Sure steps to help your child overcome feeding difficulties

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Abbott coordinated with Vinutas to introduce the Six Sure Steps via consultation with American dietitian Kim Milano and leading international and local experts in nutrition and pediatrics. The SureFeeding program along with a new book by American Child Psychiatrist Dr Irene Chatoor aims to provide parents with useful information to help them find solutions for raising children with healthy eating habits.

Research by Vietnam Nutrition Association (Vinutas) found that more than 65% of parents allow feeding habits that may lead to picky eating behaviors in children such as allowing toys at the table, TV viewing during mealtimes etc. In Vietnam and around the world, making children eat at the same family's table has been constant haunting experience and even a "˜battle', resulting in exhausted and angry parents and seriously mentally hurt their children.

The Six Sure Steps useful guidelines to families of picky eaters globally

The Vinutas survey on 3,000 parents between Mar. 15 and Apr. 15, 2013 indicates that more than 65% of Vietnamese parents are feeding their children in wrong ways. Specifically, 13% of  parents lack time and rely on children's grandparents or nannies to feed their children; 14% of parents force their children to eat despite their crying and resistance; 19% of parents continue to hand feed their older children, 23% of parents use distractions like TV commercials or toys to trick their children into eating


Dr Tu Ngu, Vinutas General Secretary

Dr Tu Ngu, Vinutas General Secretary, believes that all the above methods are serious mistakes. Children with poor eating habits may experience fear of eating that leads to picky eating later on. He warned the above unhealthy eating habits may seriously impact the children's physical and mental development in their early years of life.

To help address feeding issues, American dietitian Kim Milano presented the Six Sure Steps to help parents in raising children with healthy eating habits. Kim Milano, RD, said that in modern societies, where parents are busy working while frozen and unsafe foods are rampant, and children may be too much distracted by various forms of entertainment, the use of these Six Sure Steps may prove difficult, even for American. However, by spending enough time and efforts in children's eating, parents will save themselves from the headache of worrying about the children's height and weight.

Milano who specializes in feeding difficulties in infants and toddlers said "Just like learning to walk, children need help learning to eat well. Establishing set meal and snack times, eating as a family, selecting and consistently offering new healthy food can help your child learn to enjoy foods that are good for him or her." However, this needs to be done early since after 5 years, children may have developed entrenched habits that are difficult to change.

These steps are:

Dietitian Kim Milano presented the Six Sure Steps

Establishing set meal times: setting a timetable for the children's meals and snacks (2-4 hours apart) to help them develop the feelings of being full or hungry.

Selecting healthy food: making sure that four types of food are included: carbohydrate, protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Fresh food is good for the children, not over-cooked food which is poor in nutrients and vitamins.

Dr. Tu Ngu, General Secretary of Vinutas, advised "Supplementary feeding should follow the rule of starting from liquid to denser food, from less to more, with a combination of various food to provide enough energy and micronutrients, and regularly observing the child's weight and height development."

Creating a family meal environment: Watching others eating is also an important part in teaching the children to eat.

Dr. Irene Chatoor said: "I believe that having a grand family mealtime is the most important thing. If a 3-meal schedule is not possible, at least a mutual dinner should be secured. It is useful to create a relaxing and happy environment while feeding children."

Respond to your child's hunger signals:  Each child has a different way to show he/she is full or hungry, so a full week observation is advised.

Kim Milano, RD, said "Respond to your child's hunger signals; guide eating practices instead of controlling them; set limits and be a good role model. This includes talking about food in a positive way and practicing healthy eating behaviors"

Be patient to teach the child to eat new food: Some children may need 10-15 times trying new food before finally accepting them.

Dr. Huynh Thi Duy Huong, former principal pediatrics instructor, HCMC Medical University highlighted the importance of patience in feeding a picky eater "Typical failure of children feeding results from the fact that parents can't wait until their child feels hungry to feed him/her, or they lack patience for waiting until the next mealtime to feed the child again. Being calm and patient is needed to feed the children based on their hunger. Meals should be set 2-4 hours apart, regardless of main meals or snacks."

(Right to left): Dietitian Kim Milano, Dr Duy Huong, Dr. Irene Chatoor and Dr Tu Ngu in the consultation

Learning about your family's feeding habits:  Parents should learn if what the children are fed can meet their development needs. Parents can meet the child's needs by feeding him/her when he/she is hungry, not feeding the child when he/she is full, eating with them and avoiding to criticize or praise how much food your child eat.

A valuable gift for Vietnamese parents with picky eating children

A Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, Dr Chatoor has dedicated her 25-year career to helping parents better understand and manage the challenges of raising a child with feeding difficulties. Via the SureFeeding program, Abbott has supported the launch of Dr Chatoor book "When Your Child Won't Eat or Eats Too Much" to help Vietnamese parents learn effective ways to deal with children feeding difficulties. The book is a great resource with practical advices for parents seeking solutions to help their children overcome feeding difficulties. It is also useful for pediatricians, nutritionists, gastroenterologists and psychologists who are having difficulties in treating patients with feeding issues.

Dr. Irene Chatoor said it is important to determine if your child is a real selective eater or just so-called by the parents. She also suggested parents should look at the child's growth chart and real health status. If the child is really having feeding disorders, the growth chart will be poor, as both basic nutrients and micronutrients are missing. Otherwise, remain calm because if the child's status is still within the acceptable growth chart ranges, it might just be the parents' mistaken understanding of the child being a picky eater, misleading them into think that their children are not growing well.

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