5 Signs that Your Toddler May Benefit from Feeding Therapy

toddler eating

In my previous post on feeding therapy, I focused on the infant.  But, it’s very common for children to begin feeding therapy later in their first year, when solids have been introduced, but have not been accepted well. Here are 5 signs that your toddler may benefit from feeding therapy:

1. Feeding your toddler is not an enjoyable experience.

As a feeding therapist for over 14 years, I hear frequently from parents of toddlers:   “He won’t sit in his high chair’ or “He spits out his food and just wants milk” or “He throws his plate, his food, his cup – I dread feeding him!”  

Surprised that such “toddler-like” behavior could mean they may benefit from feeding therapy?  There are many reasons that kids behave the way they do, but a trained speech language pathologist or occupational therapist who specializes in feeding skills can help you determine why your child is behaving this way and more  importantly, what to do about it.

2. My toddler hasn’t grown much

According to his growth chart your toddler hasn’t grown much , but is not diagnosed “failure to thrive.”   Failure to thrive is a specific medical diagnosis with criteria on how much a child has stalled in growth.  But, many pediatricians wisely refer kids who are not taking in adequate calories to feeding therapy before that criteria has been met.   Registered dieticians, pediatric gastroenterologists and other specialists may also be part of your team of professionals who are available to determine what may be contributing to poor growth in children.

3. “All toddlers are picky, aren’t they?”

Yes, kids between the ages of 1 and 3 are notorious for developing picky eating habits.  A feeding evaluation will tell you 2 things – first, if it’s typical, age-appropriate picky eating and second, how to prevent this particular stage in toddler life from becoming a problem in the near future.

4. My toddler eats great at school, but not at home. 

That’s great!  It means he/she is capable!  Feeding therapy, especially when the evaluation and treatment are conducted in the home, can pinpoint why a toddler is a more hesitant eater in the home than in other environments. Another example are children who cannot tolerate eating in restaurants.  Many times, the restaurant is too stimulating for their sensory systems. Therapists trained in sensory integration can give specific strategies that will open the door to new dining experiences!

5. My toddler refuses to eat anything but his favorites

Like chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and french fries, so that’s what I give him. This is a common dilemma I encounter when a child comes to me for feeding therapy at age 3.  Toddlers often go on “food jags” where they insist on eating the same foods, over and over. Problem is, they eventually get tired of one and the list of preferred foods begins to dwindle.  A feeding therapist can offer suggestions on how nudge your toddler off the food jag and broaden the variety of foods that he is willing to try, and eventually, learn to enjoy.

Melanie Potock

Written on 2014/02/18 by:

Melanie Potock

Feeding specialist Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP and pediatrician Dr. Nimali Fernando are the co-authors of the award-winning book, Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating. Melanie in an international speaker, training OTs, RDs and SLPs in feeding therapy and offering parent presentations to the special needs community. Dr. Fernando (Dr. Yum) and Melanie (Coach Mel) joined forces to create the Doctor Yum Preschool Food Adventure as part of The Doctor Yum Project, a non-profit focused on helping families create a culture of wellness in their communities. Dr. Yum gives our more recipes than prescriptions - she's your pediatrician in the kitchen! Together, they created the website www.parentinginthekitchen.com, the new go-to resource for parents who want to learn how to raise adventurous eaters, even if they have a child who is hesitant to try new foods. Their 5 hour video course, The Picky Eater Course, is specifically designed for both parents and professionals who want to truly understand how children become courageous, joyful eaters and learn to love healthy foods!