Originally Posted by kiwikid
The non-compliance seems to be the issue, not the feeding behaviour as far as I can tell. My son on the other hand responds very well to the hands off approach and will choose food from what I provide, unlike his sister who can essentially 'go on hunger strike' (I know it sounds strange given that kids are supposed to give in and eat what's provided once they're really hungry - she just doesn't and loses more and more weight, until I have to step in and start feeding her again, yes and give her attention around food by doing so - I get that.) Unfortunately, the attention associated with requesting that she eats something for dinner (I wish that could include any vegetable or protein, fortunately yogurt is still on the menu) gets the job done, and backing off assuming she will eat what and when she wants results in very little food going in for days at a time.
She was under the care of a specialist between 9 months and 2 years of age following an infection that temporarily damaged her gut. She was fully tested at that time and no sensitivities, intolerances or allergies were found. Several doctors I've spoken to since don't seem to think there has been a lasting effect on her physiologically or psychologically from her period of illness. Sleeping only improved after weaning her from the breast at 13 months - It seemed once she was no longer getting her night-time 'mommy fix' that sleeping for several hours at a stretch became an option.
I'm glad to hear your son overcame his food aversions, hopefully my daughter will too!
You're having it really tough! I had to scroll back up to check how old your daughter was again. I think it may a combination of factors rolled into a negative cycle. I agree that you probably have to separate out the issues in looking for information, but actually dealing with them will require the combined knowledge.
I think the food issue is a biggie - which of course you have to hide from her! As one poster pointed out, it affects their blood sugar level and their behaviour big time. You cannot have a realistic picture of the child's temperament when they are at semi-starvation level for whatever reason. It is one thing if your child is eating a lot, healthy and energtic, but still skinny from burning up so much fuel everyday. It is quite another if your child is skinny because she is eating only to survive.
It can be food sensitivities, it can be about gaining control. I have another allergic skinny child with sleep issues, and I was a former anorexic patient, so I really really feel for you AND your child right now. I will just throw up some ideas on what I would do in your shoes, just pick through and see whatever may be useful to you.
- I was very concerned to read that she had a prolonged gut health problem previously. I don't know what treatment she went through, but it might have left some impressions. Allergic testing is helpful but not fool-proof and the results change over the years. It may be worthwhile to do another test. (Doctors are usually quite reluctant to test young children until they are in a bad shape because of the invasive nature of gut testing.) No pds wanted to test my son for allergies until he was in a pretty bad shape, and only until he had a peanut reaction that made them pay attention. That took three years of asking.
- Consider that her guts may still be sensitive. Other than food sensitivities (which is a big topic in itself, maybe hop over to allergy forum? :) ) If there was probing of any kind during her period of illness, she may also have an aversion to food going down. Yogurt is non-threatening and easy and doesn't rub. So consider food with similar texture. Smoothies may be a good choice (but hold back on citrus/acidic fruits, tomatoes, ketchup which are not ideal for sensitive tummies), mashed potatoes, risotto. If it is a matter of texture, it may be a good idea to get a therapist to work with her on this.
- If she has been eating very little for a long time, she will not be able to eat much. It is likely that her stomach has shrunk and the digestive juices have decreased. You have to ease her back gradually through small regular mini-meals that are easy to eat. Eating doesn't have to be at the dinner table. It can be picnic at an outdoor concert. Coupling food with fun outdoor activities can give it a more positive association and also make it more "neutral". The activity, not the food, becomes the main event, so she may feel it's ok to eat or that perhaps no one will pay attention to whether or not she is eating.
You can also have a very frank talk with her, telling her that you have been worried about her eating because of her past medical history nd you just want to make sure she is ok. If she does not feel well after eating a particular food, she should let you know because she knows her body reaction best. Ask her to name you five food that makes her body feel good (no junk food allowed), and tell her you will make sure there is always some for her in the house. You can also start guiding her to pay attention to how she may feel when she does not have enough food (nausea, headaches etc) so it becomes not a food issue per se, but how to make her feel better.
During the time when I had trouble with my strong-willed firstborn and he had a lot of issues going on with him, my one rule that must be enforced was no hurting his younger brother. I told him I would do the same for him if there was an older child living in the house. I also had to make a conscious effort to do nice things with him/ for him amid my busy schedule and despite being angry with him. Instead of facing down every battle, I gave myself time-out when I felt pushed to the wall. It did help things shift to a more positive plane.
It is a lot of work. You should also give yourself a weekly off-day when you can give yourself a pat on your back for making it through the week. For me, I don't cook two dinners a week and instead we go to a fancy restaurant that will cater to my son's allergies and rent funny movies to watch. You need something to keep you going or you will burn out over time.