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The Picky Eating Toddler & You

As promised, here is third and final blog post relating to feeding difficulties.

We all have experiences where our little ones refuse to eat their sweet potato that evening, or only wants to eat a portion of their meal…but when should you be concerned? When should we be worried if our child’s mealtime preferences are more than just a quirk? Below you’ll find a very quick overview of what to keep an eye on, and what you should do if you suspect your child is a Picky Eater. This by no means is the picky eater’s “bible” but I hope that it is informative and helpful to you to know if your child’s picky eating warrants professional help!

Red Flags of Picky Eating
– poor weight gain or weight loss
– ongoing choking, gagging or coughing during mealtimes
– ongoing problems with vomiting immediately before, during or right after mealtimes
– more than one incident of nasal reflux
– history of traumatic choking incident
– history of eating and breathing coordination problems with ongoing respiratory issues
– inability to transition to baby food purees by 10 months of age
– inability to accept any table food solids by 12 months of age
– inability to transition from the breast/bottle to a cup by 16 months of age
– has not been weaned off baby foods by 16 months of age
– an aversion or avoidance of all foods in a specific texture or food group (i.e. will only eat foods when pureed smoothly, or won’t eat any proteins, or won’t eat any orange coloured foods etc.)
– a food range of less than 20 foods (especially if these foods are being dropped over time by the child, with no new foods replacing those lost foods)
– crying/arching at most meal times
– it is difficult for every/anyone to feed the child
– family history of eating disorders

Why Is My Child A Picky Eater?
There could be a number of reasons as to why a toddler will present as a Picky Eater. It may be any one of the reasons listed below or it could be a combination of reasons.

Physiological
– oral motor weakness
– food allergies (some of these you may not know about as yet)
– reflux/GERD
– dysphagia/swallowing difficulties

Psychological
– traumatic experience in the past with certain foods (i.e. a choking episode, an allergic reaction etc.)
– history of being force fed
– traumatic experience orally (i.e. may have been intubated at birth with tubes through the mouth etc.)
– reflux (the knowledge that the food will hurt/burn when it is refluxed)
– anxiety and/or fear

Sensory
– heightened gag reflex
– oral defensiveness (doesn’t want anyone or anything touching the inside of their mouth)
– sensory defensiveness (this can include being defensive of seeing an undesired food or smelling an undesired food)
– sensory processing disorder

Behavioural
– frequent tantrums at mealtimes
– strong dependence on being “entertained” during meal times (i.e. watching the television etc.)
– general attention difficulties (i.e. is unable to focus for the short period of time to eat a meal).
– the toddler enjoys the reaction from the adults around him/her and continue to do it as an attention seeking opportunity).

Other Contributing Factors
– late exposure to solid foods (after 12 months of age)
– family history of picky eating/feeding disorders
– medical history (i.e. toddler may have been a premature baby etc.)
– developmental disorders (i.e. Autism Spectrum Disorder)

Picky Eater or Problem Feeder?
Typically Picky Eaters have two classifications – Picky Eaters and Problem Feeders, with “Picky Eaters” being the umbrella term for both.

Picky Eaters usually have…
– decreased range of foods that he/she will tolerate (however it is usually at least 30 different foods that he/she will eat)
– some foods may be lost due to “burn out” but will be re-gained after a break (i.e. won’t eat bananas after enjoying one daily for a month, but will start eating them again in a few weeks)
– able to tolerate new foods on their plate
– eats at least one food from most food texture/nutrition groups
– frequently eats a different set of foods at a meal than the rest of the family

Problem Feeders usually have…
– restricted range of foods (usually 20 different foods or less that he/she will eat)
– foods that are lost due to “burn out” will not be regained
– behavioural tantrums/melt downs occur when a new food is presented
– will often refuse to eat an entire category of food groups or textures (i.e. no solids, or no crunchy foods)
– always eats a different set of food at a meal than the rest of the family

What Do I Do?
If your child demonstrates red flags of picky eating, it is definitely worth taking him/her to see their Paediatrician. If there are concerns regarding weight gain, or regarding the range of foods that your child can eat, your Paediatrician will refer you to a Feeding Therapist. Usually this person is a Speech Language Pathologist or an Occupational Therapist but there are other allied health fields such as Physiotherapists or Dieticians/Nutritionists who may also be feeding therapists (in other jurisdictions). Keep in mind that there is no “cure all” for picky eating…each child is an individual and their needs are going to be unique. As a result, the team of professionals working with your child (Paediatrician, Nutritionist, Speech Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist and whoever else may be working with your child) will try to take a very holistic approach to help your child overcome their battle with food!

