Dr Hazel Wolstenholme is a child feeding psychology specialist based in Ireland, working online to support parents globally. She did her psychology degree and PhD at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where she focused her research on family experiences and management of “fussy” eating behaviours. Since then, Hazel has trained in responsive, behavioural, and sensory-focused approaches for helping families with feeding challenges, but primarily, her work is underpinned by the principles of responsive feeding therapy (RFT).
We asked Hazel:
What do you do?
I support parents who are experiencing feeding challenges with their children like avoidant eating, extreme “picky eating,” and food preoccupation. I work to help parents understand the challenges their children are experiencing, know how to approach mealtimes, and support their kids to branch out to new foods by coaching them in using responsive feeding practices.
As well as my work with parents, I continue to publish research in the area of child feeding. I’m also working on some tools & resources for parents and health professionals – so watch this space!
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Mostly coffee! But also the fact that I love my job – it is so rewarding when parents tell me “she sat at the table with the other kids at the party and asked for sausages!” or “he’s actually excited about cheese now – I never thought I’d see him be excited about food!” or “I almost fell off my chair in shock because she ate the blueberries.” Seeing kids who used to run away from the table be able to enjoy food with their friends and family makes my day.
What one thing would you like ALL professionals working with feeding to know?
As part of my PhD research I interviewed kids about their experiences of “fussy” eating. I was blown away by how articulate they were about themselves, their preferences and their experiences with food. I was fascinated by their awareness of parents’ goals, emotions, and feeding behaviors at mealtimes. So, the one thing I’d like all professionals to know is that kids are really smart – we need to listen to kids, respect them, and work with them, not against them. When working with a family, it’s easy to get caught up in the parents’ goals. Always ask yourself ‘what is the child trying to achieve here? What are their goals? What is this process like for them?’
How can folks find out more?
You can find out more about my work on my website. Keep up to date with research, tools, blog posts and webinars on my Facebook page. If you’d like more information, please get in contact – I’d love to hear from you!
Some of Hazel’s published research and oral presentations. Stay tuned for future publications!
- Wolstenholme, H., Heary, C., & Kelly, C. (2019). Fussy eating behaviours: Response patterns in families of school-aged children. Appetite, 136, 93-102.
- Wolstenholme, H., Kelly, C., Hennessy, M., Heary, C. (2020). Childhood fussy eating: Systematic review and synthesis of qualitative studies. International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 17(2).
- Wolstenholme, H., Kelly, C., & Heary, C. (2019, March). “It’s like I’m eating brains”: Children’s perceptions and experiences of fussy eating behaviour. Oral presentation presented at the International Conference on Children’s Eating Behaviour, Birmingham, UK.
- Wolstenholme, H., Heary, C., & Kelly, C. (2018, August). The family response to fussy eating in school-aged children: A qualitative study. Oral presentation presented at the European Health Psychology Society Conference, Galway, Ireland.
- Wolstenholme, H., Heary, C., & Kelly, C. (2017, September). Fussy eating in school-aged children: A mixed method study. Oral presentation presented at the European Health Psychology Society Conference, Padua, Italy.