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Pediatric Feeding Disorders

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What is a feeding disorder?

Pediatric feeding disorders occur when a child has difficulty preparing food or liquid in the mouth to be swallowed.

Expanded overview

A child who struggles to prepare (chew) food or liquid in their mouth and swallow it may have a feeding disorder. Oftentimes, feeding disorders go hand in hand with dysphagia (swallowing disorders) and affect the child’s ability to get nutrition from eating and digesting food.

What causes feeding disorders?

Pediatric feeding disorders can be caused by a variety of illnesses, diseases and congenital (present from birth) defects. The most common include:

What are the symptoms of a feeding disorder?

Feeding disorder symptoms in infants (birth to 1 year*) can include:

  • Arching back during feeding
  • Coughing or gagging during meals
  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • Frequent spitting up or vomiting
  • Irritable during feeding
  • Long feeding times
  • Slow weight gain
  • Stiffening the body during feeding

Feeding disorder symptoms in toddlers (1 to 3 year old**) and children older than 3 can include:

  • Coughing or gagging while eating
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Difficulty breathing while eating or drinking
  • Doesn’t accept food textures
  • Drool and/or food/liquid coming out of nose or mouth while eating
  • Recurring respiratory infections, including pneumonia
  • Refusing to eat or drink
  • Stuffy nose while eating
  • Slow weight gain

* Age of infants as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
**Age of toddlers as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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