I hope that this was informative and not too overwhelming!

Until next time,

Cayman Mummy

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Top 10 Tips for Toddler Mealtimes

As promised, here is my second blog post on feeding, continuing on from the Feeding Milestone post I did last week. These are some general parent tips that I share with parents when they express frustrations or concerns with their toddler’s mealtimes.

1. Respect Your Child’s Appetite.
If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force them to eat a meal or a snack. Don’t use food to bribe your child, and don’t force your child to “clean their plate”. This leads to unhealthy mealtime habits and can lead to power struggles over food.

2. Stick To Mealtime Routines
Mealtime routines help to reduce anxiety for children. Children thrive on schedules and routines and it is very helpful for them when they know they have set mealtimes/snack times. Remember as a baby you could predict exactly when your baby would want their next feed? The same goes for your toddler – it’s just that instead of being nursed or getting a bottle of milk, they are getting solid foods. Additionally, you want to discourage grazing throughout the day. This reduces your child’s appetite and a reduced appetite will lead to food refusals!

3. Be Patient With New Foods
It can take 10-12 times for a child to truly know if they dislike or like a food. Also keep in mind that at this age, your toddler’s taste buds are very sensitive. They are predisposed to enjoy sweet tasting food (think of how breast milk or formula taste – both are very sweet) and are extremely sensitive to bitter tastes (i.e. green veggies). The more exposure they have to a food, the less likely it is that they will refuse it over time.

4. Make Mealtimes Fun!
Don’t let mealtimes become a chore. Instead, allow your child to get messy during meals, and explore their foods. Make food art, let your child use dipping sauces, make different sounds when they eat different foods…whatever floats your child’s boat. Also, it’s good to keep in mind that children explore new foods with ALL of the their senses. So if instead of eating the squash, they want to squish it in their hands, rub it on their cheeks and hair, sniff it, inspect it and throw it over the high chair to hear it “plop”….LET THEM! It is how they are learning what squash is! You want mealtimes to be the times of the day he/she looks forward to, not the time that they dread.

5. Grind Up Real Foods
Avoid being a short order cook – use the family pot to introduce foods. Making spaghetti? Grind it up for your little one to enjoy. (Or if you’re like me – use cous cous – instant child friendly pasta that cooks up in a cinch!) The more your child is exposed to the foods you enjoy as a family, the more your child can be a part of your family mealtimes.

6. Ensure Food Is Age and Stage Appropriate
By making sure that your child’s foods are age and food stage appropriate it prevents mealtimes from becoming overwhelming. Additionally, offer small amounts of food at a time. If he/she is still hungry, they can always get more food. This works two fold – it reduces food wastage during their exploration time but it also reduces any anxiety your child may have about the amount of food that they are expected to consume.

7. Try Preparing The Same Food In Different Ways
Provide soft baby carrots at one meal and carrot slices at another meal OR provide meatballs on one day and make a meat loaf the next…switch up the way the food looks to help your child learn that the same food can come in different forms. This also includes “hiding” undesired foods (like vegetables) into desired foods (for example, I fine slice kale and spinach and add it into my spaghetti sauce…not even my husband notices!)

8. Be Creative
If your child is old enough, recruit their help as your “sous chef” to help prepare the meal. Instead of a boring sandwich, make sandwich faces. Create dishes that promote interaction and appeal to your child visually. Remember we all eat with our eyes first!

9. Minimize Distractions
Allow the focus on mealtimes to be on the family meal. This not only involves the actual food but the conversations and interactions at the family table as well. Avoid using the television or other electronics to distract your child while you feed them.

10. Be A Good Example
Eat the way you want your child to eat. You can tell your child to eat their vegetables until the cows come home, but if you don’t eat your vegetables – it’s pretty hard to convince your child to eat them! Even if your eating habits aren’t perfect, do the best you can to show them what well balanced meals look and taste like. You want to teach your child to eat healthily and to have a healthy relationship with food as well.

