Pediatric Swallowing & Feeding Disorder

If your child is refusing to eat or only choosing to eat a very limited amount of food or drink, or they are exhibiting behaviors during meal time that are inappropriate for their age? Your child could have pediatric dysphagia.

Feeding disorders in children include difficulty gathering food, as well as getting ready to chew, suck, or swallow it. For example, your child may have a feeding disorder if he/she is unable to pick up food and get it to their mouth, or cannot completely close their lips to keep food from falling out.

If your child has pediatric dysphagia, s/he may be at risk for:

  • dehydration or poor nutrition
  • aspiration (food or liquid entering the airway) or penetration
  • pneumonia or repeated upper respiratory infections that can lead to chronic lung disease
  • embarrassment or isolation in social situations involving eating
Pediatric Feeding / Swallowing

What are the symptoms of a  Feeding / Swallowing Disorder in children?

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Arching or stiffening of the body during feeding

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Irritability or lack of alertness during feeding

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Refusing food or liquid

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Failure to accept different textures of food (e.g., only pureed foods or crunchy cereals)

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Long feeding times (e.g., more than 30 minutes)

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Difficulty chewing

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Difficulty breast feeding

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Coughing or gagging during meals

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Excessive drooling or food/liquid coming out of the mouth or nose

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Difficulty coordinating breathing with eating and drinking

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Gurgly, hoarse, or breathy voice quality

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Frequent spitting up or vomiting

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Recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections

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Less than normal weight gain or growth

Causes of  Feeding Disorders

For most children, there is not just one thing that causes a feeding disorder. Most often, it is a combination of factors. Things that can contribute to the development of a feeding disorder include:

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Child temperament (easily over-stimulated, frustrated)

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Pain or discomfort with feeding (reflux, allergy)

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Negative experiences with feeding (coughing, vomiting or gagging)

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Negative experiences related to the mouth (history of NG tubes, oral procedures, being on a ventilator, surgeries, being in the NICU for extended periods)

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Slow emptying of the stomach from digestive issues

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Poor oral motor skills (dysphagia, dyspraxia, dysarthria)

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Low muscle tone or high muscle tone

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Developmental delays

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Developmental disabilities

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Anxiety

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ADHD

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Sensory differences (hypersensitivity to taste, smell, texture)

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Chronic health problems (ear infections, frequent respiratory infections, dental problems, seizures)

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Parent-child conflict or parental anxiety

Feeding Disorder Prevalence

Pediatric feeding disorders are common. 1 of 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.”