Pediatric feeding disorders.
Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21202-1595, USA.
Pediatric feeding disorders are common: 25% of children are reported to present with some form of feeding disorder. This number increases to 80% in developmentally delayed children. Consequences of feeding disorders can be severe, including growth failure, susceptibility to chronic illness, and even death. Feeding disorders occur in children who are healthy, who have gastrointestinal disorders, and in those with special needs. Most feeding disorders have underlying organic causes. However, overwhelming evidence indicates that abnormal feeding patterns are not solely due to organic impairment. As such, feeding disorders should be conceptualized on a continuum between psycho-social and organic factors. Disordered feeding in a child is seldom limited to the child alone; it also is a family problem. Assessment and treatment are best conducted by an interdisciplinary team of professionals. At minimum, the team should include a gastroenterologist, nutritionist, behavioral psychologist, and occupational and/or speech therapist. Intervention should be comprehensive and include treatment of the medical condition, behavioral modification to alter the child’s inappropriate learned feeding patterns, and parent education and training in appropriate parenting and feeding skills. A majority of feeding problems can be resolved or greatly improved through medical, oromotor, and behavioral therapy. Behavioral feeding strategies have been applied successfully even in organically mediated feeding disorders. To avoid iatrogenic feeding problems, initial attempts to achieve nutritional goals in malnourished children should be via the oral route. The need for exclusive tube feedings should be minimized.
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