time.

It is a long-term process to improve your child's eating but now that I'm getting somewhere (DS1 is nine now and has had issues since birth) it really encourages me to keep going. It has been a struggle but I do think that my children will be 'normal' eaters as adults, perhaps even more adventurous than most because they have had to overcome their difficulties with certain foods and textures.

PopMusicShoobyDoobyDoA Sun 11-Nov-12 11:05:35

MissChristmas. Poor boy. It's not right that he is so constipated. Has he been to see the GP? I wouldn't rely on the ex to sort it out, get DP to take him to the doctors. Also, do his school know? For example, if the doctor says he needs to take meds (laxatives) so many times a day, perhaps ask the school to make sure that its given at certain times of the day. There was a boy in my class who had toileting problems and we made sure he took his meds (the parents of the child had a letter from the gp sent to the school). I've done something similar with my DS who needs to eat at certain times - the GP wrote a letter saying he must be offered foods at certain times (I send the food in) of the day and the school have been fantastic about it.

Does he get any rewards for trying new foods? Also, even putting it to his lips is a big thing - he should be applauded & rewarded for it. I get mine to kiss new food, which he thinks is hilarious and we make a big song and dance about it when he does it. If he doesn't want to then it's no big deal.

Actually, tricot I have just been reading the recommended book. It's very interesting. I haven't read all of it but I'm enjoying the no nonsense but supportive writing style. It saddened me that some of the things I have done may have contributed but I wont feel too guilty about it and look forwards instead. I will definitely try the desensitising approach and I want to thank you, tricot for starting this thread. thanks

Once I know what I am doing, I'm going to let the school/grandparents/friends/family know of our approach so that we can all sing from the same hymn sheet. As he eats school dinners with his teachers, I think it's important to let them know. What do you think?

PopMusicShoobyDoobyDoA Sun 11-Nov-12 11:10:07

Stuntnun Wow, thats a big massive thing that your DS1 did: getting an apple for himself. Super well done to him and to you too. grin I think the consistency is the key here, whereas I get fed up when the results are seen straight away. I realise now from reading your post that its a long journey.

3b1g Sun 11-Nov-12 11:20:18

Not sure if I'm allowed to join in or not. DS2 is 10. He is on meds for his ADHD which suppress his appetite between about 9am and about 4pm. He also has Asperger's and sensory issues, so certain textures are out and v.reluctant to try new foods. He has dropped from 25th centile to below 9th for weight and height.

PopMusicShoobyDoobyDoA Sun 11-Nov-12 11:52:34

when the results are not seen straight away!

3b1g welcome aboard smile

StuntNun Sun 11-Nov-12 12:28:13

3b1g snap yours is the same as mine only one year older! We switched DS1 to a different medication (from Equasym to Concerta) and his appetite in the evening improved due to the Concerta wearing off earlier in the day. His paediatrician advised us to give an extra meal so now both DSs get 'supper' as part of their bedtime routine which could be strawberries, yoghurt, ice cream, biscuits or toast with as much milk as we can persuade them to eat. For textures you can get them to overcome that with desensitisation. My DS1 now actively seeks out mushrooms so it was definitely the texture not the taste that made him gag on them. He wouldn't eat mashed potato (or any type of potato apart from chips or crisps) unless he sprinkled peas in it. Bizarre but again I think it was a textural issue.

He did get prescribed Lactulose by the GP but his Mum tasted it and decided he wouldn't like it so won't give it to him - she does apply cream when he gets sore but that isn't dealing with the issue, just the resulting discomfort!

Unfortunately we aren't "allowed" to take him to the GP. The last time we did was because he had a horrendous rash which turned out to be slapped cheek. She went mental that we dared to take him to the out of hours doctor and took him to see her own GP the next day anyway. Ditto with school, apparently it's nothing to do with DP.

We do praise him for trying new things and even though he knows we will be pleased with him for trying, we still get the tears and tantrums. Star charts and rewards haven't worked so far because its only at weekends that we get to do this. It seems that all our hard work gets undone during the week and we're back to square one again!

