Potential Feeding Problems

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As young children develop their likes and dislikes and learn to feed themselves, parents need to allow them to become more independent. As a result of these changes, potential concerns arise. Common feeding problems among preschoolers and toddlers are: obesity, nursing bottle mouth syndrome, food jags, and iron-deficiency anemia.

According to the national Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System, 10.2 percent of children in the United States under the age of five were overweight in 1998. These rates have been increasing steadily since the 1960s. Prevention education is the key to lowering the incidence of obesity in children. Success has been shown in programs that include family involvement, nutritional information and modification, activity planning, and behavior therapy.

Most often seen in children under age three, nursing bottle mouth syndrome (or baby bottle tooth decay) results from extended bottle feeding. It occurs when a child is routinely given a bottle with sweetened beverages (such as milk or juice) at bedtime. As the child sleeps, the liquid pools around the teeth. The result is severe caries on the incisors and cheek surfaces of molars. Parents should avoid giving a bottle at bedtime and begin serving beverages in a cup as early as possible.

Most children undergo a normal part of development know as a foodjag. Food jags occur when children either refuse to eat a previously accepted food, or when they insist on eating one particular food all the time. A food jag is generally a case of a child testing his or her independence. Although annoying for most parents, food jags are rarely a reason for concern. The best strategy is to continue offering a variety of foods every day, while keeping the favorite food available. Most children will eventually return to a normal eating pattern. Letting a food jag take its course is the best plan of action; force will accomplish little.

Despite the wide availability of iron-rich foods, iron-deficiency anemia is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. Reasons for this deficiency in toddlers may be the consumption of large quantities of milk, and thus limited intake of solids and iron-fortified foods. In addition, many young children do not like the best sources of iron, such as meats and seafoods. Parents should pay special attention to include good dietary sources of iron in their children's diet. When meat or seafood sources are limited, the availability of iron from plant sources can be increased with the consumption of ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

vitamin: necessary complex nutrient used to aid enzymes or other metabolic processes in the cell obesity: the condition of being overweight, according to established norms based on sex, age, and height overweight: weight above the accepted norm based on height, sex, and age incidence: number of new cases reported each year caries: cavities in the teeth incisor: chisel-shaped tooth used for cutting; one of the types of primary teeth molar: grinding tooth toward the rear of the mouth

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