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Paediatric Dietetics: Popular Questions and Practical Tips. Presented by Alexia O’Callaghan, APD

Alexia uses the example of a toddler to outline the principles of dietetics which are relevant to any paediatric age group.

She begins by considering how to prepare for the appointment. Setting up your clinic room so it is safe and child friendly. Structuring the appointment involves having a flexible attitude. For example, if the child is asleep, use that time to talk to Mum or Dad. If they're awake and they're happy and comfortable with you then it could be a good time to take their weight and height.

Using a family centred, non-judgmental assessment involves listening to parents’ concerns. Understanding what their priorities are for their child’s eating, being aware of parenting strengths and what they believe barriers might be to improving their toddlers’ diet.

Alexia provides us with key questions to ask in taking a relevant medical history and an overview of the use of height and weight measurements and interpretation of growth charts (WHO and CDC).

She addresses the clinical assessment of sleep, bowels, hydration and vomiting.

Alexia offers some very practical tips for our nutrition assessment. For example, we know that children learn eating skills and get confidence to try new foods by watching others eat. Asking a parent “do you eat lunch together as a family at the table?” can sound arrogant when a lot of families don’t eat at the table. Instead she suggests you could simply ask “have you noticed your child watching you eat or wanting to try your food?” Then you could talk about the opportunities for learning and exploring new foods that eating together provides.

Alexia has made available a list of useful websites for parents and health professionals about paediatric nutrition.

Alexia O’Callaghan, APD is a specialist paediatric dietitian with over 20 years’ experience. She has worked with children of all ages in a variety of clinical settings and with culturally and socioeconomically diverse families. Her experience includes working in the multidisciplinary feeding clinic team at Northern Hospital, Melbourne where she recently co-developed the hospital guideline for weaning children from their NG tube feeds. Alexia's particular interest is in providing optimal nutrition assistance to children who were born preterm, and who are particularly prone to nutrition and feeding problems.

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