Throughout this series, we’ve touched on children who don’t eat, those who are fearful of food, and those that are selective eaters. Now, we turn our attention to children who cannot stop eating.
Children’s National’s psychiatrist Irene Chatoor, MD, is an expert in childhood feeding disorders. In her book, When Your Child Won’t Eat or Eats Too Much, she explains the basics of how to introduce healthy foods to avoid the development of a childhood feeding problem. She also outlines specific feeding problems she has come across in her research.
Children who eat too much love to eat and cannot turn off their hunger, even if they’ve already eaten a full meal. Dr. Chatoor explained that there are possibly three hungers: the hunger of the mouth, hunger of the stomach, and the hunger of the heart.
Three Types of Hunger:
- Hunger of the mouth: food tastes so delicious that the child will continue to eat it until there is nothing left.
- Hunger of the stomach: the child never feels full.
- Hunger of the heart: the child uses food to soothe him or herself.
Parents of children who eat too much can use the guidelines outlined in Parents’ Corner to help teach their child how to identify hunger and help create a regular feeding schedule.
- Serve small portions and continue feeding small portions until the child recognizes fullness
- Do not keep sweets or snacks out, as these are temptations for the child
- Use the time out method described in Parents’ Corner to teach the child to self-soothe
- Do not allow the child to eat during movies or television shows
These guidelines only work when both parents participate, even though that means possibly changing their own eating patterns too. Dr. Chatoor says in her book, “What’s good for the child, is good for the parents as well.”
For even more tips on feeding children and all about Dr. Chatoor’s research on feeding problems, read her book online.