What also doesn't help is that when we're at his grandparents, his GF gets cross with him for not trying things/only eating his favourite things. It's hard to explain to him that it isn't DSS's fault that he's this way with food and punishing him doesn't work! This is when we usually let him have pizza to save the resulting arguments.

Hope your LO is feeling better today!

3b1g Sun 11-Nov-12 13:12:52

StuntNun I like the extra meal idea. We've been giving him a build-up type milkshake in the evening but he might be willing to eat a biscuit or cereal bar or some crackers with it. We also started with Equasym but have found Concerta better as there is less rebound in the evenings. We have now got to the point where he will try a small bite or spoonful of the unfamiliar food, unless it is risotto or apple crumble.

StuntNun Sun 11-Nov-12 13:17:19

MissChristmas my DS1 got an impacted bowel after a case of threadworms and the lactulose was wonderful stuff, sorted him out gently and easily. I keep a bottle of it in the cupboard now just in case.

It did nothing for me during pregnancy Stunt but I think I'll try and get some to keep in the cupboard for him! Can you buy it over the counter?

StuntNun Sun 11-Nov-12 14:10:41

You can get it over the counter and it can take a long time to work because it's a mild laxative. That's why I like it so much, it doesn't send you running to the loo. Pregnancy might be a different matter because your bowel transit time is increased and if you're on iron tablets all beta are off!

TaffyandTeenyTaffy Sun 11-Nov-12 14:13:53

This is a really interesting thread - thank you. DS is 2y9m and although possibly not a resistant eater yet, does seem to be heading that way - with a very limited range of foods - consisting of mainly weetabix, pasta, garlic bread, yoghurt, sausages, crisps and biscuits. He will eat fruit and sometimes tomato and cucumber - but if he eats too much of this he wont eat anything else and loses weight.

At his 2 year review he was about right for his age with everything apart from his speech - which was a year delayed. He has now dropped of the bottom centile charts for his weight (despite being born a whopping 6lb 13 at 8 weeks prem!). We are waiting for our paediatricians appointment and hoping to get a SALT referral soon, so I will be watching this thread with interest (and compiling my questions for the health professionals!).

I have just read this thread nodding all the way through!

My dd is almost 3. Weaning was a non-starter, she relied on bottles of milk almost exclusively until she was 18 months old. Then her weight (never good but steady on 9th centile) started to drop, she picked up every bug going which killed her appetite even more.

Like most of you have said dd only eats a very small range of foods, and only if she feels like it. Foods can fall in and out of favour and nothing on earth could make her eat something she didn't want to.

Last winter her health got so bad she was in hospital for a month with Pneumonia. She stopped eating completely and was NG fed for 5 months (feb-July this year). Finally got referrals to SALT, dietitian, consultant, gastro surgeon.

She just about avoided a gastrostomy in July by accepting Frebrini energy drinks orally. She is still on 2-3 bottles of frebrini a day and eats very small amounts of specific foods. She has improved a lot since being on long term antibiotics and not picking up as many infections. But I have to choose between offering her food with about 30% chance of her even trying, or giving her a bottle of frebrini which I know gives her everything she needs.
She is still underweight and sometimes loses a few lb then puts it back on. She is in 18-24 trousers and even they fall down!

She was classed as having a severe food aversion earlier this year but I'm not sure how accurate that is.

Sorry for the ramble and thanks for reading if you've got this far

didldidi Sun 11-Nov-12 16:44:00

We definitely have a food refuser. What is difficult is knowing how often to offer the foods I know he will definitely eat or keep trying 'family' meals (which I know he won't touch a mouthful of) in the hope that one day he might try. So I either end up cooking two meals or a extremely repetitive rota of about five meals! how do the rest of you manage this?

chocolateygoo Sun 11-Nov-12 18:50:52

Its really interesting to see that in many cases it seems to be a personality trait (shyness, not liking mess etc), and in some others there is more of a physical cause (tongue tie).

Big hugs to SouthernComforts, it sounds like you and your dd have been through an awful lot. Although my DS is nowhere near as bad, I know what you mean about wondering whether to offer something new or stick with what you know works. For the past month I've been offering a 'normal' lunch alongside his usual food, but it has been a total waste of food. I've ordered the book and really looking forward to seeing what ideas it suggests.

