Parents who fear their daughter, 3, could starve call for more support on eating disorder Arfid

The parents of a girl, 3, who refuses all food except milk, say they fear their daughter could starve if she doesn't receive urgent help.

Ocean Walker-Poyner, from Kidderminster, used to eat solid food, but for the last year will only consume milk from a bottle.

She has lost weight and is having to be dressed in clothes she'd once outgrown.

Her parents John Walker and Terri Poyner fear their daughter could have the eating disorder Arfid, but when they've asked for help they say it's not forthcoming.

"We have had three dietician appointments over the phone and now Ocean has been discharged. Even our doctors says: 'How can the dieticians help over the phone, when they don't see Ocean face-to-face, when they don't interact with her.'

Ms Poyner added: "They just say: 'She looks ok' but they don't know how she physically looks inside. You can see her spine. She has gone back a size in nappies and gone back to 18 - 24 months clothes."

Mr Walker said: "Every time we ask for help. It seems that it's not until something dramatic happens that they step in."

The couple are speaking out on the day that Beat, the Eating Disorder charity report that calls to their helpline about Arfid have increased seven fold over the last five years.

Ocean attends the same specialist nursery in Stouport on Severn as four-year-old James Cartwright-Kilcline, who featured on our programme two weeks ago.

His diet is restricted to just four or five foods and since she talked to ITV Central she's been inundated with messages from other parents and carers.

Now Ms Cartwright-Clamp is setting up a support group for parents in the same boat and hopes together they will be able to persaude health professionals to give Arfid the support it deserves.

What is Arfid? Credit: ITV Central

Natalie Morris, the Founder and CEO of The Feeding Trust, a national charity based in Birmingham, said one of her aims in setting up the organisation was to raise awareness of feeding difficulties amongst children and support them much earlier to prevent problems becoming more serious further down the line.

"We're working with local NHS services to look at the service provision for children with feeding difficulties to make sure they get signposted to the right place because I think at the moment a lot of parents experience going from pillar to post.

"Feeding is a skill children need to learn to do and people that are really well placed to do that are practioners and teachers in early year settings.

"So we're looking at developing what we're calling our Eating Learning Curriculum which will support settings with the skills they need to help chidren having difficulties to learn to eat and develop a healtheir relationship with food."

A spokesperson for NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire Integrated Care Board (ICB) said: “While we currently fund specialist services for ARFID cases, it's important to acknowledge the limited availability of such providers nationwide.

"However, the ICB recognises the importance of accessibility and local care, and is reviewing the local pathway to ensure more timely intervention and support for affected individuals and their families."

NHS England also told us it that its eating disorder guidance for children and young people is being updated to include Arfid and is due to be published later this year.

People with Arfid may receive treatment in a number of different setting and from a number of different services including paediatrics, dietetics, speech therapy, mental health and eating disorder experts.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...