The central problem for children with Infantile Anorexia is their lack of appetite (anorexia), which leads to disinterest in feeding and food refusal.
Infantile Anorexia is not to be confused with the more commonly known Anorexia Nervosa, which is associated to an intense fear of gaining weight, resulting in a purposeful restriction of food intake (generally occurs during adolescence).
The onset of Infantile Anorexia is usually before 3 years of age, most commonly between 9 and 18 months, when the child's world becomes more interesting, and he/she is transitioned to spoon and self-feeding.
Children with Infantile Anorexia hardly show any signs of hunger, which causes most parents to become worried and anxious as they feel the burden to get their child to eat. Often, these children take only a few bites before they refuse to eat any more. The few bites they do take seem just enough to take the edge off any hunger they first experience. More interested in playing and interacting with their caregivers than eat, children will throw feeding utensils/food and frequently try to climb out of the high chair or leave the table to play. This results in a very intense and stressful parent-child conflict.
Worried about their children’s growth and development, parents feel the need to coax, distract, threaten, and entertain in order to have their child eat. These methods may work initially, however they are not a long-term solution. In fact, the more these behaviors go on during mealtime, the more the child becomes completely unaware of hunger and his food intake becomes externally regulated by the parents.
If these feeding issues are addressed early on, these children can learn to recognize hunger and overcome any anxieties associated with eating.