Its good too to hear stories from the other side. From my own experience as a very fussy eater, I didn't start eating normally until I went to university. When everyone else is going out to italians, chinese and curries, it feels very embarrassing to say you won't go because you don't like it but you've never even tried pasta or rice! In the back of my mind, I always remember being told as a young child that my uncle didn't eat properly until he left home, and that kind of reassured me that I could and would get over my own fear when I was ready to, in private and under my own control. I just don't want DS to have to wait that long to enjoy his food.

Thanks for the replies re vitamins. I will have a look for some soluble ones to put in DS's milk, for peace of mind.

chocolateygoo Sun 11-Nov-12 18:58:16

p.s. Primrose123 your DD could be me 15 years ago! I only ate apples and potatoes from the "fruit and veg" category. I now love all sorts of fruit and veg. You sound like you are doing a great job smile

Chandon Sun 11-Nov-12 19:26:52

My son has always been incredibly fussy, even as a baby he refused to take powder milk or a bottle. I weaned him to a sippy cup with cows milk when he was 1.

I don t know what the cause of it all is, it is partly his personality ( fastidious, sensitive, cannot cope with noise, crowds ( birthday parties made him cry til he was about 6 or 7), mess, dirty hands or stinky smells. The fact that he had rota virus aged 2 ( nasty stomach disease) and had to be put on a drip made things worse.

When he was 2,5 he still only spoke 3 words ( ma, pa and no), he was borderline underweight, and would only eat pasta, banana, toast, cheerios, scrambled eggs and milk! And that was all.

We stressed ourselves out and had massive rows over it. I noticed that DH putting pressure on him had the opposite effect. I asked everyone kinly to butt out, and let me try it my way.

I would mostly cook what he liked and knew, and occasinally place something new alongside with it, with no pressure to try. I would also just remove the plate after mealtimes without comment. I would later top him up on full fat milk and cream crackers ( why are dry carbs accepted?! ).

Somehow, by taking the pressure off completely, apart from an occasional " why don't you try a bite of this?", and not getting angry if he did not, the whole food situation calmed down.

Gradually he became interested in other foods. he is 10 now, and eats a balanced diet though lts of things are still off limit, mainly to do with mixed or lumpy textures( baked beans or shepherds pie make him gag).

Some things that help:
1. involving him in the preparation of food. This way he learned to eat bolognaise aged 8, massive breakthrough, though he only has one spoon of sauce.
2. Don't take a hardline approach, it does not work
3. Never give up, one step forwards, two steps back is inevitable at times
4. Try to share your love and enjoyment of food, have a nice chat during dinner, make mealtimes a pleasant experience.

Saying all that, today DH had a go at DS for not finishing his plate and I had to remind him we do nt do that anymore. At the time, when I started taking control I told Dh" how would you feel if someone breathed down your neck at every mouthful, telling you to eat more?!"

Good luck, and don't worry. My DS (10) is still very slender but is the tallest in his year! And his speech delay have developed into dyslexia, don't know if that is all connected.

My best friend says my DS is an example of a so called Highly Sensitive child. With those kids, you have to give them space.

Wishing you lots of patience !

tricot39 Sun 11-Nov-12 19:54:17

chocolatey i dont know about other brands but.the floradix vitamins taste very fruity and are quite syrupy. Not sure you could hide them in milk!

I think the desensitisation techniques depend on the child. The key to all is to back off and place no stress. Rewards must not be food related. Stars sound good but would have no affect on ds. Asking him to try stuff just makes mealtimes worse so we have the food we are eating on his compartment plate alongside what we expect him to eat (not always easy to predict). We tell him about the food so he knows all their names but we no longer ask him to kiss or lick or bite stuff (the last salt we saw said to back off completely on eating things at the table) but if he does he gets heaps of praise while we try to ignore/not draw attention to/reward "bad" behaviour. But he must sit at the table with us. If he is not eating i try to get.him to talk about nursery or his engines so that.food.doesnt take over. But i would prefer it if a star chart had worked. Unfortunately he is.immune to peer pressure so that is no help!

misschristmas i agree with the advice above to back off and give him food he likes. The best thing you can probably do is to.show him what a happy relaxed mealtime is like. He is more likely to join in that way. Also you are never going to be sure whether it was a nature nuture thing with his dm. I wrestle with this a lot about my ds - does he.eat this way because i made.him that way? Or because he wants to be that way? Or a combination of the two? In the end i will never know but i am entirely sure that it is up to ds to change it - if he wants.

