Eating disorders in childhood

Eating disorders in childhood

Feeding problems in the early years of childhood they are much more frequent than at first it might seem. From children who eat too slowly, getting distracted by anything, to others who have to eat surrounded by toys or various entertainment because if they do not stop eating, others who continually get up from the table or simply refuse to try food. This makes mealtime in many homes a constant struggle.

The first years of the lives of children are a decisive stage to establish good patterns of eating behavior but quite often we observe problems related to food, such as aversion to certain foods or lack of appetite. Sometimes these behaviors are indicative of some disease so it is important to pay attention to them. The origin can be very diverse, it can be an allergic or digestive pathology that causes certain discomforts when eating certain foods and this produces a rejection, or that the minor has difficulties to establish the rhythm of hunger and satiety, it can also be indicative of others diseases, in any case it is necessary rule out that there are organic diseases and for this it is necessary to visit the pediatrician. For example, children with autism spectrum often have problems with food that many families do not know.

The most common disorders in the first years

Eating disorders that happen to children before age 6 are different from those that can develop at later ages, at this earlier stage it is often related to the child's interaction with his mother and the influence of the family or caregivers on the child.

Some of the problems we may encounter are:

Refusal to take food

It is quite often young children refuse to eat solid foods and want everything crushed Since it is more comfortable to ingest it, this rejection usually coincides with the passage of the crushed feed to the solid and with the exit of the teeth. Large doses of patience and that the child discover the new textures at his own pace is usually enough for the child to get used to chewing food.

Another problem is the lack of appetite or spend excessive time eating, the causes can be diverse, from the refusal to eat the food for not liking the taste or texture, not wanting to eat alone or having excessive distractions at mealtime, such as TV, mobile, etc. It is important to implement good habits; motivate you to try new things, to see us eat vegetables, fish and other "less attractive" foods and eliminate distractions on the table, turning food into a moment to enjoy with the family.

These are all minor problems in infant feeding that it is usually redirected quite easily if they work on time.

The obesity

Every time we see more obese children under 5 years and the figure, apparently, does not stop increasing. Obesity carries greater risks of suffering from other associated diseases such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep disorder.

Obesity is often related to the bad habits we have acquired regarding food. Nowadays you eat too much sugar, a lot of fat, a lot of salt, this together with an increasingly sedentary life It will affect overweight problems in children. In these cases it is important to educate parents to respect the appetite of children. There are very worried parents because their son or daughter “eats little” and for that reason they delay the introduction of solid foods, since it seems that they eat less or that every time babies cry they feed them because they think it is because of hunger.

Anorexia and bulimia nervosa

Although it is not a disorder of the first years of childhood, it is possible to lay the foundations for it to be established when the boy or the girl is older. Anorexia is characterized by the refusal to maintain a healthy weight with an intense fear of gaining weight due to distortion of body image, in bulimia there are episodes of food decontrol followed by purgative compensatory methods, extreme diets or excessive exercise and there is weight adequate or even above recommended.

It is a problem that we see in younger and younger people, since children are constantly exposed to advertising and this influences their perception of the environment and their own body. To avoid falling into this type of disorder it is essential to implement good eating habits from a very young age, as well as to promote social relations eat with family and work self-esteem of the smallest. Early detection is essential and collaboration between parents and professions is essential.


Another disorder that we can find in childhood is pica, this is characterized by the intake of substances not considered food. Cases of paint, chalk, plasticine soap, insects, feces are known. Pica is considered inappropriate behavior from 18-24 months since at earlier ages they usually do it as a way of exploring the world around them. It is usually associated with autism spectrum diseases, OCD or Avoidance / Restriction disorder..


Although we must always rule out the existence of an organic origin, an important part behind these problems has to do with educational aspects, for example, there are parents who do not know how to limit their children. If a child has trouble feeding the first thing would be to go to the pediatrician to rule out whether this behavior is behavioral or there is something organic based. If the problem is behavioral, the professional will give some guidelines to the parents. What he imparts is that we be aware of the health of the children and that a timely intervention can save many future problems.


World Health Organization (WHO). Overweight and obesity. Internet Access October 15, 2019 Available at: //