Depending on the reason and severity of a pediatric feeding disorder, some children may be able to continue eating by mouth ( oral feeding ) while other children may need a feeding tube put into their bodies to make sure they get enough food ( tube feeding ). The main goals of treatment will be to help your child to eat and swallow safely while getting good nutrition.
Your Care Team
Every child’s healthcare team is different, depending on your child's needs. Factors such as where you live and receive care also impacts who might be on your local team. If your child is accessing eating, feeding and swallowing services, members of your healthcare team will often help to coordinate care together with your child’s Primary Care provider (eg: pediatrician, family ...
All types of questions are welcome in order to support your child and family. Anyone on your team will be able to direct your questions and information about what your child needs to the right provider. The following are a list of some common topics that you may have questions about and potential providers or services to consult:
- Physician, Dietitian, Occupational Therapist, Speech-Language Pathologist
Emergency health planning
- For enterally fed children: Talk to your Home Enteral Nutrition clinic. Some NICU or Inpatient units at the hospital can also be a connection.
- For orally fed children: Talk to you healthcare team to help you learn to recognize signs such as symptoms of aspiration, dehydration, nutrition challenges. They can also help you to develop an emergency plan.
Note: Taking a First-Aid class is also beneficial
Changes in my child’s development
- Family physician or Pediatrician, Dietitian, Occupational Therapist, Speech-Language Pathologist, Physical Therapist, and often schools.
Changes in my child’s health
- HealthLink (Dial: 811), Family physician, Pediatrician, and other members of your healthcare team.
- Note: Go to the hospital in the event of an emergency.
Transitioning from a feeding tube to oral feeding
- Home Enteral Nutrition clinic, Dietitian, Occupational Therapist, Speech-Language Pathologist, Physician, Nurse
- Social Worker
- Mental Health provider
- Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD)
- Social Worker or Early Intervention Worker.
- Additional Resources: Equipment and Supplies Funding Information
Transitioning from pediatric to adult care (18 years)
- Transition planning varies across the province and you may consult with Hospital Transition Team, Home Care, Social Worker, and, or Family & Community Support Services.
- Additional resources:
How do we prepare for transitioning from pediatric to adult care ?
Families often have questions about care coordination such as:
What is my role as a Parent or Family Member?
How do I find or know who our Care Coordinator is?
How do I talk to our healthcare team about our goals?
What if different clinicians give me different information?
How do we prepare for transitioning from pediatric to adult care?
Click the button below to learn more about answers to these common questions and more:
Families can often experience stress and anxiety about their child’s eating and feeding as mealtime is an important part of daily life and health. There are resources and people available to help you and your family. Some of these might be with your current healthcare team, while others might be available to you as a referral if you need one.
There are helpful resources, links, and ideas on the Family Life & Self-Care page. There is also information about finding a support network and peer-support.
Also see: Thickened Drinks and Liquids Handout
Some babies and children have difficulty swallowing. This is called dysphagia. They may need to have their drinks and liquids thickened, so they can swallow safely. Thickened liquids move slower than liquids that are thin, such as water. Thickened liquids allow your child extra time to control the liquid in their mouth and throat. This reduces the risk of liquids going the wrong way into the lungs, which is called aspiration. Aspiration is harmful to your child’s health. It may lead to repeated lung infections and/or long-term lung damage. Talk to your Eating, Feeding and Swallowing team if you have more questions.
What can I expect from my healthcare team after my child’s swallow has been assessed?
After assessing your child’s ability to swallow safely, your Eating, Feeding and Swallowing team will tell you:
- If your child needs thickened liquids
- The level of thickness needed for safe swallowing
- Type of commercial thickener to meet your child’s needs
- How to prepare thickened liquids for your child.
What types of thickened drinks and liquids exist?
There are several levels of thickness for liquids: thin liquids (Level 0), plus four levels of increasing thickness.
