“She doesn’t eat anything”, “I tried everything, I couldn’t eat no matter what I did”, “She has no appetite, she doesn’t gain weight”, “She looks very thin for her peers”… and many more sentences like this… These are part of the daily conversations of many parents lately. It became the most important problem they had with their children, let alone that. Children without appetite, unhappy mothers!
Well, are children really lack of appetite, or is it the sensitivity of motherhood that always sees them without appetite? No matter how big the child grows, there is always a child in the eyes of the mother, there is such a thought about eating, it is not easy to please the mother no matter how much she eats. Well, even if you are 40 years old, when you go to your mother, something is always put in front of you, your plates are filled one after the other, the effort to satisfy yourself goes on with the “eat that too, eat this one too” approach…
So who is the hungry child? Mothers easily describe their children, who do not eat enough to please themselves, have choices about food, and are picky, as “without appetite”. However, when it comes to anorexia children, what should be understood is the children who do not eat at a rate that will negatively affect their physical development and growth.
In order to cope with the problem of loss of appetite, it is necessary to first go to the root of the problem. Parents should ask themselves some questions before rushing to the doctor right away. “Since when is the loss of appetite?”, “Has anything that affected the child (illness, separation from family members, loss of relatives, separation from parents, moving, new sibling, etc.) experienced before the onset of anorexia?” , “Is he acting reactive towards certain foods or against all foods?”, “Has there been a change in the eating pattern at home?” or “Is the issue of feeding increasingly a war between mother and child?” as. If one or more of these questions can be answered, the reason for the loss of appetite is largely psychological. Otherwise, the cause is organic and requires medical attention. In this case, the child’s loss of appetite should first be checked physically; It should be checked whether there are problems such as anemia, intestinal parasites, zinc deficiency, high fever, ear and throat pain, colds that make breathing difficult, flu, upper respiratory tract infection. According to the evaluation of the pediatrician, vitamin supplements, appetizing syrups may be recommended, or if it is caused by a disease, the treatment of that disease can be provided first.
However, there are certain stages in the development of the child, which can cause loss of appetite. For example, loss of appetite seen during teething periods, illness periods and transition periods is normal and will pass with the end of the period. Especially during the teething period, a significant decrease in the appetite of children can be observed. The child, who feels pain in the gums, may refuse solid foods, turn to liquid foods such as more water and milk, if he is taking breast milk, he may want to breastfeed more. Again, in periods of illness, the child may especially react to certain foods or may prefer to eat a few certain foods. What needs to be done during these periods is to wait patiently for that period to pass and to avoid forcing the child.
Anorexia can vary from meal to meal, from day to day. A child may refuse a favorite food one day, or a child who has a very good breakfast may become coy at lunch and cause problems for the family. The most important thing to remember here is that they are also individuals, they have food preferences and they do not have to eat everything. Children don’t have to eat everything, just as we adults may like some foods and dislike others. They have a taste, too, and there may be foods they don’t like. Younger mothers are more likely to be concerned. Because the vitamin, calorie and energy value that the child will receive from each food is different. Mothers tend to eat everything in order to meet all these. However, as the age progresses, alternatives increase, a vitamin taken from a food that the child does not like is replaced with protein from another food, albeit unwillingly.
In addition to all these, the eating habits of the child from the very beginning also affect the appetite. Eating should not be just an act of fulfilling needs for the child, it should become a culture and a habit. For this reason, babies should take their place at the table with their own highchair from the moment they start to sit. This is a very important step in establishing a table culture and establishing a regular eating habit. After starting complementary foods, the baby will also have meals. You can have these meals at the same table with your parents. Even if he does not eat anything, he can be provided with a piece of bread or a piece of fruit to accompany the family. Thus, by observing the elders, the desire to eat will increase and he will learn some routines in this way.
