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Eating/Food Phobia

(30 Posts)
LaylasMumKelly Sun 07-Mar-10 11:58:31

Hi, I desperately need some advice about my 2 year old daughter. My Husband and I are having great difficulty with her eating habits. It started when she was 6 months old, she never wanted to be weaned off of milk and we had great difficulty getting her on to solids. The problem is now that she seems to be scared of food. All she ever wants is toast or crumpets and if we give her anything else she gets herself into a complete state, crying and trying to run away. We have tried her with all kinds of food from baby puree to finger foods but with no success. We have got her to help cook which she loves but when it comes to eating it she wont. She hates getting food on her clothes or her hands and panics if she is 'mucky'. I put some mash potato on her lips today and she actually vomited. She then stripped her clothes off and is going mad with a baby wipe trying to get every last bit of mash potato off of her. I am begining to think this is a phobia. She is the same with dirt, if she gets mucky at the park we have to come home because she starts panicking. She is not underweight but she is borderline. Her bowels have suffered too and she was placed in hospital with sever constipation before Xmas. I have asked my health visitor for advice but I haven't got anywhere.

meandjoe Sun 07-Mar-10 14:10:27

How do you respond to her while she is eating or while you are offering food? Sometimes without realising you will be anxious at her lack of eating and she will pick up on that and become more panicky around meal times.

My ds was a terrible eater but not phobic of food, just very stubborn and determined he wanted things his way. The only thing that worked for us was just to remove all pressure and cojolling him into eating. Very hard to do when you are convinced they are starving themselves.

We don't discuss meal times or food around him really as he just immeditely starts saying 'I don't want dinner, I don't like potato' or whatever, sometimes just through habbit or sometimes just because he likes to disagree with everything hmm.

I basically put a meal in front of him. I don't comment on whether he eats it or not. I don't want him to eat because I am forcing it or because I am praising him, it then becomes a power struggle as he knows I want him to eat it. All that works with him is him thinking I couldn't care less whether he eats it or not, that way if he's hungry, he WILL eat it. They are all different though but as soon as I stopped offering him things or asking him to try bits or even just touch food, he started eating much better. I just leave him to it.

Have you tried giving her her usual crumpets etc but just putting different toppings or serving it with something else? That way it's still familiar to her but it may take months before she decides she is ready to try the new food.

Way I see is, you can stop offering her the few things she will eat and basically starve her into submission, which is always risky and can become a battleground (what I tried with my ds and every meal time ended in a tantrum and me pleading with him to eat more). Or you can go with it, not force and wait for her to try more when she is ready. My ds is 2.6 now and although he still doesn't eat huge amounts he is not fussy at all. He will sit and eat cottage pie, cheese on toast, fish fingers, chicken breast, carrots and suede mashed together, chips, egg, cereal... things that justy a few months ago he would have never touched. Like your dd he was terrible to wean and just wanted milk. I am sure she will grow out of it but the less forcing and asking her to taste things the more control she has over her hunger and she will learn to eat more things in time. It's very painful though, have cried many times when putting my ds to bed after he's eaten less than a baby sparrow would!

compo Sun 07-Mar-10 14:13:09

Have you watched any of Jo Frost: extreme parenting?
She has some good advice on there, it might still be on itv player on the Internet

ppeatfruit Sun 07-Mar-10 14:23:22

Well Laylas mum . I totally agree with meanjo Let her alone. The only thing i will say which you will find difficult is that some symptoms of wheat allergy are constipation I'm afraid!

Maybe you could get her to help make bread with kamut and spelt flour or also you can make crumpets and or pancakes with those flours.

Another thing that children like is the 'goldilocks breakfast' of porridge you can read the story at bedtime and get her to remember it at breakfast (or any other time!!)She can help make that and then ignore her while you all eat it!!

Good luck post to say how it goes!

claw3 Sun 07-Mar-10 14:25:00

Hi, my ds is an extremely 'fussy' eater, well i wouldnt even describe it as 'fussy', it goes way beyond fussy and it started from the moment he was weanted. His diet is extremely limited and he is now 6.

He also has a food phobia, especially mash potatoes!

Speak to your GP, if you are having no luck with your HV.

LaylasMumKelly Sun 07-Mar-10 15:26:06

Thanks for your advice everyone. I think I will just sit her at the table, put some food in front of her and walk away. If she throws it on the floor I will just clear it up and not say anything to her. If I continue with this pattern she might eventually try something. I will talk to my GP though as I don't think it's normal that she is vomiting and panicking when she gets food on her. I try very hard not to put pressure on her when I make her food but I suppose she could be picking up on my anxious feelings. I have been putting low sugar jam on her crumpets and sneaking some vitamins into her milk. Fingers crossed she will grow out of this. It's just soooo frustrating when I know she MUST be hungry but won't eat, I could cry sometimes. I feel better now though after reading your comments. Thanks

claw3 Sun 07-Mar-10 15:31:35

Laylas, ask your GP about anemia too. My ds was diagnosed with anemia at 18 months old because of his extremely limited diet. He didnt show any signs of it, other than being pale.

