Paediatric Feeding Disorder
Peadiatric feeding disorder (PFD) is impaired oral intake that is not age-appropriate and is associated with medical, nutritional, feeding skill, and/or psychosocial dysfunction.
For these infants and children, every bite of food can be painful, scary, or impossible, potentially impeding nutrition, development, growth, and overall well-being.
Let’s get one thing straight –
No parent ever imagines their child will struggle with feeding.
Having a child who struggles to eat or drink, is like driving in an unfamiliar neighbourhood only to find that your sat nav is glitching.
Do I take my chances turning left into that dark street? Should I just continue going straight and hope it will all work out eventually? Maybe I circle back, try and retrace my steps? No, I’ll stop and ask someone for help. Wait, that guy said go left, and that guy said go right.. who do I believe?
Most importantly.. do I have enough fuel left in the tank to take this advice on?
Having a child with feeding difficulties feels like this on a daily basis. The reality is, often, the cause of paediatric feeding disorders are multifactorial.
Lets get a second thing straight-
It is more common than you think.
Peadiatric feeding disorders are common. 1 in every 4 children are reported to have some sort of feeding disorder. A smaller number have symptoms severe enough to cause big problems or need specific treatment. The rate of feeding disorders is much higher in children with developmental disabilities. As many as 8 of every 10 children with a disability has a feeding disorder.
Feeding is an intricate combination and coordination of skills. It is the single most complex and physically demanding task an infant will complete for the first few weeks, and even months, of life. A single swallow requires the use of 26 muscles and 6 cranial nerves1 working in perfect harmony to move food and liquid through the body. When one or more pieces of the feeding puzzle are missing, out of order, or unclear, infants and children can have difficulty eating and drinking.
Lets get one final thing straight-
It isn’t your fault.
“ Just offer what the rest of the family is having for dinner, and your child will eventually become hungry enough to eat.”
Heard this before?
What is not common knowledge, is that children with paediatric feeding disorders will often go hungry unless they are offered something that they can eat. Missed meals = weight loss = extreme parental anxiety= Not a great combo, folks!
So, what would stop a child from trying to eat if they are, in fact, hungry?
For most children, there is not just one thing that causes a Paediatric Feeding Disorder. Most often, it is a combination of factors. Things that can contribute to the development of a feeding disorder include:
Pain or discomfort with feeding (from things like reflux and allergy)
Negative experiences with feeding (pain, coughing, vomiting or gagging during feeding)
Cue overriding or assertive feeding practices
Negative experiences related to the mouth (history of NG tubes, oral procedures, being on a ventilator, surgeries)
Slow emptying of the stomach
Poor oral motor skills
Dysphagia ( swallowing difficulty)
Low muscle tone or high muscle tone
Certain developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD
Sensory differences (hypersensitivity to taste, smell, texture)
Chronic health problems (ear infections, frequent respiratory infections, dental problems, seizures)
Parent-child conflict, parental anxiety