- Level 1, Slightly Thick (Liquid is thicker than water but thin enough to flow through a straw or bottle nipple)
- Level 2, Mildly Thick (Liquid runs freely off the spoon but leaves a thin coating on the spoon)
- Level 3, Moderately Thick (Liquid slowly drips off the end of the spoon)
- Level 4, Extremely Thick (Liquid sits on the spoon and does not flow off)
Some drinks or foods may naturally be the right thickness for your infant or child’s safe swallowing needs. Always check and make sure that the food or drink is the right thickness level for your child to swallow safely. Talk with your Eating, Feeding and Swallowing team for more information.
At what age can commercial thickeners be used?
Commercial thickeners can be used for infants and children, however ingredients vary by product and not all are suitable for infants or children under 3 years of age. Thickeners are not interchangeable. It is important to only use the specific thickener recommended for your child by your Eating, Feeding and Swallowing (EFS) team. If you have questions about potentially using a different thickener, talk with your EFS team.
Should I thicken my child’s liquid medicine?
If your child takes any liquid medicines, talk to your pharmacist, physician, or Eating, Feeding and Swallowing team about how to give them safely.
Can I mix thickened drinks and liquids with my child’s medications?
Consult with your pharmacist, physician, or Eating, Feeding and Swallowing team before mixing thickened drinks and liquids with your child’s medications. If your child is on laxatives like Restoralax®, or Lax-A-Day® (PEG 3350), these can interact with some thickeners. Some medications may be less effective when taken with thickened liquids due to ingredient interactions.
Since introducing thickened drinks and liquids, my child has developed loose stools. Is this common?
Commercial thickeners may cause gas, loose stools, or constipation in some children. Let your healthcare team know if your child:
- refuses to drink thickened liquids
- becomes irritable
- coughs or chokes when drinking
- has any other side effects.
When I prepare thickened drinks and liquids, I get lumps or sometimes it is thinner than I expected. What should I do?
Review the directions for mixing provided by your Eating, Feeding and Swallowing (EFS) team. Temperature, acidity level, type of thickener, stirring technique, and volume can all impact quality of thickened drinks and liquids. Some commercial thickeners take longer to thicken. Additional information on mixing can be found on the manufacturer website. If you continue to have mixing issues, call your EFS team for assistance.
Where can I buy commercial thickeners?
You can buy or order commercial thickeners from a pharmacy or online. Visit the PEAS Equipment List and check off "Thickeners" to see thickeners available. Here you will find links to the manufacturer website and some online ordering options. The manufacturer may also be able to provide you with a list of local suppliers to purchase directly.
Government Benefit Programs
There are numerous provincial and federal benefit programs that provide financial support for families of children with disabilities. Please review them all as each government benefit program has specific eligibility criteria. If ...
Understanding the benefits and challenges of using blended food for tube feeding will help you make an informed decision about whether this is a good option for your child. General considerations include your child's health, nutrition needs, type of feeding tube, feeding method and routine, as well as family shopping and cooking needs.
Each child and family is different. Discussing with your healthcare team is recommended.
For handouts related to home blended food for tube feeding, click here .
Which tube is most appropriate for a child should be determined with the child and family's needs in mind and in consultation with the interdisciplinary care team. Considerations include aspiration risk, medical condition, gastric function, surgical history, and expected duration of enteral feeding. It is important to have a coordinated Feeding Care Plan (template coming soon) that is agreed upon by the team inclusive of the family and primary care provider. The team may also include a speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, dietitian, nurse, and relevant specialists (eg: surgeon, gastroenterologist, cardiologist, etc...).
A Virtual Health session is much like any health appointment where you meet with a health professional face-to-face. Virtual Health is the use of communication equipment to link healthcare providers and families in different locations. With Virtual Health, you can see, hear and talk to a healthcare provider without travelling to where they are.
Some Eating, Feeding, and Swallowing services across the province offer Virtual Health services. You can ask your healthcare provider if this is a possibility.
MyHealth Records is an online tool that lets Albertans 14 years of age or older see some of their health information such as lab tests, medications and immunizations.