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Girl refusing tomato

Feeding Fiasco

For some families, meal time can be the most challenging part of the day. Parenting a child who is having difficulty with eating can be tough for the entire family! Some kids are picky for a short time, or avoid only a few specific foods, and some kids may outgrow a food challenge. Some children maintain a difficult relationship with food for an extended period of time, seem to be regressing in skill, or make meal time a complete disaster with no end in sight. 

The Battle Field

When the preparation of food, the presentation of food, and/or the act of coming to the table is just the beginning of the mealtime battle, getting your child to eat nutritious and delicious food can be tough. If you are having to frequently pull out your sword and shield in preparation for a mealtime battle, it’s time to seek help from feeding therapists!

Too Tiny

If your child’s eating is impacting their growth, or your child is requiring supplements for weight or growth, our therapists can assist in food expansion strategies to enhance your child’s food intake and overall well being. 

  • Flee the Scene

Some children are overwhelmed by specific foods or the mealtime experience and will run away. Others require parents to strap them in, bribe them, pull out the tablet, or chase them down just to get to the table. If your child is having trouble coming to or staying at the table, feeding therapists can help make food more approachable, assist in attention enhancement, and provide strategies to remain at the table for the entire meal!

  • Tantrum Time 

When your dinner is thrown on the floor, smeared on the table, or screamed about in protest, your little one is struggling with food. Anxiety and frustration look different on each child, and tantrums can be one of the many responses to complex feelings food may be causing. Your therapist can help determine what abilities your child is struggling with that make the meal so difficult, and assist in developing skills to engage in meals and manage big emotions throughout the eating process.

  • The Picky Eater

A child is defined as being a “picky eater” when their food intake/variety is limited, but they are able to eat 30 or more food items. This number includes being able to eat the same food item prepared in a variety of ways! A picky eater may avoid an entire food group, or limit foods to a specific consistency or flavor. A feeding therapist can help picky eaters develop a meaningful relationship with their food and help the number and types of food accepted increase.

  • The Problem Feeder

A “problem feeder” is a child that eats 20 foods or less. This child may be brand specific in the foods they tolerate, they may have eliminated entire food groups, or they may avoid all foods that are a specific color, texture or consistency. Problem feeders may have underlying difficulty with oral motor or sensory processing skills resulting in gagging/vomiting, choking, coughing, or drooling. Our therapists are trained to assist in assessing the areas of challenge and increase the types of foods a child is eating to improve their nutritional intake and overall health/wellness.

  • Social Skills Suffer

Eating is a social activity. Families and friends sit down to share a meal, go out to eat meals together, bond over coffee dates, celebrate milestones with food, and more! If a child is having difficulty remaining at the table or tolerating being around others eating food, a feeding therapist can step in before social skills and meaningful events are impacted!

If your child falls into any of the above categories, bring your worries to BDI Playhouse feeding therapists! Set up a free consultation to get more information, and put your worries to rest!

Written by: Maggie Lord, MS, OTR/L

Introducing foods to baby

Introducing Foods to Babies

Introducing foods to your baby is an exciting time!  You have your highchair and your pediatrician’s green light to introduce solids.  As you start out on this food filled adventure, here are a few ideas to keep in mind!   

Expression is Everything 

  • When you are introducing foods to your baby, make sure you share the same facial expression/excitement for each food, no matter how YOU feel about that food.  Your baby is extremely observant and will notice your dislike before it even hits his/her lips!  

 

Not for Nutrition 

  • Whether you choose to go the BLW or puree route, your purpose should be about exposure and experiences with food, not quantity or nutrition.  This is the time your baby is learning how to eat and experiencing new tastes and textures.  If, after a few bites, your baby indicates he/she doesn’t want anymore, let your baby be done!  You want your baby to ENJOY this experience so he/she will want to do it again and again!

 

Messy Mayhem

  • Put down the towel!  The messier your baby gets now, the less likely they will become overly sensitive to food spills (on his/her body or surroundings).  As your child’s feeding skills progress, the messes will naturally decrease!
  • Did you know that the sippy cup is the same oral motor pattern as drinking from a bottle/breast?  It was invented with the sole purpose of reducing spills.  When introducing the “next step” to an infant, we should be introducing the straw and open cup!   

