Feeding the World's Pickiest Reflux Eater

Jan Gambino Health Guide
  • If there was a contest for the world’s pickiest eater, I am quite certain that my daughter Rebecca would have made it to the top 10. Now that was a long time ago, before her reflux was well under control. At the time, eating was one of the most unpleasant things you could ask her to do.


    When Rebecca was 3 years old, her reflux caused daily, painful symptoms. All food tasted bad and she had a very short list of foods she was willing to eat, such as pasta, rice, potatoes, chicken and Cheerios. Then, there was a long list of foods she would only lick or bite with a great deal of encouragement. Last was a list of foods that would cause gagging just at the mere mention of them in casual conversation. 

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    I clearly remember going to a huge potluck dinner sponsored by her preschool during the picky eating phase.  The tables were covered with every type of food including many kid friendly items too. We slowly walked down the long row of tables and surveyed the options with paper plate in hand. I was sure she would find something to eat. Finally we ended up with 3 lonely items on her plate: a chicken nugget, one Rice Krispie treat and a roll. She nibbled here and there, gingerly licking and taking tentative bites of the food. While she ate all of these foods at home, she was wary of eating anything new for fear she would end up in pain. Luckily I had brought a baggie of Cheerios and that rounded off the meal. Of course all of her classmates were running back and fourth to the buffet table the whole time, and returning with fists full of food. They would stuff the food into their mouths and go back for more, pausing only when a parent said, “Enough pizza and quiche, save some for everyone else.”  Then, they would flash a food-encrusted smile and sneak off to the dessert table to eat a few dozen cookies and cupcakes.


    I would leave the pot luck, like any other food-oriented celebration feeling very defeated. It was depressing that Rebecca found little joy in a friendly meal with familiar friends and teachers. In addition, she was not able to socialize and act like a daring, exploring preschooler with her friends. I worried about the future too. Would she always hate food? Would she develop bad habits and need therapy to overcome her “phobia” about eating? Of course, I also worried about nutrition and growth issues too.


    It never occurred to me that picky eating was a stage just like the terrible twos. I was sure that I would be carrying a baggie of dry cereal in my purse through adolescence and mashing potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for years and years. But over time, the reflux got a bit better and she started eating a new food once in a while. It was hard to see the progress at first, but eventually she started eating more like a normal kid.


    She is older now and her eating has changed quite a bit. Now she eats from every food group and never misses a meal. She eats with great enthusiasm and often sneaks into the kitchen to get just one more cookie. When her sisters ask who ate all of the Mint Milano Cookies, Rebecca grins and tries to look innocent while saying, “Wasn’t me!”
Published On: April 02, 2007