Feeding Disorders: What is it?

Oct 28, 2022

What is a Feeding Disorder?

Feeding disorders are problems with a range of eating activities that may or may not include problems with swallowing. Pediatric feeding disorder is “impaired oral intake that is not age-appropriate and is associated with medical, nutritional, feeding skill, and/or psychosocial dysfunction” (Goday et al., 2019).

Your child may exhibit the following, if a feeding or swallowing problem is present:

  • Arch their back or stiffen when feeding
  • cry or fuss when feeding
  • have problems breastfeeding
  • have trouble breathing while eating and drinking
  • Refuse to eat or drink
  • Eat only certain textures, such as soft food or crunchy food
  • Take a long time to eat
  • Pocket (which means to hold food in their mouth)
  • Have problems chewing
  • Cough or gag during meals
  • Drool a lot or have liquid come out of their mouth or nose
  • Get stuffy during meals
  • Have a gurgly, hoarse, or breathy voice during or after meals
  • Spit up or throw up a lot
  • Are not gaining weight or growing

Not every child has every sign listed here. Your child may show a few signs or many of them. It is important to note that if signs are present your child may be at risk for:

  • Dehydration or poor nutrition
  • Food or liquid going into the airway (aspiration)
  • Pneumonia or other lung infections
  • Having negative feelings about eating. They may avoid eating or associate it with pain, frustration, or embarrassment.

Talk to your child’s doctor if you think they have a feeding or swallowing problem. Your doctor can test your child for any medical problems. An SLP trained in feeding and swallowing can comprehensively assess your child’s oral intake of liquids and solids to determine where the problem exists.

References: https://www.asha.org/public/speech/swallowing/

Goday, P. S., Huh, S. Y., Silverman, A., Lukens, C. T., Dodrill, P., Cohen, S. S., … & Phalen, J. A. (2019). Pediatric feeding disorder: consensus definition and conceptual framework. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 68(1), 124.