A pediatric feeding disorder may occur in infants and children at any age. Your child may have a pediatric feeding disorder if he or she is having problems drinking liquids (such as breastmilk or formula), or eating food safely and comfortably. If you are worried or uncertain about your child’s eating, feeding and swallowing, you can click here to access a questionnaire that can help you better understand and identify any areas of concern to discuss with your child’s healthcare provider.
There are many reasons why a child might not be eating. For example, he or she might need more time or help to learn feeding skills. Your child could have a problem with his or her stomach or intestines. Allergies can also cause feeding problems. To diagnose the problem, your healthcare team will examine your child and ask you questions about your child's feeding history. Your child may also have tests to check how well their throat muscles work, or to examine their organs, canals, and cavities in the body.
Whatever the reason, feeding and swallowing problems can be assessed by a healthcare team who will work with you on solutions. 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 safely eat and swallow while getting good nutrition.
Care and treatment will be different for each child depending on their needs and may include the following:
- Medicine if acid reflux is causing the problems.
- A change in the position of your child's body or head to make eating easier and safer.
- Skill development through rehabilitation therapy.
- Thickened fluids or modified food textures to reduce the risk of aspiration or choking when eating by mouth.
- Surgery to relieve eating, feeding, and swallowing problems.
- Inserting an enteral feeding tube into their bodies to make sure they get enough food and liquid.
Some children may grow out of a feeding problem and for others it may be a lifelong disorder.
Follow-up care is a also a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Your healthcare team should continue to follow up to make sure your child has a safe and appropriate Feeding Care Plan and is getting enough nutrition and fluids.