Parents often complain ‘my child doesn’t eat anything’. The parents often worry about their child getting thinner, not getting proper nutrition and doing badly in studies.
Parents often resort to the following steps to make their child eat:
-They make or buy various items for the child. They often take a bigger amounts of food at a time to feed the child and then try to them over a longer span of time.
-They try to distract the child by making them watch television or play on mobile phones, and push the food into the child’s mouth.
-As the child does not eat while awake, they mix up flour or other grinded foods in bottled milk and when the child is asleep, push the bottle in their mouth.
-As a final resort, they ask the physician to prescribe medicines to increase the child's appetite.
All this results in:
- Irritating the child. The child becomes afraid of food and does not open the mouth. Every time she sees food, she tries to escape.
-It causes loss of appetite. Sometimes the child vomits in the middle or at the end of the meal.
- The children who become dependent on the ground rice or readymade food bought from the market and suffers from anaemia.
-Milk or the food pureed in the blender causes constipation and sometimes bleeding from the rectum.
-The child gets confused seeing various items and never learns to choose and pick.
- Teeth problem and ear infections are common with children fed by bottle when asleep.
-Addiction to mobile phones and television hampers studies. Concentration on studies and communication capabilities are affected. Language skills develop late too.
-Accidently death may occur even while trying to feed forcefully by food particles entering into the lungs.
What to do?
-Each person eats up according to his own urgency at every age. Signals are released whenever one is hungry or food is in the sight. There is no scope of forcing. Leave it up to your child. If there is food in the house, the child will not suffer from malnutrition.
-Observe your child's activities and monitor the frequency of excretion and urination. If these are okay, there is nothing to worry.
-It takes four hours for the food to digest and reach the intestine from the stomach. Do not pester you which frequent feeding.
-For the first six months of life, a child needs only its mother's milk. After that, rice, vegetables, fish, meat, peas, eggs and so on are needed. This is enough for the child's physical and mental development.
-Do not hurry while feeding. Finish it in 15 to 20 minutes. Then leave it.
-Teach the child how to eat on her own. She can waste food at first, but eventually will grow interest.
-Dine together, adults and young. Children learn from this and their appetite grows too.
*Abid Hossain Mollah is a pediatrician at Bangladesh Institute of Research and Rehabilitation for Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders (BIRDEM) in Dhaka.