Until next time,

Cayman Mummy

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Feeding Milestones for Babies and Toddlers

As much as I wish I could be a stay at home mom, professional blog writer, or professional baker…my day job is actually as a Speech Language Pathologist! It’s a job that I absolutely love (how lucky am I to do something I love every day?!). One of the areas that I deal with as part of my job is feeding difficulties. Recently on my Facebook page, I posted about my frustration in seeing so many Caribbean babies getting cereal in their bottles. This opened up a plethora of questions about feeding milestones, what to do/not to do when transitioning to solids etc. I thought why not turn these feeding questions into a blog post! When I started to put together all of the information I realized what an exceedingly long blog post it would end up being…so in the interest of space and time I’ve decided to break it up into different sections. This being the first of several posts regarding feeding.

Like all things – we should start with the basics! When you know what the timeline of feeding transition is from birth through toddlerhood, it’s easier for you to pinpoint the area that your little one may be having the most difficulties.

O-3 Months
– Babies should be solely breast and/or bottle fed. There are oral reflexes in place for suckling and swallowing.
– It is important that during this time baby establishes an appropriate latch.
– Force feeding baby to drink X amount of ounces should be discouraged.
– Follow the baby’s lead on when he/she demonstrates signs of being full.
– Bottles should never be squeezed, nor nipples cut to encourage the baby to drink more or to drink faster.

4-6 Months
– Babies begin to suck and are no longer suckling.
– Breast/bottle feeding is no longer automatic, it begins to become voluntary.
– Babies begin to reach for bottle or spoon when hungry. May also be able to put hands on bottle, and some may even be able to hold bottle at this age.
– If your baby demonstrates signs of readiness, he/she may begin to take pureed food from a spoon.
This is the age range where babies begin to demonstrate signs of being ready for solid food, however the Cayman Islands Children’s Health Task Force does not recommend solid foods until 6 months of age (unless otherwise advised by the child’s primary paediatrician).

6-9 Months
– Babies should be able to open their mouths and wait for the spoon to enter.
– Many babies can drink from a straw at 9 months. Babies are also ready to transition to sippy cup or preferably, regular cup at this time. This is the perfect time to start bottle weaning!
– By now, a munch pattern using an up/down motion should be observed during meals, however a rotary chew (think of a cow chewing on cud) may begin to develop at this age.
– Baby should quickly and efficiently remove food from a spoon using their top and bottom lips and should also lean their head forward to accept the spoon.
– Babies should be able to hold their bottle or cup in both hands.
– Baby should be able to demonstrate stable head control in a sitting position(no head bobbing) and stable trunk control for independent sitting.

10-12 Months
– At this age, feel free to shift foods from pureed to finger food textures.
– Further development of grasping patterns should also be observed.
– Oral motor skills are also being developed. Your little one may be learning to move his/tongue from side to side, may be starting to munch and may also begin biting (not just on food either!).
– Your baby may also begin seeking independence at this age and may not want you to feed him/her any more.
– Your baby may begin to demonstrate some taste preference shifts and may reject “baby food” flavours. This is the perfect age to begin exposing your baby to the family pot and allowing him/her to explore the flavours and textures that the family enjoys.

13-15 Months
– At this age, your toddler’s biting skills continue to develop. Cognitively, toddlers may also try biting objects or people.
– Chewing should be demonstrated (with or without teeth), although not fully mastered.
– Toddlers should be able to bite through a hard cookie.
– Chopped table food should continue to be provided.
– Bottle use should be discontinued. Cup and/or straw use only at this age. Your toddler should be fully weaned from the bottle by 15 months (ideally).
– At this age, toddlers typically engage in “co-feeding” with their caregiver (i.e. while the toddler is self-feeding, caregiver is also putting food in their mouths in between)
– Toddlers typically can grasp a spoon with their hand and will make attempts to bring it to their mouths, although they may have difficulties with keeping the food on the spoon.
– Toddlers should be able to hold their cup with 2 hands.

16-18 Months
– At this age, your toddler should tolerate more challenging foods that require chewing, such as proteins and vegetables.
– By 18 months most toddlers should be able to chew with their mouths closed (although they often do not).
– At this age your toddler should not have large amounts of food or liquid leaking or spilling from his/her mouth during mealtimes.
– Your toddler should be an efficient finger feeder at this time.
– Your toddler will make attempts to assert their independence during mealtimes and will enjoy practicing using their spoon/fork (although still not great about keeping a lot of it on the spoon still).

Two Years Old
– By age 2, your toddler should be able to manage any type of food he/she likes.
– He/she should be drinking from a regular cup with very little spilling.
– He/she should also be able to feed himself/herself fairly well with a spoon or fork.
– Some “fine tuning” will continue over the next few years.

