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Identifying Feeding Disorders in Infancy & Early Childhood

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According to the US National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, approximately 25% of normally developing babies have feeding problems, while it happens in 35% of children with neurodevelopment issues. One of the most common problems is the inability to tolerate certain foods. A child with a feeding disorder could experience negative developmental, nutritional and/or psychological disabilities.

How are feeding disorders defined and classified?

It is not easy to identify feeding issues in infants and during early childhood because there are no universally defined guidelines or classifications. Other reasons why it can be hard to identify feeding disorders in children include; food dislikes, partial or total food refusal, difficulties swallowing, chewing or sucking, vomiting, colic, resistance to certain food textures, tantrums at feeding time, rumination and pica.

What happens during a clinical assessment to address feeding disorders in infants?

When a child visits the doctor to be evaluated for a possible feeding disorder, it will include a clinical assessment which addresses the child’s health and development, feeding habits, growth charting, and possibly an observation of the infant actually feeding. The doctor will probably ask the parents about the child’s feeding routine, how much is consumed, how long an average feeding session lasts and what if any types of behaviors are exhibited. If after a clinical assessment is performed, a doctor diagnoses a child with a feeding disorder, he or she will discuss the matter with the parents and devise a treatment plan.

How are feeding disorders during infancy managed and treated?

Many parents and health care professionals fail to identify or underestimate the severity of infant feeding problems. It is not a matter of taking a wait-and-see approach when dealing with infant feeding issues, because it could prove detrimental to the child’s health. After discovering the reasons behind a child’s feeding disorder, a detailed discussion of the medical and/or surgical management of the condition is the key to treatment.


When a child experiences a feeding disorder in infancy, it is very important to seek medical assistance in order to find out the cause or causes. Infant feeding disorders are complex and multifactorial in nature, so the earlier it can be diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome for a child will be. Poor outcomes associated with feeding disorders in infants can have a detrimental effect on the family life and result in behavioral problems. More research is needed to understand which single or combination of treatment methods will work best to treat specific infant and early childhood feeding issues.