My Child Won't Eat What Do I Do?

Feb 19, 2022
Speech, Swallow, Occupational Therapy, Lymphedema, Feeding

My child won’t eat – what do I do? 

Life is hard sometimes! Raising a child with feeding difficulties or swallowing difficulties can create additional stress. Here at Wildflower Therapy daily we work with families and children where mealtime is stressful. 

One of the most common questions is “What do I do?”. Well, I will say that as a parent and as a therapist first stop and take a breath! It may not seem like it will be ok. But time and surrounding yourself with the right support will result in progress and forward movement. 

What does a speech and occupational therapist recommend?

Meet your child where they are. That might be they only touch food. That might be that your child will chew and spit out certain textures. That might be that you smash bananas or squeeze the juice every time you give it. We start where the child wants us to start. 

Our clinic works as a multi-disciplinary team with speech and occupational therapy to collaborate and set goals for sensory and motor work. Children don’t eat for a variety of different reasons. One thing we have learned is individualized treatment planning is essential. 

What does that look like at the dinner table? 

The flood of smell, touch, texture, and flavor may cause an adverse or negative reaction to a particular food. As a parent we might be trying to distract our child from gagging or hoping to cleaning up vomit. The number of calories that our child takes in may be an additional source of stress. These are all things that in our world as feeding and swallowing specialist are our normal. 

What can I do about it as a parent? 

  1. Work with a team. Connect with a speech pathologist or occupational therapist who can help to sort through your child’s challenges at mealtime. 
  2. Stay calm. Easier said than done. Trust me I used to think “Is my child gagging right now just so he doesn’t have to eat?”. But we believe consistency and love give the best results. 
  3. Play. Play. Play. Play with food. Play with textures. Play with smells. 

How do I manage the stress? 

This is a hard question to answer. I think as parents we are always questioning ourselves. Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? The answers are yes and yes. We are currently working closely with a group of mental health counselors and in the process of bringing on a mental health counselor to accessible to our families! 

The most important thing I remind our parents. We are our child’s advocate. We might need to take a break for a day but tomorrow brings a new day and we will start again!


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