What environmental factors affect a child's eating?
- What is available to a child/family?
- What sources of nutrition are affordable?
- What is a child’s experience with tastes?
- What is a child’s health status?
- What is the status of a child’s hunger?
- What social norms dominate a child’s life?
- What nutritional needs does the child have?
Environmental factors have a role in feeding development. Environmental factors include what is available to a child or a family, affordable sources of nutrition, and the child's experience with taste. We know now that a fetus can taste things within the amniotic fluid based on the mother's diet. Additionally, breast milk has an odor and taste. These factors are going to impact feeding development.
Additionally, we want to look at the child's health status. Is the child well enough to be able to eat and drink? We also need to assess the child's hunger. In atypical feeding development, children may have tubes or alternate of sources of nutrition that are typically delivered on a schedule. For instance, we may feed them every three or four hours, whether they are hungry or not. In terms of normal, typical feeding development, knowing about the status of a child's hunger has much to do with how that develops.
We also need to investigate social norms. Typical feeding development at my house might look a little different at your house. Different foods are offered depending on the child's culture, and some cultures do not use utensils. There are many ways "typical feeding" looks, so it is imperative to be aware of what each child is going to have and why they are in that presentation.
Lastly, what nutritional needs does the child have? This is also going to impact feeding development.
This Ask the Expert is an edited excerpt from the course, Back to the basics when looking at maladaptive behavior, by Tere Bowen-Irish.