So our desensitisation has to start with his head! We will be looking at food and the body and nutrition. I hope that by learning about that and health he might change. Maybe that is the angle to take with your dss. Poor mite must have had a stressful time and now feel physically poor. You can't solve the eating head on so lots of info, suupport and tlc is the way forward imo.

Chandon Mon 12-Nov-12 07:39:53

All of you who think maybe you " made" them that way, I very much doubt it.

I think these kids are just born that way, wired differently, it may be accerbated by life events though ( such as in our case having had the drip pushed down his throat which was an ordeal for him).

OP, let us know how you get on smile

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PopMusicShoobyDoobyDoA Mon 12-Nov-12 08:48:04

tricot. Have you started the process yet? I know you have sorted out his environment in terms of chairs etc. Are you going to start at chapter nine? I have now read the whole book and there are a couple of points that really stood out. My DS definitely suffers from sensory overload. Interestingly, we were out at nandos yesterday eve and we had to wait ages for our food. He got more and more stressed because of the noise levels. At one point he covered his ears and said I don't know where all the noise is coming from. When I asked him what noise, he said the baby crying and the music. I had not even heard the baby, who was the other side of the restaurant! He has always been like this, even as a baby. What confused me was that they seem to be saying its either a sensory issue or its a chewing/physical issue - that it can't be both. Did I read that right?

So, what I wanted to know was, are you going to do the food acceptance exercises whilst you are still offering foods he won't eat? Or are you going to stop offering new foods to eat at meal times whist you do that part?

In terms of food jags (where they eat the same thing over and over and then stop eating it all together), the advice was to carry on offering other foods as well whilst they are on their jags. Also, have some bread on the table so that if they don't like the food, they can fill up on bread.

misschristmas it sounds like your DSS has a lot going on in his life, I agree with tricot about showing him what a happy relaxed meal looks like.

StuntNun Mon 12-Nov-12 09:08:19

Chandon I'm currently expecting my third DS (overdue actually) and wondering whether he'll have the same eating problems as his brothers. Both of them have slightly different issues but it was obvious from very early on that there were problems. At least I've already been through the mill so I'll be better equipped to deal with it this time as I think the stress to the parents makes up more than half the problem. Like when well meaning idiots people are telling you your child 'will eat when they're hungry' but all they've eaten that day are two peas and a chip. I think the health visitor assumed I was joking when I told her that.

FourTables Mon 12-Nov-12 10:03:27

StuntNun - I SO remember those days. Two peas and a chip... I am sure peope DON'T really believe that is all they have eaten. I recall a day when it was three raisins and half a breadstick...

I agree the stress on parents from this is enormous. You worry for your child so much, for their health now and in the future, and their mental health. Then there are all the outside worries about what other people are thinking about you/your child. The pressure is horrible.

For my DD, I am not sure why it started, or if there was ever one thing that started it, but it was a LOT to do with control. I think backing off was the hardest, yet most effective thing we did. We gave DD the foods she would eat, but there was always others available that the rest of us were eating. Over months and years, she became prepared to try, and as I said upthread, now eats really, really well. She still has fussiness, but it is norrmal levels, and hey, I can be fussy too. What we don't have is hour long mealtimes fuill of cajoling, tears, tantrums and no food being eaten.

Re whoever asked about referrals - the HV was concerned about her weight even before she was weaned as she was skinny always (though average height), but at about 9 months she was weighed and was <0.4 centile, which triggered paed ref who then did a dietician referral. Her weight fell off the charts, and bobbed along around the 0.4th centile till she was about 4 years old, when we were signed off.

As for personality, DD was very early to talk, is very outgoing, active, very bright. She is a perfectionist though, and behind closed doors, can be anxious, although to the rest of the world, she is very confident. I am not sure there is a 'type' of child that gets these issues, and maybe by looking for one, we might miss the specifics of what is going on for our own child?

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