Guide Two: Root Causes of Picky Eating

Presenter: Simone Emery

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Hi, I’m Simone Emery, and I’m here to present a learning unit for the parenting picky eaters Facebook group. I am from Your Feeding Team and we’re your admin team for the group, and we’re all feeding professionals. We really hope you enjoy these learning guides. Today. I am starting with why children may be picky.

We love to start with this topic when we’re talking with parents. We really want to emphasize to you that picky eating is not a behavior. There are many, many root causes for why children are picky. We don’t just wake up one day hoping (as parents), that our children are going to be picky eaters. So let me walk you through some of the reasons why children refuse foods.

So the first reason that we will talk about is wariness of new foods that can be linked to typical childhood development. And this is sometimes known as food neophobia. Another reason includes medical concerns and diagnoses. So often we can see these jointly presenting with sleeping concerns as well.

Medical concerns can include things like preterm birth, infantile reflux, repeated illnesses, and other medical complications that have happened for the child and feeding has become even harder for them. Another reason children become picky eaters is that there are changes in routine. Or disruptions to what’s happening in their life. Sometimes this can be from having a new sibling through to moving countries. Another reason is sensory related. We all sense the world in lots of different ways. Children sense their world through things like touch, sound, sight, smell, taste. And they also sense themselves in the world, including how they sense inside themselves. For example, do they understand if they’re hungry and full? Do they get those feelings of needing to go to the toilet? Do they understand when they are tired? These sensory systems tell them things that are a little bit different for them. They can influence how your child does the “work” of eating food. Eating is not actually that easy. Eating is one of the biggest learning opportunities or things we need to use all our senses for. So, you can see how hard this can be for children.

Other reasons for children to refuse food include their motor and oral motor skills. This effectively means all the things that our muscles (our bodies) and our brains have to do in order to pick up the foods and make that plan of getting it into our mouth. Plus, knowing what to do with it when we get it to our mouths. So many muscles need to be involved! Okay. And another reason for picky eating may be a child’s temperament. {As feeding professionals} we also look at anxiety a fair bit. We also need to explore what nutritional deficiencies can be exacerbating fussy eating as well.

“Overall, what is really important to understand about this video is that by understanding how our children come to picky eating, we can start to see that there is more under the surface for them.”

What we see is somewhat like a typical iceberg model. We see the tip, but underneath that waterline, there’s a whole lot of things happening for children that are impacting those food refusals that you see at your mealtime. So, the more you understand about what is happening for them, the more you can be on their team, advocate for their needs, and really help them be responsive eaters.

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