Friday, June 10, 2016

15 Ways To Support Parents of Children With Feeding Issues

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It's dinner time and you know it's going to be a battle that will end with your toddler throwing his or her food on the floor or refusing to touch a vegetable because "it's yucky. *insert prolonged whine here*"  

While this is a common problem for many parents, what you may not know is that sometimes it goes beyond picky eating.

My kids are picky eaters and have all, at one time or another, given me countless headaches with their unpredictable and seemingly non-nutritious eating habits.  But when now 2-year-old Davy ended up getting a feeding tube at the age of 2 months, I was thrown into a world I never knew existed.

 15 Ways To Support Parents of Children With Feeding Issues

Sure, I'd heard of teens and adults struggling with eating disorders, but it never occurred to me that babies and children could too.  I soon found out that picky eating and a feeding disorder are two vastly different things.      
It's unknown how many children have pediatric feeding disorders and other feeding issues, but there are more than most people realize.  Just a few of the many reasons for a child's inability to eat are GERD, aspiration, allergies, motility issues, etc.  The list is extensive (you can see a partial list here), and sometimes a cause is never actually found.

Tubie Mama shirt from Sunshine and Spoons
Available in the Sunshine and Spoons Shop

Not all kids with feeding disorders need a feeding tube.  A lot are able to eat food orally, but have sensory issues or need high calorie supplements to avoid losing weight.

Parents of little ones with feeding issues face a lot of challenges and often feel misunderstood and like they don't have support.  Well-meaning friends and relatives can unknowingly make things worse.    

Here are 15 ways you can support a parent of a child with feeding issues.

1. Reach out to me.
Just having someone listen and not give advice or second-guess my decisions is huge.  Sometimes I just need to cry and other times I'll ask questions that you can't answer like "why is this happening?"  I'm not necessarily asking for advice, I just need someone to listen. 

2. Help me out with my kids.  
Taking care of a child with a feeding issue is very time-consuming, and I often worry that my other children aren't getting enough attention.  If you're comfortable taking care of my child with the feeding issue, offer to do so for an hour or more so I can spend some one-on-one time with my other kids.  If you're not comfortable with that, having you spend some time focusing on my other kids would also be a huge help to me.

3. Don't tell me that my child looks too healthy to need a feeding tube.
My child is healthy BECAUSE of the feeding tube and no, we are not going to remove it until he or she is 100% able to eat by mouth.

I'm Healthy BECAUSE of My Feeding Tube shirt from Sunshine and Spoons
Available in the Sunshine and Spoons Shop

4. Be sensitive when complaining or bragging about your child's eating habits.
Yes, I still want to hear about your kids, but if you spend 10 minutes complaining about how much your kids eat or how they refuse to eat macaroni and cheese, that's just insensitive to what I'm going through.

5. Don't compare my child to a child who's a picky eater. 
A picky eater is NOT the same as a child with a feeding disorder.  

Yes, I Have a Feeding Tube shirt from Sunshine and Spoons
Available in the Sunshine and Spoons Shop

6. If I tell you that it is not safe for my child to eat, it is IMPERATIVE that you respect that! 
A lot of kids with feeding disorders cannot eat because they aspirate food or have severe food allergies. Trying to sneak a child food or letting them try something could literally kill them.  Don't do it! Some kids also have an oral aversion and trying to force feed them can make the problem worse.  I know my child best, and I need you to follow my instructions for them.

Available in the Sunshine and Spoons Shop

7. Don't leave my child out of activities or parties. 
Just because a child is not able to eat like everyone else doesn't mean that he or she doesn't want to have fun. 

8. Don't suggest different diets, treatments, etc.  
I work very closely with my child's doctor to come up with the best plan for his or her diet and feeding methods, and chances are that the trick you read about in a parenting magazine to get kids to eat isn't going to work.  On that same note, don't ask if I've tried this, that, or the other thing.  Believe me, I've tried EVERYTHING.

Available in the Sunshine and Spoons Shop

9. Don't tell me I'm over-reacting.  I'm not.  
Children with feeding issues can literally starve to death without proper treatment.  On that same note, "I know he'll be just fine" or "you just need to be positive" are not helpful phrases to hear when I don't know exactly what the future holds for my child.  I'm being realistic, not pessimistic.  

10. Don't be nervous or avoid me when I'm tube feeding my child.  
Ask questions, but DON'T say things like, "Oh, that's gross."  Please treat my child normally.

Available in the Sunshine and Spoons Shop

11. Don't assume I'm a lazy parents because I'm tube feeding my child or giving him or her special high-calorie food or drinks.  
This does NOT mean that I've given up, it means that I'm okay with my child getting help to get the nutrition he or she needs to survive.  And believe me, I've second-guessed myself about this enough and don't need anyone else doing the same.

Available in the Sunshine and Spoons Shop

12. Don't judge me when you see me giving my kid junk food and high calorie/high fat foods to eat and cheering him or her on when they actually eat it.  
My kiddo struggles to gain weight and is under doctor's orders to eat things like that.  Do NOT lecture me on the benefits of eating healthy.

13. Don't say things like, 'Let me have him/her for a while, I'll get them to eat!" or suggest ice cream because "all kids love ice cream!"
Saying things like that imply that you have no idea what my child is going through and don't really care.  It also hurts me because you're saying that I didn't try hard enough to get my child to eat typically.  You have no idea what we've been through.

Available in the Sunshine and Spoons Shop

14. If I don't have a copy already, buy me this book!  
Seriously, it will help me so much.  Before you give it to me, read it yourself.  It will help you understand what I'm going through.  

15. Don't tell me that you could never do what I do.  
I didn't think I could do it either until I had to.  As a parent, you do whatever it takes to care for your child.  A lot of times, I'm falling apart on the inside and hearing how strong I am over and over again makes me feel like I'm failing because I'm not that strong.  I'm just taking care of my child like any parent would do.

Available in the Sunshine and Spoons Shop

15 ways to support parents of children with feeding issues. #specialneeds

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This post is linked up at: 1. A Bountiful Love 2. Missional Women 3. Being Fibro Mom 4. Love That Max 5. Comfort In the Midst of Chaos 6. Called to Mothering 7. The Zippy Zebra


  1. Eye-opening article. I didn't realize kids had so many reasons to need a feeding tube. All the points are shocking because people think or say it, but number eleven was a real shocker. I would hope no one would think a parent lazy because of a feeding tube, but the harsh reality is that it's true.

    Thank you for another informative article. The power of knowledge is great!

    1. I had a friend tell me that she wished her kids had feeding tubes because it would be so much easier to feed them. Not true at all!!! Tube feeding is so much harder! Thank you for stopping by!

  2. These are adorable shirts! I love the idea!! Thanks for sharing at the Family Joy Linkup!


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