Sept. 5 2018 09:00 AM

Milk, with its nine essential nutrients, serves as a well-rounded diet for a toddler with a sensory processing disorder against food.

Meet Clayton. He is a healthy, rambunctious, bright-eyed boy with a smile that could melt the coldest of hearts.

If you were to see Clayton in person, you would never guess that Clayton does not eat food. This is because Clayton has a sensory processing disorder. His rare condition is known as the Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID for short. So, how can a child that doesn’t eat be so happy and healthy? The answer is milk, and a whole lot of it.

At 6 months old, Clayton’s parents attempted to feed him solid foods but were met with a surprise. Clayton “lost his mind” as his mother, Josie, recalled. “He acted as if we were hurting him!” she said. The next four days Clayton battled with his parents, never letting food even reach his mouth. Clayton had a phobia of food.

For the next six months Clayton and his parents struggled to find a solution to their dilemma, not knowing yet that Clayton had ARFID. Clayton was seen by medical professionals from many different practices and specialties, yet none of them knew why this little boy did not want to eat. Six months had gone by and there were still no answers. His mother, desperate for information, turned to Facebook where she found a group dedicated to parents and children who are going through the same struggles.

After some research and yet another specialist, Clayton was diagnosed with ARFID. In young children, ARFID can cause growth limitations including height and weight due to their phobia of certain foods. In some cases children have “safe” foods or foods that they will eat on a regular basis, but Clayton is not one of those children. Clayton has no safe foods. Clayton will not eat anything that remotely resembles a meal. However, Clayton LOVES whole milk.

When he was a year old, his parents started feeding him whole milk, weaning him off of formula and attempting to normalize solid foods into his diet. The solid foods portion did not take, but what he lacked in solid foods he made it up in his milk consumption.

Clayton is currently two and a half years old and healthy by all standards. He still does not eat solid foods but is making progress, now being able to touch it and at times play with certain foods. Since Clayton’s diet consists mostly of milk, his parents are at the grocery store often. “Clayton is drinking 77 ounces a day,” his mother said. “I have to buy 2 gallons of milk every other day just for him.”

Clayton has regular checkups and blood work done, which all come back perfect with no concerns. He is in the 90th percentile for height, 70th percentile for weight, and according to the dentist, he has incredible teeth. Clayton is a healthy, happy, energetic little boy.

I knew milk contained nine essential nutrients, but I had no idea how essential they are. Clayton has survived off of nothing but milk for the last year and a half. If this is not a testament to the amazing nature of milk, nothing is.

Tyler Ribeiro

Tyler Ribeiro is a fourth-generation dairy farmer born and raised in California. He is currently partners with his father at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare where they proudly ship their milk to Land O’Lakes. Tyler is actively involved in the dairy industry, holding leadership roles in various organizations locally and across the United States.

Marcus Kehrli, D.V.M.

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