Carefully Controlled Hunger

As the mother of a child with a sensory processing disorder who doesn’t eat much orally, I am always on the alert to help her overcome the oral aversiveness that rules her life.  Little Miss is fed by g-tube for typically 100% of her calories, although she CAN eat.  There are no structural or functional problems that prevent her from eating by feeding herself.

That being said, in the past Little Miss was at risk of literally starving to death rather than eating enough to stay alive.


Moving from elementary school to junior high provides a desire on her part to feed herself and be like other kids.  Positive peer pressure DOES exist!

Her school offers pizza at lunch twice a week, and she wants to be a big kid. She eats pizza for lunch! I send along real silverware so her teacher can cut it into tiny pieces (otherwise she will not eat it). Her blended meal typically comes home untouched on pizza days.

But on to the title of this post: Carefully Controlled Hunger is a technique encouraged years ago by my daughter’s speech pathologist (who was a feeding specialist). What this means is NOT feeding overnight (then the child isn’t hungry during the day), and underfeeding enough to keep my child hungry without endangering her health.  This was very difficult for me to master, emotionally, as we had come so close to losing Little Miss due to her refusal to eat as a baby. Of course, Little Miss’s doctor had to help us find the right calorie count to use this technique.  It wasn’t something we could figure out ourselves.

Now, she is 12. The effectiveness of this method has another opportunity to succeed.  When she is quite hungry, she goes right to the refrigerator and gets out a hot dog. She cuts it up, microwaves it and eats it herself. Or she will ask me to make pizza.

We recently had a few days when she has self-fed three times in one day! It wasn’t enough calories, but it was exciting!

Another key for us in getting our daughter to self-feed:  we have dinner together as a family most evenings.  We all sit down to a meal and I make sure to provide something she usually eats.  We all talk and laugh and eat – together – and this has proven to be a good strategy as well.

Never give up. Never.  Keep trying things.  It is amazing how much it helps my caregiver-exhaustion to have her eat just one meal!


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