Studies show that as many as 3 out of 10 children, and 8 out of 10 special needs children, have feeding disorders. These disorders can range from picky eaters including those that will only eat specific foods such as chicken nuggets or macaroni, to problem feeders that can’t eat at all by mouth.
As a speech language pathologist who has specialized in feeding for over 10 years I always knew and discussed how important feeding their child is to a mother and father.
There are only a few things a parent can do to take care of a new baby: feed them, keep them clean and keep them safe. This is even more magnified when children have special needs.
This is why feeding disorders are so overwhelming to parents.
If a parent can’t, or has difficulties feeding their child they feel stressed, sad and often… like a failure.
I can now say this with certainty after giving birth on August 10th, 2006 to a healthy full-term baby girl. I had such a strong instinct to feed her the moment she was handed to me.
I was saddened when she would not latch on immediately. While she did eventually latch on, feeding Maya continues to be a roller coaster of emotions. Each time she breastfeeds successfully I am elated.
When she has difficulty I continue to get stressed and concerned wondering what’s wrong? Why is she not latching? Not eating? Is she not feeling well? Is my milk not enough for her, does it taste bad? Is she frustrated?
As a dedicated therapist I decided to go back to work full-time after only six weeks. Having my practice makes it easy to come and go and to have flexibility to go home and feed Maya between clients.
While “so far, so good” my anxiety about feeding still exists. Luckily it has now primarily shifted to “will Maya have enough milk while I am working?” She’s now drinking in excess of 25 oz per day. Since she’s in the 90th percentile in height and the 75th percentile in weight it seems she’s eating enough.
While the focus of my stress has shifted, feeding Maya remains my primary concern and often consumes me. I still worry about feeding her and will probably have strong emotions surrounding this at least until she is all grown up.
I see now why parents are concerned about their child’s eating when they go off to college. How can you not be when you have been consumed by the topic for so long?
This experience has changed me for the good as a feeding therapist and has increased my passion as a person who helps parents deal with and understand feeding as a complex and emotional issue.
I am sure Maya will continue to teach me many things over her lifetime which will change me and cause me to look at things with different eyes. Oops… it’s 12:00, time to feed Maya.