Parents judged when 7-year olds have eating problems. Is this eating delay?
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A recent study reported that infants who had began lumpy solid foods after nine months were more likely to have more feeding problems at age seven than those who started them before nine months. These children also ate less variety of foods. The authors recommend that professionals advise parents to encourage the progression from purees to lumpy foods from as early as six months, and to increase the variety of foods.
But being told that you should have done something does not mean it could have been done if you decided that at the time. Many parents know it is not as easy as it sounds. Here we can stop and think about what these results may mean. What if it was reported that parents who did not encourage a variety of words in infancy were more likely to have children with speech problems at age seven. We would immediately say that we know that all children learn to speak at a different rate and some still have speech problems at age seven. We know that problems occur even if parents encourage talking by talking to their baby all along the way.
If we use the important idea that eating is also a developmental process then we would begin to think about eating in a different light. We could then recognize that all children learn to eat a variety of foods at different rates.
The problem is that eating development is not one progression but many developmental pathways. Parents need to know all about eating development and how know about how to manage all aspects to encouraging each of them separately.
There is taste development, texture development, temperatures development, and many others including smell, thickness, thirst, chewing, amount of food, time between meals, and managing gagging developments. And it can get more complicated when blending all of these progressions with all the other developmental processes occurring at the same time! These are explained in detail in the new book Fussy Babies
We might agree with the researchers that the more parents encourage a shift from puree to lumpy foods early, and encourage a variety of tastes, the more it helps eating progression. But we feel frustration when we know that even when parents do their best difficulties of one sort or another about accepting foods still occur. And we know that those who were fussy or picky eaters in infancy are more likely to still have problems at age seven. We might ask these researchers to appreciate that eating is just as complex a developmental process as any other developmental achievement such as speech. We can think that parents whose children have eating problems should not be judged, just as we do not judge parents whose children have speech or any other developmental disorder.
(We encourage your contribution. Please feel free to add your reply with feedback and comments below.)