From the age of 1, the child can start to eat on his own. As hand-eye coordination is provided better, he/she will be able to use the fork and spoon with help. Therefore, the child should be given ample opportunity to eat on his own. Especially after the age of 2, allowing the child in this regard is very important in terms of both the development of hand skills and the support of self-confidence. Many mothers even feed their older children themselves, with the thought that they will not get dirty, eat quickly, and they can eat more. However, the fact that the mother or someone else feeds it does not mean that the child cannot do this. Encouraging the child to eat on his own and appreciating him for eating on his own is, above all, necessary for the development of self-confidence. Because seeing that the child has achieved something on his own, not only in this subject, but in every subject, strengthens his sense of self.
Playing games and eating in front of the TV is also a situation that prevents the child from gaining the habit of eating regularly. Unfortunately, many parents resort to this method when feeding their children because they have no appetite. But game time and meal time must be separated from each other. Periods that make up our day, such as sleeping at bedtime, eating at mealtime, studying during class, and the distinction between these periods should be explained to the child. Therefore, eating should be the main goal at mealtime, and the child should be kept away from other objects that will distract him.
Considering all these, when eating place, time, support of the mother or others, and the way of eating are misconfigured, it can trigger the problem of appetite. In addition, it can cause the child to refuse to eat easily and to use the parents for eating.
Another problem with anorexia is coercion. Forcing a child to eat will only increase his resistance. Because the more the parents dwell on this subject, the more interesting the subject becomes. This can be an easy way to prove himself, especially for a 2-3 year old child who is in the age of stubbornness. For this reason, coercion should be strictly avoided. Instead of forcing, it is necessary to increase tolerance. For example, if one day he ate 2 spoons of a food he did not like, try to feed him 3-4 spoons the next time. Repeated attempts should be avoided. It should be tried again in a few days. If the child does not want to take a few spoons and continue, although he does not want to continue, he should not go further, he should be left. Even if he eats a little, he should be appreciated and definitely rewarded. However, this award should not be a monetary award. Otherwise, this situation may turn into a conflict of interest, and the child may tend to use the parents by saying that he will eat if he is given a reward. Of course, it is not right not to feed it at all because it does not like it. Especially after the age of 3, the benefits of fruits and vegetables should be explained to the child, and it should be explained that he should eat it not because the mother wants it, but to be healthy and strong and to be protected from diseases. It can be said that he cannot get the vitamin in the foods he does not eat with other foods, so he should taste it a little bit.
Decision making is very important for children. It makes them feel that they are an individual and that they are taken into account. Therefore, even if the options are the options of the parents, it is satisfactory for the child to make the decision. Of course, the child’s opinion can be asked while preparing the food menus, but it should not be prepared according to the things that the child likes. The choices should be the choices of the parents. But the child must choose. An approach such as “Finish one of these dishes you want completely, but you have to taste the others” gives him this right. The foods that the child chooses may be less beneficial than other foods such as pasta and rice. In this case, the task of tasting can be a little more limited; like taking 5 spoons of other foods…
Another point that should not be forgotten is that it will take time to deal with this problem and an improvement cannot be achieved all at once. Above all, mothers should not succumb to their sensitivities. No child will starve to death unless there is famine. Mothers should be patient with the child’s refusals and avoid coercion. Meal times should be set in a certain order and if the child refuses to eat at meal time, he should learn to wait until the next meal time. In the meantime, snacks that will fill your stomach, soothe your hunger should definitely not be given. Even if he does not eat anything, he should be asked to sit at the table with the family at meal time. In short, if mothers want to teach their children to eat and make it regular, they have to sacrifice a little of their feelings. Maybe they have to tolerate the child starving for a while, fighting with themselves or showing irritability.
If all these points are taken care of but still no results can be obtained, if the problem of loss of appetite has arisen as a result of some events, or if a child who has a good appetite refuses to eat anymore, some psychological factors can be mentioned. In such a case, the focus should be on the problem the child is experiencing. If the problem is focused on and a solution is provided, the problem of loss of appetite will also disappear.