I hope you find this milestone list useful and informative! Stay tuned for my subsequent posts dealing with feeding, as I’ll be talking about the different stages of baby foods, red flags of picky eating and feeding “do’s” and “don’ts”

Until next time,

Cayman Mummy

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The Forgotten Art of Sharing…

I’m really blessed to have so many like-minded friends in my close circle. Call us all a bit old fashioned but we believe in the art of sharing – especially when it comes to household things and kids stuff. What’s not to love about that? Don’t we teach our children that it’s good to share? Aren’t we taught about sharing in school? Yet it seems like when we become adults, magically, the need for sharing disappears! Is it a necessity to share? Probably not…but for frugally (and eco-friendly) minded people like me, why wouldn’t you?

For example – one of my friends was hosting a cocktail party at her house, the only issue was that she didn’t have enough wine glasses. She was fretting and didn’t want to have to purchase or rent the extra glasses that she really only needed for this one occasion. What did she do? She called me and a couple other of her girlfriends up. We each loaned her our wineglasses for her party. We each got them back in perfect condition a couple of days later. Problem solved.

To take it one step further, my friends and I actually make a point not to purchase things like platters, drink dispensers, coolers etc. if we know another friend has it – we purchase something else that will add to the “community pot” if you will. When we host parties, whatever leftover plates/cups/silverware goes into a community pot and is up for grabs for the next event. Plastic table cloths that are in good condition are wiped clean and folded away until someone else wants to use them and the list goes on.

The same goes with children’s items – especially clothes! Kids stay in a clothing size for all of what?…a couple of months – if you’re lucky! Gently used clothes are passed along to the next Mom-To-Be in the group. Other things like swings, bouncers, walkers and other baby items that are still in good condition are also up for grabs. Again, these are all things that are only used for a couple of months, if that. We all keep up to date on safety recalls, make a point to sanitize everything between each pass along and really enjoy seeing another baby getting some use out of the plethora of baby items we all have tucked inside of each of our homes.

In a conversation with an elderly lady, she shared that this was common practice 60 + years ago in “old time” Cayman. People borrowed each other’s China, books, pots, bassinets, clothing items etc. What one person had, the whole community could use. Not only did it add to the sense of community, but it encouraged a respectfulness of items (versus our “throw it away and get a new one” mentality today), and it taught people to take better care of things so that they can be used by the next person and in some cases, the next generation.

To me sharing isn’t just about saving a few dollars, it’s about bringing back the sense of community – building up the village that will play a part in raising my child as well as doing some good stuff for Mother Earth!

Until next time,
Cayman Mummy

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“Mommy, Somebody Needs You.”

This blog post really tugged at my heart strings – because it could have been written by me, by any of my friends, or any of my blog readers! Please take a moment to visit yourbestnestindy’s blog (http://yourbestnestindy.com) – she has some great reads one there!

Being a Mother is a 24/7 job – it almost feels like the whole process of child-rearing rests squarely and solely on the shoulders of a mother! However, in between the hustle and bustle of daily life and Mommy duties, it’s taking the time to realize that this too shall pass. Instead, make an effort to take in the moment – because in a flash your little one will be grown up and they won’t “need” Mommy anymore! This is a parental viewpoint I try live by – especially those days when I’ve had a sleepless night, a long day at work and Cheeks is screaming her head off for who knows what reason. What I want to do is lock myself in the bathroom and say “Calgon, take me away!” What I actually do is take a deep breath, make everything and everyone else WAIT and use it as an opportunity to make a memory with Cheeks. Because one day, I’m going to want her to need me when she doesn’t!

Until next time,
Cayman Mummy

“Mommy, Somebody Needs You.”.

via "Mommy, Somebody Needs You.".

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The Comforter

Yesterday was my laundry day. My first order of business was to strip the sheets and comforter and get those in the wash first so that I could have them nice and clean before bedtime. I went about this task like I do every weekend – almost robotically – it’s something that’s been done so many times before.

