For parents who think their child is a picky eater, they may assume that the solution is to try general feeding advice—eat with your child, eat at a table, space meals correctly, don’t force feed. But what if the problem is deeper than just a picky eater?

At first glance, the problem of feeding could seem like a rather simple one, but if you break it down the issue involves pretty complex processes: feeding and swallowing require integrating motor, sensory, neurological, cardiorespiratory, and gastrointestinal systems.

What is a parent to do? First step would be to read this excellent blog post on Your Kid’s Table about distinguishing between a child who is being a picky eater and a child who is a “problem feeder.” The occupational therapist who writes the blog includes a list of guidelines she’s developed over the years to distinguish the two (e.g., a picky eater has at least 20 foods in their diet but a problem feeder eats fewer than 15 foods). Read the post here.  

What happens if a child is beyond being a picky eater? As the OT blogger points out, many times the child will need to see an OT who can help develop an individualized treatment plan to help the child make progress eating new foods.

Want to learn more about infant and child feeding and swallowing? A new book by AOTA Press can be your go-to resource. The book provides evidence-based information for practitioners on feeding issues, clinical assessment, and intervention.

Occupational therapy practitioners can use the book to address complex feeding and swallowing problems in infants and children. The book includes information about problems with breastfeeding, problems with transitioning to purees and solid foods, gastrointestinal issues, feeding aversion, and more. Find out more and purchase a copy today (AOTA members get a discount!). 

Do you have any tips on how to distinguish between a picky eater and a problem feeder? Have you developed any picky eater strategies that work well? Tell us in the comments.

To comment, please log in to OT Connections (it's free to join!).