Parent feeding interactions and practices during childhood cancer treatment. A qualitative investigation
In the general population it is evident that parent feeding practices can directly shape a child's life long dietary intake. Young children undergoing childhood cancer treatment may experience feeding difficulties and limited food intake, due to the inherent side effects of their anti-cancer treatment. What is not clear is how these treatment side effects are influencing the parent-child feeding relationship during anti-cancer treatment. This retrospective qualitative study collected telephone based interview data from 38 parents of childhood cancer patients who had recently completed cancer treatment (child's mean age: 6.98 years). Parents described a range of treatment side effects that impacted on their child's ability to eat, often resulting in weight loss. Sixty-one percent of parents (n = 23) reported high levels of stress in regard to their child's eating and weight loss during treatment. Parents reported stress, feelings of helplessness, and conflict and/or tension between parent and the child during feeding/eating interactions. Parents described using both positive and negative feeding practices, such as: pressuring their child to eat, threatening the insertion of a nasogastric feeding tube, encouraging the child to eat and providing home cooked meals in hospital. Results indicated that parent stress may lead to the use of coping strategies such as positive or negative feeding practices to entice their child to eat during cancer treatment. Future research is recommended to determine the implication of parent feeding practice on the long term diet quality and food preferences of childhood cancer survivors.