There has been a growing interest in the nutritional needs of adopted children. There is a webinar recorded through Adoption Learning Partners and the Spoon Foundation presented by Dr. Dana Johnson called “Food for Thought.” You can listen to this webinar for a cost of only $15. You will want to listen to this broadcast a few times over, as there is much information packed into one hour.
What you should know regarding your child’s nutritional needs:
- Typical deficiencies can vary based on child’s country of origin.
- Deficiencies can cause growth and cognitive delays.
- While children can “catch up,” the long term effects of early nutritional deficiencies are not clear.
- Children usually should be tested to determine if they are deficient in some key nutrients.
- Children upon arrival home often lack iron storage but will not be anemic. However, once they are home and have a large growth spurt, they can become very anemic (From webinar, “Food for Thought.”)
Food is more than just way of providing nutrients. Food is also a way to bond with your child and offer him comfort and familiarity.
To help your child adjust and to encourage closeness and attachment here are some tips from the “ Food for Thought” webinar and from families:
- Food should not be an Issue There should be no power struggles over food. If you get into a battle with your child over food, your child will win.
- Keep meal time simple Your child probably did not have much variety, so introduce new foods gradually. Of course, some children love everything and encourage variety.
- Have food available —especially if your child was deprived. Children, who have suffered from deprivation, need to know that food will always be there. You may want to keep various nutritious snacks within easy reach of your child at all times, so she knows that food is always there. Of course allowing your child to eat as much as he wants means within reason. You do not want your child choking or vomiting.
- Allow your child to eat as much as he wants Children will often grow tremendously once they are home and are offered an abundance of food. The caloric intake as well as the nutrients will help your child grow. Of course, be reasonable regarding the matter. Your child should not eat to the point of vomiting.
- Keep food offerings as consistent as possible You may want to put food on the same type dishes so that your child recognizes that certain dishes are associated with food. If your child likes food at a certain temperature, keep the food at that temperature.
- Food texture Your child may have been used to eating very soft, mushy foods and may not know how to properly chew more firm or crunchy foods. As you introduce foods, keep the texture as close to what your child’s comfort level. Also, many children have sensory issues, and they cannot tolerate foods of certain textures. Be sensitive to your child’s needs. If your child continues to be intolerant of certain textures, you will want to seek a feeding specialist, speech pathologist, or occupational therapist.
- Fiber Your child may need more fiber in the diet, as some children may hold their bowels as the only way to maintain some bodily control. Such children can do bodily damage when they finally go to the bathroom. There are many good tasting high fiber bars and cereals to get kids to eat more fiber.
This website provides a growing wealth of information regarding nutrition and eating issues. It addresses specific areas of concern, and provides a country-by country guide of more typical deficiencies.
This is the University of Minnesota Clinic where Dr. Dana Johnson has been practicing international adoption medicine since 1985.