I threw the mass of warm clean sheets and the big fluffy (and finally dry comforter) on the bed when my little shadow a.k.a. Cheeks came in behind me. She raised her little arms up to be picked up and I scooped her up with a cuddle. As she looked on the bed she reached for the comforter with earnest. The bed wasn’t made, but so what? Warm sheets were made for a fun tumble so I put her on the bed and plopped right next to her for a snuggle. As I moved her off the bed, she fussed until I put the comforter on the floor so I could spread the bed. Her face lit up at the sight of our plain, brown comforter. She jumped in it, she lay on it, she rolled around on it, and watched me make the bed from it – all with a huge grin on her face. She was so sad when I moved her to spread the comforter on the bed and I was perplexed…what was with this sudden obsession with the comforter??? It’s the same one that we’ve had for years – nothing fancy, in fact, quite the opposite. But then it hit me like a ton of bricks…

It’s the comforter that I put her on for a quick diaper change and belly kiss.
It’s the comforter we tickle her on.
It’s the comforter we read her stories on.
It’s the comforter we hug and cuddle her on.
It’s the comforter we kiss her sweet cheeks on.
It’s the comforter that she is nursed on.
It’s the comforter where Daddy lays next to her until she falls asleep, before he gently places her in the crib.
It’s the comforter that Mummy snuggles with her when she wakes up at 5 am so we can both snooze for another hour.
And when she finally decides to wake up at 6 am it is with this comforter that we gaze into each others eyes with big, sleepy smiles and say without any words how much we love each other.

It’s no wonder that Cheeks wanted to reach for the comforter with all of her little might…it’s the comforter that she associates with LOVE.

How beautiful it is to see love blossom and bloom in my little girl…each child deserves their own “comforter” in their life. What’s your child’s comforter?

Until next time…
Cayman Mummy

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First Birthday!!!

I am now the mother of a one year old. OH MY GOODNESS!!! When did that happen? How did we skip to one already?? So now it’s time for….FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY! I love hosting parties – a lot more than my wallet wishes I did! For me it’s not necessarily the size of the party – but the details. With first birthdays, it pretty much is the ONLY birthday that you as a parent are guaranteed to pick a theme that YOU like. By the time a child is 2, it’s pretty clear cut what they like and it’s pretty hard to not choose something along with their taste. First Birthdays to me are all about individuality and fun. Make it about your favourite book, your favourite activity, your favourite food – just make it about you as a family unit!

For Cheeks’ first birthday, we decided to go with something that was not only unique but loads of fun! Both my husband and I LOVE comics (him a little more than me, but I NEVER miss a DC or Marvel movie) so we thought the best theme for our little Cheeks would be ONE-der Woman (Wonder Woman). The perfect way to celebrate a ONE-derful little girl ;).

If you don’t know about Etsy, you will after this blog. I think next to Pinterest, Etsy is my online obsession! I found so many amazing products that helped me to personalize Cheeks’ special day. I ordered a gorgeous personalized invitation from my personal friend Alyson of SimpAlyPapers who created a beautiful custom invitation for me (she also did my baby shower invites – she’s soo good!). I also ordered a customized first birthday guest book created by MonthsofMay (again, I’m a repeat customer of hers because she did a great job with my Christmas cards). I also ordered a fabulous commemorative birthday poster from ChalkyPrints, and all of the party labels were from QTpartydesigns. Rod at Executive Services (https://www.facebook.com/caymanexecutive) helped me with getting everything printed – local, great quality service – what more could you ask for? My Etsy orders really helped to tie in the theme that I was going for!

Alyssa bday 1
Alyssa bday 2water bottle wraps
crayons

So you remember my infatuation with tutus a while back? Yeah, I still have it! I had do a cutesy tutu for my little heroine. Unfortunately she wasn’t too pleased with the crown or arm bands so we opted for a simple headband which she still ripped off after a few minutes!

Alyssa bday 7

The superhero guests came in their regalia, and it was a sight to behold for sure! The kids had a blast playing with balloons (who would have thought??? Get as many balloons as you can – they are a hot commodity amongst the kiddies it seems). Guests enjoyed finger foods, drinks and of course, no birthday is complete without the CAKE! A One-der Woman themed cake and smash cake from CAYKE provided a sweet finish to the day.

Alyssa bday 5
Alyssa bday 6

Babies received goodie boxes of superhero themed rubber duckies with super hero food (raisins). The older kids received bags of customized crayons, super hero wrist bands and other fun goodies.

Alyssa bday 4
Alyssa bday 3

While doing a non-traditional theme is a lot of fun, it is also a lot of work. So if DIY favor tags and water bottle labels that have to be printed and cut out by hand aren’t your cup of tea, by all means hit up the party stores where everything is good to go (which is what I will probably do next year because it surely was a LOT of work). Remember – first birthdays aren’t a competition – it’s a reflection of who you are as a family! Have fun rocking out with your little ONE 😉

Until next time,

Cayman Mummy