If your baby is having difficulty transitioning to solids, BDI Playhouse Children’s Therapy offers free screenings to give you the tools to help your baby “eat” their way to a healthy toddlerhood.

Written by: Jessica Keenan, MA, CCC-SLP/L, CLC

Benefits of Breastfeeding

What are the benefits of breastfeeding babies?  Many moms are faced with familial and societal pressure of deciding whether they want to breastfeed or formula feed.   Before making the decision based on others experiences or the latest baby marketing trends, read on to find out how breastfeeding benefits baby, mom and your community!

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Baby

  • Decreases risk of mortality 
  • Reduces risk for asthma, upper respiratory infections, allergies, ear infections
  • Less risk for colic, reflux, gas, diarrhea, constipation, GI pain
  • Decreases risk for obesity, type 1 diabetes, Autism, ADHD
  • Increases intelligence scores
  • Reduces risk for narrow facial development

Mom

  • decreases risk of unwanted shorter pregnancy intervals
  • Satisfies baby’s emotional needs and increases bonding between mother and baby
  • reduces risk of PPD
  • Helps mom to lose ‘baby weight’
  • reduces risk for high blood pressure
  • decreases risk for ovarian and breast cancers
  • increases work attendance due to healthier baby

Community

  • More bonding opportunities for parents/children
  • Higher IQ subgroups
  • Do not have to worry about dangers of manufacturing errors/formula recall
  • Reduced financial strain without costs of formula
  • decreased waste production to make formula
  • reduced health care costs
  • decreased work absenteeism of parents due to infant/toddler illness

When making the decision between breastfeeding and formula feeding, it’s important to consider how it will effect mom, partner, baby, and your community!  Research shows that breastfeeding comes with increased health benefits for both mom and baby, mentally and physically.  Exclusively breastfeeding reduces the workload and financial burden on your partner.  Finally, it reduces the carbon footprint in your community!  Want to learn more?  Join us at our Breastfeeding Basics class!  Already in the thick-of-it and needing some support?  Reach out and schedule a free screen with one of our certified lactation counselors and infant feeding specialists!

Written by: Jessica Keenan, MA, CCC-SLP/L, CLC

TURKEY TIME TROUBLES?

Turkey Time (as referred to by many of our kiddos) is just around the corner and it is either met with happy or anxious anticipation by children and adults!  A family member announces every Thanksgiving that this is her least favorite holiday because of how overwhelmed she feels with all the food options.  She says the anxiety starts weeks before the big day.  She has the ability to identify, process and express her anxiety related around a holiday.  Imagine, now, a child with the same feelings.  What might his or her anxiety look like?

Anxiety signs in kids:

  • Crying
  • Fleeing the table
  • Poor Sleep
  • Upset/outbursts more frequently or higher intensity than is typical
  • Irritability
  • Grimacing
  • Sweating
  • Yelling
  • Wide eyes
  • Gagging or vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Tense or jittery body
  • Frequent urination

So, what can you do to help make this time less anxious for your child?

How you can help:

  • Take the pressure off! No need to focus on or force the idea of sitting down for a large meal with relatives!  Keep it casual for your kid
  • Validate feelings of discomfort around the holiday
  • Brainstorm food avoidance strategies for use at the Thanksgiving table with your child
  • Interact with Thanksgiving foods without eating them
  • Talk about it- set expectations and boundaries for the holiday festivities
  • Take breaks from the commotion 
  • Turn the focus- make the focus of the holiday less about the food and more about family, crafting/decorations, gratitude, whatever is important to your family!
  • Engage in calming strategies throughout the month.  Examples of calming strategies include heavy work, deep pressure, auditory supports, movement strategies, deep breathing/relaxation strategies, tactile bins, lighting adjustments, and visual toys.  These strategies can be used around meal time and outside of meal time.

Turkey time can be a successful holiday for your entire family, especially if you identify and prepare for the day ahead of time!  If you’d like additional resources, please set up a free screening with one of our occupational therapists at BDI playhouse!