activate Sun 07-Mar-10 15:33:00

She also needs some messy play where you all get messy together and don't worry about cleanliness

playdough and finger paints can be useful

it is a sensory thing, she doesn't like the feeling of it - so make it fun

i would imagine you like things to be clean and tidy - you need to let go of this and allow for some messiness

playing in jelly and custard and other things - mum and dad laughing and having fun - maybe sharing a bath together afterwards

activate Sun 07-Mar-10 15:34:02

don't sit her at a table alone - sit down too and eat something yourself paying her no attention - eating is social - focus on each other and not on the food consumption - mealtimes need to be stress-free lighthearted and fun

notnowbernard Sun 07-Mar-10 15:36:58

I remember watching some really interesting episodes of House of Tiny Tearaways with Dr Tanya Byron which featured food phobia

Offered VERY practical advice and also insight into the emotional and psychological processes behind it (of both child and parent)

Wonder if it's worth trying to track down the series?

JaynieB Sun 07-Mar-10 15:40:41

Sounds a bit more than usual fussiness - I would speak to GP.
My DSD has always been a fussy eater and we found the best way forward was to keep mealtimes as calm as possible and offer her a combination of food she liked most of the time, with occasionally offering something new to try.
Your DD is still very young and at this age, they often like only to eat familiar food. My DD is a bit picky - she's 3 now, and there are lots of things she won't eat but is very gradually trying new foods and sometimes we find something she likes and will continue eating it. She is also quite particular about being clean and doesn't like food on her hands or face and wants clothes changed if they get dirty.
I think I read somewhere that it can take up to 20 times of trying a new food to acquire a liking for it.

claw3 Sun 07-Mar-10 15:41:32

Messy play is a good idea, IF you can get her to do it. My ds has an aversion to messy play too and i suspect your dd will too, given the mash potatoes.

You might have more luck starting with a firmer texture like play doh or sand, as oppose to sloppy.

I have an appointment at a feeding clinic with my 6 year old next month. I can keep you posted on ideas that they suggest if thats any help to you?

JaynieB Sun 07-Mar-10 15:42:05

I remember seeing a bit of the programme with Dr Tanya Byron - she gives very sound advice

LaylasMumKelly Sun 07-Mar-10 17:56:11

Thanks everyone, sometimes I feel like I'm the only one with this problem so it's nice to know I'm not alone. Yes Claw3 if you get any ideas from the feeding clinic I would be grateful to hear them. I'm starting to feel more confident about tackling this now, I think I will go to my library tomorrow and see if I can find any books/DVD about it. I'm more than happy to try some messy play too.

JaynieB Sun 07-Mar-10 18:51:06

I was thinking about this earlier - the type of foods both my fussy DSD and DD like are quite 'clean' things like rice, pasta and cous cous - although DD has recently started eating and liking potato, inc mash, but literally only in the last couple of months.
DSD has a real thing about texture of food too and really hates things with 'bits' - but will eat smooth yogurts, kids smoothies etc. She has always preferred foods which are sort of dry and crunchy - like crackers, but with a bit of imagination you can still get a varied diet within the limitations of what she is happy to eat.
My DD is turning out to be a bit of a hardcore veggie which is interesting considering none of the rest of the family is!

claw3 Sun 07-Mar-10 19:03:39

Laylas, i have added a watch to this thread and will let you know of any suggestions feeding clinic make.

My ds eats honey hoops (without milk), chocolate spread sandwiches, ready salted crisps, certain cakes and sweets and thats it! thats all he has eaten since he could eat (although yogurts and certain fruit go in and out of favour). You are not alone!

He gets hysterical if anyone elses food goes near him and he has to run away.

I have tried everything in the last 6 years, but nothing has worked.

Is food the only problem? what is your dd like with textures of clothes, shoes etc?

ppeatfruit Sun 07-Mar-10 21:45:56

Erm milk is a food as well!!

woopsidaisy Mon 08-Mar-10 06:50:09

Hi Laylas.My DS1 has a terrible phobia of food. He cannot bear to smell food,ie cooking,he starts retching if he sees people eating and even contemplating going into a cafe etc is just asking for trouble.Luckily we have a lovely HV,who referred us to a Feeding and Growth Clinic.On our first visit,we were told DS1 may have autism,hence food issues,but he has come on so much in the last couple of years that they now feel diagnosis not necessary.But his eating is still very limited.We have seen dietician-very supportive.We fill in a weeks worth of diet sheet every now and again,and she can work out whether he is deficient in anything-he never is!Educational psychologist,OT, S&L and Consultant.They all said "don't keep pushing the food". Mealtimes were a nightmare,we were trying Supernanny.He ate nothing for 3 days,so we had to stop.We stopped forcing him to sit at table,allowed him to choose his food from his little list of things he ate.It was great to finally stop the stressful battles.Basically,take all the "stress" away from food.My one rule was no "treats" unless one "good thing" had been eaten.For example,eat an apple and then have some ice-cream.Dietician agreed with this.The apple is often dinner!But now things are very slightly improving.DS1 is 5,my DH does out "food Charts",where they will draw pictures of the things he will eat,and when it is filled in he gets a treat.He still needs 10 grapes(hasn't eaten these for about a year),and some chips at home-he eats them at school now,but not at home.Sometimes we do need to change something,I really don't think he will do the grapes,so we will swop it for something else.He has to have school meals,you cannot bring food in,and the school has been great.He now sits at the table with everyone,somedays he has nothing,but he has had small amount boiled rice,watermelon-which he loved-small portion peas,and he has taken these things regularly this term.I think I'll look up the Tanya stuff as well.But he is improving slowly,we all sat at the christmas table this year for first time ever-he had his usual M&S chicken goujons,but he didn't mind us all stufing our faces.I had lots of crackers which the kids loved.Just lose the stress,and take baby steps.Good luck.

