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Feeding Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood

What is feeding disorder of infancy or early childhood?

Feeding disorder of infancy or early childhood is a disorder in which an infant or a child under 6 years old refuses to eat enough to be healthy. It is not due to a medical condition such as a stomach problem. As a result of feeding disorder, the infant or child fails to gain weight normally and to get proper nutrition.

Children with this disorder who are not treated may get very sick and even die. Most children with this disorder who are treated do well and develop normally over time.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of this disorder is not known. The risk is greater for babies who:

  • Were born prematurely.
  • Had a low birth weight.
  • Are developmentally delayed.
  • Are fed too much or not fed when they are hungry.

What are the symptoms?

If symptoms last for at least a month, your child may have feeding disorder. Symptoms may include:

  • Crying often
  • Irritability
  • Weight loss or failure to gain weight
  • Sleepiness
  • Constipation or vomiting

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and take a medical history to rule out other medical conditions. He or she will ask about your child's eating and sleeping patterns, and history of weight loss. A trained specialist, usually a nurse, will watch you feed your infant.

How is it treated?

The first step is usually to increase the number of calories your child eats. This may be done with high-calorie formula or other special foods and liquids. It is important to make sure that your child gets all needed nutrients for healthy growth.

If symptoms are severe, your child may need to be treated in the hospital. Treatment usually involves a team approach. The team may include healthcare providers, a dietitian, a social worker, and a behavior specialist. Your child may need to be fed through an IV (a tube placed in a vein) or an NG tube (a tube placed in the nose) until he or she can eat normally.

Keep all appointments for checkups after your baby is home from the hospital. Your healthcare provider will make sure that your baby is gaining weight well.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-05-29
Last reviewed: 2012-05-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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