Looking back I could see how some of my firstborn son's eating challenges were subtly influenced by our parenting style. Realizing that made it easier to identify a better path the second time around. When my daughter presented with swallowing difficulty, part of the strategy to overcome this was putting to use a child-centered, low pressure, program around family meals and snacks. These strategies helped us to understand and overcome my daughter's swallowing challenges and learn to feed her without fear. This was life changing and truly achieved the goal of peaceful feedings!
Kiren, Potomac Falls
I am a Greek mother so my whole identity is based on how well my kids eat.
Much to my dismay, my 3 year old son hadn't eaten a vegetable in 2 years! After tremendous frustration, I just stopped talking to him about eating vegetables. No more asking, begging, pleading, or negotiating. Instead I just modeled and let him see. During mealtimes and snacks he would enjoy feeding me lettuce and salad. I thought at the very least he was honing his fine motor skills to use a big fork, stab a piece of lettuce, and then actually get it in my mouth. I also thought it would be a good opportunity for him to get him "close" to lettuce without the pressure of having to eat it. Then one day he pulled the bowl out of my hands, sat down on the floor, and blistered through my whole salad! I couldn't believe it.This is an approach that really works and makes mealtimes more fun and MUCH less stressful for everyone.
When our daughter was 8 months old, she was diagnosed with multiple food allergies. By the time of the diagnosis, she had already learned to associate eating with pain, and was entirely resistant to all types of eating or drinking. As parents, it broke our hearts each time we tried to force her to nourish herself. That was when Ann Marie was recommended to us. I often tell people that Ann Marie saved my life, which may be an exaggeration, but she most definitely saved my sanity and my daughter's lifelong relationship with food. Ann Marie taught my husband and me to rethink the feeding process so that my daughter could become comfortable with it again. Within a few short months, our daughter was eating normally and enjoying meals! Today she is 6 years old and is a healthy, happy, adventurous eater. She has a full and varied diet that includes just about everything from brussel sprouts to sushi! I know that this wonderful outcome would have been possible had Ann Marie not worked with us early in my daughter's development. I cannot recommend Ann Marie enough.
Melissa G., McLean, VA
What Parents Are Saying
Words cannot express how much Ann Marie helped us along our journey to feed our son. When we met, he was 15 months old, could not eat solid food, could not keep food down, and consistently vomited during mealtimes. He was constantly with a mild cold and congestion. Ann Marie collaborated with the hospital’s speech pathologist during my child's swallow studies, as she wanted to see first hand what was happening, so she could help guide us at home. She helped us to follow our son's cues and learn how to help him progress with his solid foods and chewing skills, which helped him increase the foods he could eat and contributed to better weight gain and nutrition. He was eventually eating everything we were eating as a family! The last milestone of our feeding therapy journey was when he was 3 years old and he could finally drink liquids without thickener!! We all rejoiced and enjoyed seeing him take his first sips of juice and water without coughing. He was so proud to drink from a water bottle like his big sister. He is now 7 years old and there is hardly a meal that goes by that we do not recall, with fond memories, our days at the table with Ann Marie, as our son reaches for more pork dumplings and rice!
Mr. and Mrs. W, Arlington
Our child was 5 months old when we started therapy with a feeding specialist. We were very stressed, had already had other consults, and our son still could not breastfeed or bottle-feed without screaming. We had to rock him to sleep to get him to eat while sleeping. Reflux medication did not seem to help. Feedings took us 30 minutes or more and we fed often, hoping this would help him to take more and gain weight. With the help of this approach we teamed with our GI and nutritionist and discovered our son had a milk protein allergy. My wife went dairy free and we started a special formula. The change was immediate; however, we were still concerned about his intake and volume as we were told he needed 12 more ounces a day than he was taking. We continued down a bumpy road. It took us time to trust what the feeding specialist was saying about spacing feedings, and responding to our son's refusal and "stop" cues for feeding. We discovered his occasional vomit episodes were indeed related to the distractions we were using to get him to take more volume. Now we don’t need to use iPhones, sleep and toys to get him to start and finish feeding. He enjoys eating and is now taking his bottle without fuss and learning to feed himself and drink from a cup while sitting at the table with us. Usually mealtimes for him are about 5-10 minutes now. When Ann Marie asked what we learned most from this experience and what we would share with other families, my wife and I said, "there is always a reason a child is refusing food. Feeding frequently, worrying about volume intake, and using distractions to get them to eat or eat more is not the right way to deal with a baby with feeding issues. It actually develops an aversion and food refusal that is really hard to deal with. Time and space, relaxed feedings and no stress on volume or weight gain, watching for baby to regulate the feedings is the way to go". We see a great change. Our son is gaining weight and we are now spending more time playing with our son than feeding him. It was unpleasant and stressful to both the baby and us at onset and now it’s a complete turn around and a great relief.
Vamshi and Souyma, Herndon
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