woopsidaisy Mon 08-Mar-10 06:53:41

Forgot to say he gets very constipated too.See GP for this.We use Movicol,you need to do quite a severe regime for a week to completely clear them out,then give 1 or 2 sachets daily to keep them regular.

claw3 Mon 08-Mar-10 09:55:45

Woopsidaisy, we have seen all the same people as you and ds has been assessed for autism too! Did you find the feeding clinic helpful? (have an appointment next month)

woopsidaisy Mon 08-Mar-10 10:20:57

All the above people were in the clinic.I never saw a "food expert" if you know what I mean. They all gave advice and support. The Consultant once chatted on the phone to me for an hour,as I sobbed out all my woes over DS1...they were great.My MIL got me a book called "Can't Eat,Won't Eat" It had lots of advice.Most of the case studies in it did involve children with Aspergers/High Functioning Autism,but some "normal" kids too.It was good to get other ideas and to realise you are not a bad parent who has spoiled your child-which is what my mum thought,but that my DS has major issues with food.He can't help it,and I think when he hits his teens he may be old enough to realise food is o.k. I saw a programme called "Can't Eat,Won't Eat " too,not sure if related to the book. Lots of teenagers on it,learning to eat...they had very limited diets They wanted to eat,but food to them was disgusting,except their "safe"foods.It was described like us going on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of here,and being asked to eat the grubs,balls etc...that is what even ice cream can seem like to these kids. So think of that when trying to get him to eat pasta...could you eat slugs? Cos that could be what your kind of asking him to do ,if you get my drift!

claw3 Mon 08-Mar-10 10:44:47

Woop, I have a copy of 'Cant eat, wont eat' i ordered a copy a few years ago, after someone on here recommended it. Some good ideas, but no success with ds.

Exactly you would think that i was asking ds to eat a slug, when i placed a tiny amount of food which isnt on his 'ok' list on his plate! He will just scream until it is removed and then refuse to eat what is on his plate.

With ds his 'ok' list never grows and accepted foods go in and out of favour, for example if he will eat grapes this week, it will replace yogurts and vice versa and so on.

Dietitian about 3 years ago suggested that we just dont make his usual foods available and give him what we wanted him to eat. He just stopped eating for 2 weeks. We have tried to make the smallest of changes, but he just stops eating.

Since then ds just eats the food which is on his 'ok' list. Sometimes he will have honey hoops for every meal, im just glad he is eating something!

He refuses to eat in school and has a panic attack if anyone elses food is near him, hopefully the feeding clinic will have some suggestions.

woopsidaisy Tue 09-Mar-10 06:19:16

It is all so stressul isn't it? But we took all the stress away,and it did help a bit.Good luck with the clinic! Woopsi.

claw3 Tue 09-Mar-10 08:39:46

Woop, ive always been very laid back about eating and have always taken the attitude that kids will eat when they are hungry. This worked perfectly well with my three older boys. Didnt work with ds, not eating doesnt seem to bother him! Things i have tried over the years.

Insisting that he eat
Not making his usual foods available
Putting a little bit of new food on the side of his plate, or near him
Taking him shopping and letting him choose new food
Making menus
Turning it into a game
Making faces and shapes
Letting him help to prepare and cook food
Reward charts
Changing the name of food, mash potato ‘fluffy clouds’ etc
Make small changes white to brown bread etc
Hiding food i.e. grated carrot in waffles
Getting him just to touch a new food

I have now resigned myself to the fact that it is part of who he is.....for now anyhow!

Thank you Woopsi.

LaylasMumKelly Tue 09-Mar-10 13:49:43

Well not much success today. I made fish fingers, waffles and beans. She burst into tears when I asked her to sit at the table and went and sulked in her room. I ate the lunch instead! She has eaten half a slice of toast, 2 yoghurts and some milk but she wasn't very happy when the yoghurt got on her hands. I'm going to do sausage and veg for dinner but will get some crumpets out of the freezer on standby! She won't have eaten half as much as she should have by the end of the day but she doesn't care. I feel more relaxed now, it's clear some of you are having worse trouble than me and if you can cope I know I can xxx

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