Eating issues often crop up with young children, whether it’s the avoidance of certain foods or physical problems with the mechanics of eating. Usually, a child naturally works through these issues, but sometimes problems remain. Since good nutrition may be affected by interruptions of normal eating patterns, pediatricians often recommend feeding evaluations.
There are different diagnostic methods that depend on your child’s age. Since there’s no universal definition of what constitutes a pediatric feeding disorder, every case may be treated differently. An experienced pediatric practice like Katy Pediatric Associates has wide-ranging experience based on extensive clinical observation. Contact the office to consult with their doctors when you have concerns about your child’s eating.
The feeding process
The transition from birth to first birthday is a remarkable time of development for your child, a journey that typically hit certain milestones. Perhaps one of the most important transitions is learning to take in nutrition through the mouth, after having their needs supplied by their mother’s body prior to birth.
While swallowing seems like an automatic response, it does take some time to learn and coordinate for a baby. The eating process has three phases to swallowing. These are:
- Feeding phase: sucking, sipping, chewing, and moving food and liquid to the throat
- Pharynx phase: the beginning of the swallowing process, where the windpipe is closed and food is squeezed toward the esophagus
- Esophageal phase: the continued movement of food from the throat to the stomach
Problems can occur in each of these phases as a child’s body masters the process. Sometimes, they’ll have issues that require medical investigation, though in most cases, your child will outgrow them.
Newborns and infants have no way to verbally communicate issues other than crying or being fussy, so recognizing a feeding disorder may not be easy. Older children may be able to express that there’s something wrong, but they lack sufficient vocabulary to go far beyond, “my tummy hurts,” or similar complaint.
For these reasons, medical observation by a pediatrician is often helpful to determine origins of the disorder, as well as whether your child’s nutrition and health are threatened by the condition. This type of appointment is called a feeding evaluation.
What to expect during a feeding evaluation
Your child’s feeding evaluation gives the pediatrician a chance to watch your child eat and drink as they usually do. An evaluation starts with a discussion of your concerns as a parent about your child’s eating to build some background about symptoms and behavior.
Your doctor watches for the motor skills your child uses as they eat, and assesses these against normal development. They look for signs of irregularity, such as food or drink being directed into the lungs, as well as any unusual movements or positions your child may use while feeding.
Prepare for your child’s feeding evaluation as directed by your pediatrician. You may be instructed to keep a food diary for a few days. You may also need to bring cups and dishes from home so the child feels comfortable. Make sure they’re hungry at the time of the evaluation, either through careful scheduling or by skipping a meal or snack.
The sooner a pediatric feeding disorder is recognized and treated, the sooner the problem can be overcome. Contact Katy Pediatric Associates, by phone at 281-492-7676 or online, to schedule an appointment for your child today.