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Often, food aversion is considered a disease by the medical community. However, this may not be the case. Food aversion, in some aspects, can be considered a characteristic of an intelligent child. Here’s how:
- Children have encountered considerable stress in their oral region. There is evidence that, during NICU treatment, intubation and reinsertion of the feeding tube causes stress. There is also growing evidence that comforting, slow, and gentle movements and touching counteracts oral cavity trauma in an infant.
- Children haven’t tasted pleasing liquids. In the past, infants in NICU were offered lemon sticks to clean their mouths if infected. Today, little drops of breast milk are offered as soon as possible provided the child does not choke on it.
- Children are afraid of food, whether it’s liquidy or textured, because they are afraid of choking. This might be true, but this is not food aversion — it’s simply a self protection, and it shows the child is able to understand what food is.
Food aversion is often diagnosed in fully tube-fed children. However, if any animal is satisfied, it does not show interest in food. Similarly, if a child has only a brief 3-4 hour intermission between feedings, then satiety lasts longer, and the child never experiences hunger. Sometimes, long-term tube fed children never encounter hunger and never want to eat. The hunger-satiety cycle is a lovely instrument of nature that makes us interested in new food; as we know from young girls who do not want to eat, they fight this cycle and end up losing their hunger instincts. Similarly, babies can lose hunger because they’re never exposed to it.
Another reason for food aversion is that parents offer too much food. Withdrawing from an offering only happens when the offering begins the interaction. Every young man knows that from his experiences in bars and restaurants — when he is in the mood to ask for a date, he will approach a girl, and that is when he should be prepared to be refused. The same happens to parents. They do not wait, like our young man should have done, for a signal from their child, but they approach their child with food because they are interested in seeing the child eat. Only the child doesn’t care, and refuses. Like the young man who, if he’d had the patience and coolness to wait for a signal from the woman, may have gotten a date, waiting for a child’s cues garner more success.
In conclusion, food aversion is the intelligent reaction of a child not wanting to eat; not being hungry; being disinterested in the offered meal; or, most commonly, simply refusing an offer made too often. The cure for this symptom is twofold: first, let hunger happen and overcome your anxiety to have your child eat when you want; and second, seek support. Contact us to see how we can help you and your child overcome your feeding problems.