Lisa Gavin is a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) who believes feeding should be an enjoyable process. When your infant or child repeatedly refuses to feed, the feeding experience becomes frustrating for everyone involved. Infants and children will often develop an aversion to feeding when the eating process becomes associated with being unpleasant, stressful, or painful.
Signs that infants and children are developing a feeding aversion:
- Clamping their mouth shut and turning their head away from the bottle, breast, spoon, or food
- Crying when they are placed in the feeding position or when the bib is placed around their neck
- Skips meals and feedings without showing any signs of distress
- Appears to be hungry and cries to show hunger cues but refuses to eat
- Feeds best when drowsy or asleep
- Has poor growth and has been diagnosed by the doctor as “Failure to Thrive”
What should you do if your infant or child is struggling to feed?
Consult with your child’s doctor. Your child may need to be evaluated by a pediatric gastroenterologist to determine if acid reflux, food allergies, Celiac disease, or other digestive issues are the cause.
If you explain your concerns but feel that they are not being understood, then go with your parental instincts and seek another opinion. Not all feeding problems are a “developmental phase” that will pass. Your child may benefit from a feeding evaluation with a speech language pathologist and/or occupational therapist.
What is Feeding Therapy?
Feeding therapy teaches children how to feed or helps them learn how to feed better.
Feeding therapy starts with a feeding evaluation. A feeding evaluation assesses the overall feeding ability of a child through observing the child drink and eat multiple textures and consistencies. A further evaluation to assess swallow function may be performed to determine if there is any weakness or incoordination causing foods or liquids to be aspirated.
Interventions may include:
- Increasing the variety of foods and volume of intake
- Increasing oral motor strength to assist with effective chewing and moving of food in the mouth to trigger a swallow
- Increasing pharyngeal strength and coordination to prevent aspiration, coughing, and choking while swallowing
- Thickening liquids or changing the bottle or cup
Feeding therapy usually occurs on a weekly or every other week basis for a block of 30-60 minutes.
Lisa Gavin MS CCC-SLP, is a feeding therapist highly skilled in treating and evaluating infants and children. Lisa shares this personal story:
I recently evaluated a 3 year old boy who was only capable of eating a total of three crunchy foods and drinking milk through a bottle and one particular type of straw. He had a past medical history of acid reflux and was being treated with appropriate medications. Through my feeding evaluation with him, I determined he had normal strength with swallowing. However, sensory impairments made it difficult for him to tolerate the taste, smell, and touch of new foods. Feeding therapy was started and after 6 weeks of therapy, he has acquired 3 new textures of foods and 18 new food items in his diet.
If your infant or child struggles with feeding, consider seeking the help of a feeding therapist. If you would like more information about feeding therapy or gastrointestinal (GI) digestive disorders and nutrition in children, please contact Dr. Mona Dave’s Plano Office or Southlake Office.