Written by Maggie Lord MS, OTR/L, and Jessica Keenan, MA, CCC-SLP/L, CLC

Picky Eating

Why my Picky Eater Won’t Eat Your Cranberry Sauce

A letter to my well-meaning relatives around the holidays: Why my picky eater won’t eat your famous homemade cranberry sauce…

Dearest Relatives, 

We love seeing you around the holidays! Family is so important to us, and we look so forward to the warmth of a festive home, the scents of dinner cooking in the oven, and the time interacting with our family to celebrate these special days.

This time of year can be hard for my child. The hustle/bustle of gift shopping at crowded stores filled with sparkly and scented shelves and swarms of people sets my little one on edge. Bright lights that decorate your house are a lot of visual input for small, tired eyes. Hugs and kisses from relatives is a squeezy experience all it’s own. My child spends the holiday season overwhelmed, and the family parties are no exception. 

Then comes dinner time.

Days were spent preparing your famous cranberry sauce. You bought special cranberries, soaked them, washed them, mashed them. I’m sure you bought a unique ingredient at the ONE special store that carries it, and you got it JUST before it went out of stock. There was mixing and cooking and chilling. The beautiful treat was placed in the perfect serving dish so your entire family would be able to enjoy your masterpiece.

BUT…

At dinner, my child has trouble sitting politely at the table. After keeping it (mostly) together during the appetizer/pre-dinner activities, my child is quite jazzed. His system has a hard time processing all of the aspects of the evening that have lead up to the main event that is dinner. Asking them now to sit nicely in their chair next to their siblings/cousins/relatives is a feat meant for champions alone. And then they are faced with a gorgeous plate full of “delicious” food, including your precious cranberry sauce, and fear strikes his heart. And mine. 

**Please don’t make a scene, please behave, please let us get through this meal without an upset**

All my pleading cannot account for the fact that this food is my child’s demon, his largest aversion, his highest obstacle, his “Everest.” Maybe he is not ready to face it today, even if (especially if) it is a holiday. Maybe he will gracefully leave your cranberry sauce on his plate and eat around it, maybe he will run and hide under the table in the other room.

My child has difficulty feeling the cranberry sauce in his mouth and is fearful to put it between those teeth for fear of choking or losing it in his back cheeks. Sometimes my child is unable to coordinate his tongue in order to move those berries around in his mouth to properly chew or swallow that goop. It could also be that the texture of wet, mushy berries surrounded in unidentifiable glop is far too intimidating to place in his mouth and swallow. It’s also very possible that the scent of the sweet dish is off-putting to an ultra-sensitive nose. Perhaps the way your cranberry sauce jiggles is overly exciting for the eyes, or too closely resembles another feared food item. It could even be that today is Thursday, and we only eat yellow foods on Thursdays. 

Whatever the reason, please don’t take offense!

  • Please don’t offer more, or comment on my child’s lack of enjoyment of your prized dish.
  • I’m begging, please, please, please, don’t suggest my child eat these berries or ask him to “just try a bite”.
  • I would also love it if you did not snort judgment as I heat up the chicken nuggets in the microwave.
  • Let me help you understand what you are asking before you ask it. Be mindful of what this holiday and that cranberry sauce means to me and my child.

We love you, and one day we may also happily indulge in your cranberry sauce. Today may not be that day, but we are working towards that! First, we must master looking at new foods, smelling them, touching them, licking them, biting them, swallowing them, and smiling with joy at the taste. When that is accomplished, we hope that our dear child will eat every bite of your famous cranberry sauce, so we can all rejoice!

Until then, enjoy my child’s giggles, curiosity, love for all things bouncing/rolling, and for you (cranberry sauce not included)!

Happy Holidays,

Mother of a child with a zest for life, a goofy smile, a whit faster than light, and feeding difficulties

Written by: Margaret Lord OTR/L

If your child is a picky eater and mealtime is creating a challenge in your home, contact us for a free consultation.  You are not alone and we can help!

You have Questions. We have Answers.

Schedule a consultation by phone or at our Naperville – Aurora or Orland Park clinic here: