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Feeding Behaviours in Early & School Years

Food Refusal in Toddlers

Food refusal is a normal developmental phase during the toddler years when young children become very selective about the food they are willing to eat. Young children who enter this phase, often beginning around 12-18 months, with a narrow range of accepted foods and textures, often find it more challenging to accept new and unfamiliar foods. Foods that have been happily accepted before, may also be refused and disliked. Toddlers may show preference for easier, soft textures and sweeter, bland tastes. These behaviours are often more about this particular development stage, with a new-found sense of themselves, and the ability to say “no! I don’t like that”. Managing these behaviours over the toddler years, and supporting the development of their relationship with food, feeding & nutrition is a task that responds to a consistent framework, one which I call structure, nurture and boundaries. On the other hand, those infants with early feeding histories affected by illness, allergies or aversion, may need more attention to support the nutrition needed to promote growth and wellness. Carine works across this spectrum of feeding difficulties in the early and school years, in providing nutritional assessment, therapeutic diets, diet-related change guidance and online workshops.

Why young children refuse food

The most likely reason for more extreme food refusal in toddlers is continued lack of feeding experience. This may be coupled with adverse previous experiences with food or feeding, or with repeated illness during the sensitive window for feeding-learning around 6-12 months.

Infants can experience a range of difficulty with learning to eat, from coordinating eating and breathing; gagging repeatedly and refluxing; discomfort from foods which they are sensitive to eg. Cow’s Milk Allergy, all of which can impact an infants or young child’s enjoyment of eating. This can then reduce their willingness to eat, impacting the required practice all children need to try new foods and textures. Toddlers and young children will catch up at different rates over the early years, and with the right support. Again, I use a framework I call structure, nurture and boundaries … which takes time, and patience, and some good go-to strategies. Making Mealtimes Better interactive online Workshop is designed with those children in mind.

Understanding AFRID

ARFID stands for Avoidant, Restrictive, Food Intake Disorder, and is now recognised as a highly selective eating disorder in children, and which often presents with food-related fears and sensory processing difficulties. It is now understood to more commonly affect those children within a neurodiverse spectrum of behaviours. Children with ARFID are hypersensitive to sensory information such as touch, look, taste and smell of food, and can be anxious, or find themselves unable to eat or try certain foods. Often eating of a very narrow range of foods; the most important need for those children is sufficient energy, with additional concern for parents about nutrient deficiencies and growth faltering. I work with a nutritional and behavioural lens for those children, to extend what is more easeful and accessible, before moving to what’s more challenging and difficult. Always attending, in the first instance, to any nutrient deficiency highlighted in the initial nutritional assessment, through nutrient supplementation and food fortification.

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Online Workshops for
Happier, Healthier Mealtimes!

Carine offers accessible online workshops on a variety of topics, designed to provide a space alongside others to listen, learn, share, practice and develop tools and strategies for nutritional health.

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